Eddie S. Winn In Convenient Height

How Did I Dream Up the Tall Toilet. Part 2

Dear Friend, 

As I mentioned in the Part 1 of this post, I didn’t know much about senior health issues before I began working in senior living communities. But all of a sudden, I was in the middle of it and learning about the memory loss, mobility-related difficulties (yes, such as how hard it could be for someone with sitting down and getting up from the toilet!) and at the same time falling in love with the community of seniors I was there to serve. 

Every assisted/senior living community was its own world, with its own emotional atmosphere. My first years working in senior living were loaded with hands-on amazing life discoveries as well as of the wide scope of difficulties my residents had. My learning curve trajectory was skyrocketing as I was meeting and getting to know my residents and, at the same time, witnessing memory declines, mobility complications and more.

But more than anything, I appreciated the sense of humor of the generation born in the early 1900s. As my manager Linda told me once: You were dry bone boring when you were younger! I was in my early 20s and I simply couldn’t fully relate to someone in their 80s or 90s. Yet. But my work in the senior living has really changed me–and, to Linda’s excitement, vastly improved my sense of humor! On top of that, I started to listen to the music my residents liked, I knew how much they loved Bingo, I watched some of their favorite TV shows with them, I danced with them, we took trips!

I made time each day to hear a good short story from a resident. I learned so much about how life was in 60-70 years ago, from those who lived it – and it sincerely fascinated me. I have a very vivid imagination, so it was easy for me to relate to a good story. Some residents were really good story tellers – and I was a good listener. If I had a work order at a resident’s apartment, for example, and the resident was at home, we always chatted. Often, I would finish my task and sit next to the resident and continue listening. These thoughtful perspectives were so interesting and valuable. 

As I was getting closer with my residents, it was emotionally very challenging to see most of them decline physically, and, in many cases, watch their memories fade. Then, of course, there were many end-of-life situations. Helping in hospice situations was new to me then and later it became part of my regular job. In the beginning, I was afraid of entering an apartment where I knew the resident was on hospice. But in time, I got mentally stronger and made a point of visiting, mainly to say hello, ask what I can do to help and ensure the resident was comfortable, especially when it came to keeping the room at a comfortable temperature for the residents in their final days of life. 

When it came to keeping the apartments and common areas comfortable for all the residents, this task could become very difficult for me because many of the buildings I managed had two-pipe HVAC systems. As the name implies, the two-pipe system uses two pipes to the building – a supply and a return. In the heating season, the water in the pipes is heated with a boiler and in the cooling season, it is cooled with a chiller. During the peak of each season, this strategy works great. The comfort and temperature-related issues with this type of system come mainly during the shoulder times of the year, fall and spring. I wanted to master these imperfect systems and navigate the weather. Basically, my mind started seeking solutions and here I became more open to the idea that I could impact someone’s comfort and make their surroundings a little more … convenient. 

I built garden boxes for the gardening activities and my executive director and activities director guided me to make them at a certain height. While it was easier to build them lower, it was more convenient for the garden club participants if the height was taller – so the residents wouldn’t have to reach too low. This helped with overall ergonomics, but also prevented falls and minimized the chance of the fall-related injury and/or back pain. I noticed how something so simple could make such a big difference and started to shape my thinking towards convenience as it relates to improving the height of an object. 

There were multiple safety-related improvements throughout the years. We also hosted mandatory Safety Committee Meetings at all of the buildings once a month or once a quarter, and I was the co-chair or chair at all of them. Besides basic safety and compliance items I was overseeing such as fire drills or water temperature checks, for example, we engaged in regular discussion with the resident care directors about how we could make the residents’ apartments safer, eliminate and foresee the fall hazards, and improve the residents’ life by simple modifications to their daily environment in the apartments – living rooms, bedrooms and, of course, the bathrooms. 

My mind was shifting towards the concept of how I could make someone’s surroundings more convenient. I was empowered to make small adjustments, create small life hacks to correct inconvenient things, and improve things such as beds and, yes, toilets. 

Let’s take a short break and I will continue sharing the inspiration for the wonderful tall toilet!

Warm regards, 
Eddie

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