Wheelchair Blog from AMS Vans

Welcome! We know there's a reason you're here, and AMS Vans is honored to be part of your world. We hope you'll visit our wheelchair blog often, because we promise to bring you an engaging perspective every day.

A physical disability presents unique challenges for the individual, the family and the caregivers. Our wheelchair blog is here to empower all of you with tips, trends in wheelchair technology, wheelchair news, inspiring stories, insightful interviews, medical breakthroughs, helpful links, the latest in adaptive products, disability news, upcoming events and, of course, information about AMS Vans' wheelchair accessible vehicles. We focus on anything and everything that enriches your life and makes it easier.

Buying a handicap accessible van is a defining moment in the life of an individual who wants manageable mobility beyond the wheelchair. We have handicap vans for sale, and we want to ensure the process—from the moment it begins—is as smooth as possible. When you purchase a wheelchair van from us, the process never truly ends, because you become part of the AMS family. Just like family, we stay in touch and care about your happiness.

We'd love to hear from you—even if it's just to say "hello!" Your thoughts matter, so take time to comment on the articles that interest you, inspire you, or provoke you. Every question, suggestion or concern you share with us helps us make our wheelchair blog better and more useful for all our readers. At AMS Vans, we want to get to know you, and we want you to get to know us!

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7 Accessible Bathroom Modification Tips

Working together with disability in the bathroom.

The right bathroom design is an essential part of living with a physical disability. This is where your most complex and potentially risky self-care activities take place. The bathroom is where we all want to be the most independent. Of course, most bathrooms are not initially designed for wheelchair safety or access. If you’re looking to make a bathroom more wheelchair accessible, we’ve put together a helpful collection of tips.

Room to Roll

Spacing is incredibly important for an accessible bathroom, especially for wheelchair accessibility. The ADA has some great guidelines for how many inches are needed between bathroom fixtures to allow a wheelchair to get around. Grab your tape measure and find out if your bathroom as-is is big enough for wheelchair accessibility or if there are a few renovations that can make it more accessibly spaced.

In addition, you should also think about picking things up off the floor like hampers and bathmats that might serve as obstructions to wheelchair mobility in the bathroom.

Wheel-Friendly Bathmats

Normal fluffy bathmats are not wheelchair-friendly, as you may have already discovered. That fluff tends to catch on wheels and sometimes stop rolling entirely. Fortunately, there are more rollable alternatives to traditional bathmats. Firm rubber bathmats with holes allow the watershed from a bath or shower to evaporate without a mess while making it easier for a wheelchair to roll across the bathroom.

Lowered Floating Sink

floating sink is a sink that has no cabinet underneath, so it looks like it is ‘floating’ against the wall. Crafted properly, the plumbing is tucked behind the drywall or inside much smaller cabinetry. Indeed, without cabinetry in the way, the sink becomes much more accessible to those in a wheelchair. Floating sinks make it easier for handwashing, tooth brushing, hair styling, and other sink-based activities to be done from a seated position with the knees comfortably under the sink basin.

Grab Bars Around the Toilet

Most wheelchair users can lift themselves between chair and toilet as long as there is sufficient grab-bars to support them. Installing grab bars ad the right height around a toilet can be essential. For toilets that are not in a nook, installing a second bar on the other side can add additional support and ease for the transition from wheelchair to toilet and back again with full independence.

Curbless Shower Stall (or Gated Tub)

It’s well-known that shower stalls are more wheelchair-friendly than tubs, but not all shower stalls are equally accessible. What you need is a curbless shower stall, one without a small ledge between the drain-surface and the floor. This way, a wheelchair can roll directly into the shower without having to be pushed over the lip or threshold.

However, for those who need a bath-tub for physical therapy reasons, some people choose to go with a gated tub instead. The outer wall of a gated tub is a water-tight door that swings open that a physically disabled person can step carefully into the tub without having to climb.

Dual-Mount Handheld Showerhead

An essential piece of wheelchair-accessible bathing is the handheld showerhead. The hook-and-hose design involves a shower head at the end of a flexible hose. Thus, bathers can bring the water down to their level and focus the spray anywhere it is needed. To make the shower versatile and welcoming to all, consider installing two mounts for the showerhead. One in a reachable position for someone in a wheelchair, and one in the usual raised position for someone standing to shower.

Shower Chair or Seat

Not every wheelchair user bathes in a chair. Though they may need to be seated, many leave their wheelchair. For this reason, having a foldable shower chair is a great addition to an accessible bathroom. A foldable shower chair can be tucked into a corner when not in use. Further, it provides a convenient seat for those who cannot comfortably stand through the bathing process. Many luxury-designed showers also include a foldable shower seat, often of bamboo or teak, that folds down from the wall for a relaxing/accessible seated shower.

Conclusion

Building an accessible bathroom can be a complete transformation or just a few small adjustments. For more great insights on how to increase accessibility in your home or facility, contact us today!

Giving Thanks Series: Caregivers Need Care, Too

caregiver helping her client

Many people with disabilities rely on the help of dedicated caregivers to lead an active and healthy life. Being a caregiver is rewarding, but the hours can be long and draining. That’s why, as part of our Giving Thanks series, we wanted to dedicate this post to caregivers. Also, we wanted to provide them with some helpful resources. With all that caregivers do for their clients, we wanted to take the opportunity to thank them and encourage them to take care of themselves, too!

There are some basic self-care strategies that caregivers can use to prevent burnout and stress. Further, there are also organizations dedicated to supporting caregivers.

Self-Care for Caregivers

For caregivers, it can sometimes feel like there’s no time for their own self-care, or that they shouldn’t take time away from their client or loved one to attend to their own needs. Instead, taking some time for self-care can help caregivers do a better job of caring for others. Ignoring your own needs can lead to burnout and chronic stress.

Having trouble thinking of ways you can take care of yourself as a caregiver? Here are some tips to get started:

  • Get enough rest. You need good quality sleep to keep up with your daily responsibilities.
  • Stay hydrated and nourished with quality food. Carry a big water bottle to make sure you’re hydrating during the day, and pack a healthy lunch when you can. Try not to skip breakfast.
  • Try meditation and coping mechanisms for stress. You could try a morning meditation practice before your day begins. Alternatively, you could learn some short mantras that you can repeat in stressful moments. For example, “Let it go” or “This will pass” could work.
  • Find a hobby and do something you enjoy on a regular basis. Making time for your own interests can help you avoid caregiver burnout.
  • Ask for help. You can’t do it all alone, whether you need someone to fill in for you so you can get a break, or you just need a supportive friend to listen–it’s not easy to ask for help, but it’s worth it.

Resources for Caregivers

When you need more than basic self-care, there are organizations that are there to help. These groups can provide valuable advice and support, facilitate connections with other caregivers, and help caregivers stay up-to-date on new policies and resources. Thus, here are some of the organizations that caregivers can reach out to for assistance:

National Center on Caregiving: This group can help you with policy issues, caregiver education, and information about the latest research.

Caregiver Action Network: CAN fosters community among caregivers and provides resources tailored to caring for specific types of patients.

National Family Caregiver Support Program: This federal program provides caregivers with access to services, training, and respite care.

Support for ALS Caregivers: The ALS Association provides connections to respite care, an online calendar to help families coordinate care, and educational information specific to ALS caregivers.

National Organization for Rare Disorders Caregiver Resource Center: Caring for someone with a rare disease can feel isolating. Thus, NORD provides resources including educational videos and webinars, connections to resources for specific conditions, and financial support.

Well Spouse Association: This organization supports spousal caregivers by facilitating in-person and online support groups, providing connections to respite care, and hosting conferences and special events.

Taking Care of Yourself

It’s natural for caregivers to feel hesitant or guilty about asking for help. However, we want you to know that taking care of yourself makes you a more effective caregiver. We hope that you find the resources you need to support your own health, happiness, and motivation. Thank you for all that you do! Contact us to learn more.

Giving Thanks Series: The Many Benefits of Practicing an Attitude of Gratitude

giving thanks at thanksgiving and sharing gratitude

Thanksgiving is the time of year when we gather together with our friends and family for a feast. There’s a popular tradition where everyone seated at the table takes turns expressing their gratitude about someone or something in our lives.  Whether it’s something as simple as having plenty of good food to eat, a roof over our heads or assistance that allows us to maintain our independence with a disability, there are actually many benefits to living with an attitude of gratitude throughout our daily lives.

According to experts, recognizing our thankfulness and expressing this gratitude offers many health benefits to those who vocalize their thanks. “It literally breathes new life into us,” stated Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California Davis and the founder of a research lab that studies the effects of grateful living. “It recharges and it rejuvenates,” continued Dr. Emmons.

Benefits of Appreciation in Relationships

Openly showing our gratitude was linked to lowering blood pressure, improving immune functions and decreases stress. Dr. Emmon further suggests our gratitude should go deeper into our family’s roots when he shared, “I think that a reflection of how our lives have been made so much more comfortable by the sacrifices of those who have come before us down through the generations should be the focus of how Thanksgiving should be observed.”

In our current relationships, Sara Algoe, associate professor of social psychology at the University of North Carolina adds, “When couples express gratitude for frequently and descriptively to each other, they are happier in their relationship.” Professor Algoe also delves deeper when she suggests, “It’s putting the ‘you’ in ‘thank you’ that really matters, it’s the little pat where you’re really calling out the person for the thing they did.”

Post Holidays and More

During November, we also show our gratefulness to our servicemen and women on Veteran’s Day. However, we shouldn’t be expressing our thanks during just this short period of time. Dr. Emmons’ study found those who took time weekly to reflect on what they’re thankful for had less physical illnesses and spent more time focusing on their health.

Being grateful doesn’t necessarily mean sharing our thanks verbally, it may also take on a written form that we can reflect on later in life. Author, philanthropist and television personality Oprah Winfrey recommends keeping a gratitude journal and writing in it daily. At one time in her life, the celebrity wondered why she “No longer felt the joy of simple moments.”

Writing and Delighting

At a time in her life when she had accumulated more of almost everything, wealth, possessions, opportunities, it seemed everything had grown exponentially except for her happiness. After returning viewing and writing in her thankful journal daily after a lengthy departure from this practice, she shared the positive aspects she had found. “I just made gratitude a daily priority,” Oprah shared, “I went through the day looking for things to be grateful for, and something always showed up.”

When following Winfrey’s line of thinking, whenever you recognize a grateful moment in your life be sure to jot it down whether it’s on paper or electronically. “You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you’re aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots.”

Daily Recognition

If writing things down either daily or weekly simply isn’t in your wheelhouse, there are still ways to be grateful, recognize and offer thanks on a regular basis. Perhaps you could make a general list of all the things you’re grateful for and reviewing it often. If you’re struggling to find things to be thankful for, consider:

  • Joining a social media group grounded in gratefulness
  • Buying a book of daily or weekly positive, thankful affirmations
  • Signing up on a video channel that delivers these messages daily

Getting Inspiration From RAK

The act of performing RAKs (Random Acts of Kindness) has been exploding with popularity on social media sites and other broadcasting channels. There’s even a non-profit with a website (randomactsofkindness.org), encouraging everyone to spread the cheer with unsolicited ways people show compassion in simple unexpected acts.

Performing random acts of gratuity or thankfulness (RAG or RAT) is wonderful. There are many suggestions on ways to keep RAK alive. Further, there’s one way that I have instituted RAG and RAT practices into my life. For example, when I’m at the grocery store, post office, or other outlet and I see someone who is:

  • A first responder in uniform including police officers, firefighters, ambulance drivers, etc.
  • A doctor, physician with a smock or person wearing scrubs
  • Dressed in a military uniform or wearing a full set of fatigues and boots
  • Wearing a cap or T-shirt with an insignia indicating they served in a specific branch of the military, etc.

I simply walk up to them and say, “Excuse me, I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you for everything you do and want you to know it’s greatly appreciated”. Most often I shake their hand. Then, they respond by saying something like, “I’m just doing my job”. However, it always makes me feel better knowing that I’ve acknowledged them for their service.

Conclusion

In conclusion, think about the many different ways you can live your life with an attitude of gratitude. You’ll be happier and healthier in the long run. Finally, from everyone at AMS Vans, here’s wishing you, your family, and friends a Thanksgiving filled with gratitude. Happy holiday season along with a prosperous New Year. Thank YOU for reading this post!

Giving Thanks Series: Supporting Our Veterans

American Soldiers Saluting US Flag - veterans

November is a time when we should express how thankful we are for the family we have, the freedom some fought for, and the life that we have. Therefore, AMS Vans wanted to take a little time to say, “Thank you” to the millions of veterans who have fought for our country, risking their lives for the sake of every American. We know that they have done it without asking for anything in return and many paid the ultimate price for the things we too often take for granted.

Honoring the Heroes

Whether you know a veteran or just want to give back a little to say your own “thank you”, there are many organizations out there that are devoted to helping them. Donations and support are welcome year-round. However, since this is the season of “Thanks-Giving“, we feel it should go beyond Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2019. You may start by taking a look at these nine wonderful organizations that provide help and support.

1. Hope for the Warriors

Hope for the Warriors is devoted to helping veterans and their families adjust to life after military services. Their goal is to help restore our military by giving them back their sense of self, family, and hope. 90.1% of all proceeds and donations go toward helping military families with medical, transition services, and peer-to-peer support. To learn more, you can visit Hope for the Warriors or you can make a donation.

2. Team Red, White, & Blue

Team RWB is a service that connects people in need to others that can relate to their challenges. Their goal is life enrichment through “health, people, and purpose”. This group invites people to help others through fundraisers, donations, and more. If you would like to learn more about the many programs or events that are available, you can visit them on the web at Team Red, White, and Blue.

3. Vietnam Veterans of America

VVA is a group that is dedicated to helping veterans through troubling times. Regardless of what challenges they face. Only one of the specific areas they take on is the government agencies that may neglect to provide proper care for them. This extends to areas above and beyond health issues since they struggle with mental, physical, and emotional health after returning from dangerous areas. If you want to learn more you can visit VVA or make a donation to help your heroes.

4. Paralyzed Veterans of America

Some gave their lives to America and some returned home after WWII broken. Paralyzed Veterans of America was founded by several who returned home with spinal injuries. They were heroes but noticed a lack of available help for themselves and others. To see all the PVA has done for veterans since 1946 you can visit them online or make a contribution to further their reach.

5. Vets First

Our veterans need all the help that they can get to regain independence after major injuries. This is where VetsFirst comes in. It is a United Spinal Program that focuses on veterans and their families. If you want to show your support to those who have suffered for your freedom, donations are always welcome.

6. Wings for Warriors

When they returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them faced some very tough challenges. Wings for Warriors has been there to offer support and services to those who need it the most as they transition back to life after. It is a program devoted to not just the veterans, but their families and caregivers. You can learn more about Wings for Warriors or give back to them this November and beyond.

7. Semper Fi Fund

In 2003, Semper Fi Fund got it starts. It began as something that a group of military spouses did. Their goal was to organize welcome home activities at Camp Pendleton, California, specifically at the hospital. Now, their focus extends to helping even more families and in much larger ways. They help reunite families who may not otherwise be able to travel to meet their returning loved ones and so much more. If you want to join in on all the help they provide, donations are always welcome.

8. Disabled Sports USA

For 50 years, Disabled Sports USA has been working to give returning, disabled veterans a reason to push themselves and regain confidence after injury. Their goal is to encourage the, “If I can do this, I can do anything!” mindset. If you want to help them get back to life through sports, you can contribute anytime.

9. Next Step Service Dogs

Veterans who suffer from PTSD or other disabilities can benefit from Next Step Services Dogs. It is an organization that provides service dogs. By doing this, the goal is to not only help veterans but help animals that may otherwise end up in shelters. We encourage you to learn more or help your fellow man and the idea of service dogs.

Other Resources for Veterans

Veterans deserve all that they can get for the duty that they have performed in keeping America a safe place that we can all enjoy living in. They are the ones who keep it great. For that reason, there are many different resources available to help them take back their life when they return home from combat zones.

Conclusion

Ams Vans would also like to offer assistance to veterans and offer a, “Thank you for all that you have done for us”.