A house for our lives

I wonder why we don’t design houses for our lives.

A family house could have everything on the first floor, with a bedroom, wheelchair accessible, and a full bath. The stairs could have an entryway that can be closed off. Upstairs, a sitting room, a full bath, two bedrooms or three and a pocket kitchen. Laundry facilities need to be on the main floor, but they could be in a mud room/entry that is part of the entry to the stairs.

The basement, if there is one, could be for storage or for another apartment.

A couple could buy the house, raise kids in the whole thing, then downsize to the main floor, rent the upstairs, perhaps rent the basement.

My daughter and son want less stuff. Neither has the packrat gene from me and they want to be mobile and have cleaning be very easy and moving be easy. I feel guilty that I have a big house alone, but it is full of stuff that I am slowly decreasing. It has a daylight basement, but there is no bathroom down there nor kitchen and the laundry facilities are there. Also the plumbing is 4 inch across 2 foot concrete sections from the 1930s and runs under the slab poured inside the 1930s garage foundation. The garage is built to the neighbor’s line in back and five feet onto the lot in the middle of the block at the side, so I have two lots. If I take it down, I could not rebuild there because of codes. I think that to do the basement as an apartment I’d have to redo the plumbing first, which is daunting. Also renting is tricky. That is, getting someone out if it is not working can be a challenge.

Friends are looking for a four bedroom house. They have three children so that is what they need now. But the eldest is 14, so it will not be long at all until they need less house. I picture bedroom modules that can be detached.

Our town is very short on long term rentals because now people can make more with short term rentals to the tourists for the many festivals. This in turn is messing up the traffic and increasing accidents, because there are two two-lane roads into town. And a ferry. The people who work in the shops and restaurants are having to commute. People own a fifth house that they may visit only twice a year. It looks like it will get messier, though we may have another housing crash. Right now houses are going up.

My daughter has been designing her future tiny house for a while. The second entry is to a mud room with laundry facilities and a tile floor and a shower so that she can climb out of swimming or running or mountain biking or sailing gear and have a place to hang everything before she goes into the rest of the house. She will want to be able to clean herself and her gear.

My grandparents had a house on Topsail Island in North Carolina. There was an outdoor shower under part of the house, to wash the sand off before we were allowed upstairs. Then another hose to wash our feet once we were up on the deck. Sand and the smell of the ocean, all the time.

Friends have a four apartment building. They altered the two on the top floor to make one apartment. The lower two they rent, sometimes to family. There are four bedrooms on top and two in each apartment. They have a big kitchen and a pocket kitchen in the top section.

Some of my patients need tiny houses, a place alone, even though they also need social contact. I hate the big ostentatious show houses, especially the ones with the play room on a different floor, let’s relegate the children to a different part of the house. Then the elders can also be relegated.

I wish housing were more about need and practicality and less about money and status. And still, we are spoiled….


written 8/2/2017

Live germ

This is for Ronovan’s Weekly Haiku Challenge #72, prompt words life and give.

They say they protect
life given by taking a
life, germ live alone

I am thinking of more than one definition of germ: an ovum and a sperm are germ cells, that could develop into an organism. When there is fighting and death over abortion I remember that the egg and the sperm are alive too separately. They can’t all live: we don’t have room or food, do we? And I was playing with more than one meaning and pronunciation of live.

Full Definition of GERM

1a :  a small mass of living substance capable of developing into an organism or one of its parts
b :  the embryo with the scutellum of a cereal grain that is usually separated from the starchy endosperm during milling

2:  something that initiates development or serves as an origin :  rudiments, beginning

3:  microorganism; especially :  a microorganism causing disease

I took the photo at our home swim meet.

Talking about death 2

“But,” you say, having read Talking about death, why should I do a POLST form if I am young and healthy?”

Because of accidents and comas.

How do you feel about comas? Would you want to be fed and kept alive by a machine if there were an accident? Let’s make it an accident where you are the heroine or hero: a bank robber is escaping with money and a child hostage and your best bud trips her (the robber is female) and you grab the little boy and run with him to safety. The ceremony where the mayor pins medals on both of you is really fun but even though the robber was caught, the getaway driver wasn’t. You are leaving the ceremony and a car driven by the getaway wench hits you and you are in a coma…..

The fourth and last question on the Washington State POLST form is the key one for this: do you want long term feeding or not? Would you want short term if you were going to get better? Does long term fill you with horror? Ok, the odds of ending up in a coma are really really really small, but not zero. Most of my patients choose the middle road but some say “No tube feeding or iv feeding EVER!” They may have had family or a friend that were kept alive for longer than they think was right. I do have the rare person who wants feeding and everything forever….and that is ok too. It helps to know that.

Back to question one: for a healthy fifty or sixty or seventy old, I advise them to ask to be resuscitated. That is the default anyhow, to do everything. You don’t have to do a POLST if you want everything done. But if you DON’T, then it is worth filling out and it’s helpful to talk to your family as well as your doctor. And I am often surprised by what people want. It helps me to know a bit more about them as their doctor.

One woman in her upper 80s said, “I don’t want to think about this.”

I replied, “If you don’t want to you don’t have to. But, if you don’t say what you want, your daughter and I will have to guess when something happens.”

She then said what she wanted. In her age group I talk about stroke: some strokes are lethal. Some are not and the person looks horrible. However, they improve after the first 48 hours, as brain swelling goes down. The key that makes a stroke survivable is whether the person can swallow or not. If they can’t protect their airway, they aspirate and get pneumonia.

Think if all our elders knew that, that after the stroke they will improve in 48 hours. Wouldn’t it be less terrifying? And we aren’t going to “unplug” them in the first day, because the amount that they improve is not totally predictable. Nothing in medicine is, really….

I am careful to say to a healthy sixty year old that this form is to be filled out as if something were to happen NOW, this week. Not to think of the form as for being when they are much older and very sick. The form has update slots on the back: we are supposed to revisit it at intervals when a person’s health changes. And people change what they want.

I had a lady in her upper 80s who was on coumadin for atrial fibrillation, to prevent stroke. The family was going through a rough patch with the death of a small child. She said, “I don’t want to take this.” She denied depression but she didn’t want to do the regular blood tests. We switched her to aspirin. Coumadin lowers the stroke risk by 1/2 and aspirin by 1/4.

A year later she said, “I think I want that coumadin again. Things are better.”

Sometimes things are better.