How to have a happy Thanksgiving with a wheelchair or walker

Heather Jose photo.

Heather Jose

Will there be a wheelchair or walker coming to your Thanksgiving dinner this year?

This week, I’m keeping the column short and to the point: I’m sharing some very helpful tips that are well known to veteran caregivers, but aren’t so well known to the occasional caregiver.

PLEASE, think about friends and family coming to your holiday celebrations—and send them this column. Put it up on Facebook by using the blue-“f” Facebook buttons. Or, email it using the envelope-shaped icons. You can even print this column and physically hand it to friends.

Trust me: If you’ve got relatives volunteering to bring a disabled loved one to the family celebration—they need to see today’s column.


Put away any throw rugs, especially those that don’t have a rubber backing. They can cause people to trip if they catch the edge. Uneven surfaces are more difficult to negotiate whether walking or in a wheelchair.

Clear away clutter and leave the widest pathways possible inside and outside of your house.

Have a couple of nice sturdy chairs ready that aren’t low to the ground. Lazy boys and cushy couches are great but they can be really hard to get out of.

Do a bathroom check. If there are no grab bars available keep in mind that people often will take hold—and push hard—on anything that’s available when they try to stand. This often leads to breaking toilet paper holders off the wall. The lack of a grab bar also can lead to falls that are not only dangerous, but can suddenly transform your whole holiday weekend in a tragic way.

If stairs are a must allow the person to hold on to a sturdy handrail rather than taking your hand. Permanent objects are more secure and you can be there to steady along with their hand on the solid railing.

Plan ahead for the best placement for your guest at the dining room table.

Finally if you aren’t familiar with transferring your loved one from one place to another—check out this video. Proper technique and a gait belt can make all difference. (If no one has introduced you to this common device, sometimes called a “transfer belt,” you’ll find that it’s a very useful, adjustable belt that aids in careful lifting of a disabled person. Amazon sells many varieties.)


IF YOU DON’T SEE A VIDEO SCREEN, in your version of this column—or if you’re printing out this column to share with friends: You also can access the YouTube video directly by going to