November 27, 2011

Applying Make-up One-Handed

The holidays are coming and a reader used the word "make-up" to find my blog so I thought I'd write about applying make-up one-handed.  Every woman does her make-up differently so this is just an example that may inspire you to think about how you manage make-up.  A piece of non-slip shelf liner on the dresser stops eye shadow and face powder from sliding when I open the container and use the brush.  I didn't know age would rob my lips of the pink color that keeps them from being the same color as my face. It's easy to apply lip gloss with a hint of color because I don't have to draw a precise outline like I do with lipstick. 
I apply the tinted gloss to my bottom lip and mash my lips together to transfer gloss to my upper lip.  The gloss wears off quickly, but leaves a slight tint on my lips that lasts for hours.  Now I see lips on the bottom half of my face when I look in the mirror.

New Procedures.  Applying eye liner requires the ability to close one eye while you keep the other open.  I can blink (close both eyes at once) but I can't wink with my hemiplegic eye (close one eye).  I apply eye shadow by keeping both lids half closed, but this won't work for eye liner.  Instead I use mascara to give my eyes more definition.  My hemiplegic hand can squeeze tubular shaped objects between my index and middle finger so my sound hand can open the mascara.  At first I got mascara on my eyelid or face because lots mascara is always loaded on the brush.  Now I wipe off the excess by rolling the brush on a kleenex sitting on non-slip shelf liner before I apply mascara. 

Organizing the Work Space.  My balance isn't good enough for me to lean over to look in the bathroom mirror.  I have a mirror on my bedroom dresser with clear Dycem under it to keep it from moving when I adjust it to see better.  I have good control when applying eye makeup if I lean my sound elbow on the edge of my tall dresser.  Years ago I created lighting by attaching fluorescent lights to the sides of the mirror hanging over my dresser.  If you buy a lighted make-up mirror read the reviews first.  Containers keep make-up organized so it doesn't spread out on my dresser.  A small round container is clipped to a square food container that sits inside a plastic make-up case I use when I travel.  A small metal binder clip (see white circle) from an office supply store keeps the small round container upright so pencils, mascara, and tweezers stay vertical.  I love using everyday objects instead of spending money on expensive equipment in medical catalogues

November 10, 2011

Two Sets of Ten Don't Undo 12 Hours of Disuse

I had back spasms after my stroke.  It was terrifying to be frozen in standing hoping I wouldn't drop my cane or fall down.  So I was highly motivated when my PT gave me exercises to strengthen weak abdominals that allow my back to arch when I lift my hemiplegic leg.  I do exercises before I get out of bed in the morning. However, doing a few exercises doesn't undo the effects of 12 hours of disuse.  Therapists and stroke survivors who pin all their hopes on exercises are doomed to fail.  If exercise was enough coaches would stop after they made football players run laps around the field and throw and catch footballs.  Exercise conditions the body, but the mind has to learn to use new skills when we are distracted.  I'm not against exercising.  I think exercises are a good way to learn how movement should feel.  Since I've been doing abdominal exercises I can feel when my pelvis flops forward as I lift my hemiplegic leg to walk.  This gives me an opportunity to stop and concentrate briefly on sucking in my gut.  But it's the 3,000 steps my pedometer says I take on the boardwalk at Point Pleasant Beach that strengthen my muscles and retrain my brain.

Success at transferring what I've learned to my daily routine is mixed.  I consistently lift my hemiplegic leg higher than is necessary to walk up the steps at my front door.  I'm pleased that I no longer make scuff marks on top on my shoe as I drag the shoe over the edge of step.  I want to stop arching my back to lean my stomach against a counter for support, but I'm failing two-thirds of the time.  I put a beige piece of non-slip shelf liner at the kitchen sink to remind me to lean on my hand instead of leaning on my stomach.  I rarely used this strategy so I added a another memory aid.  A blue piece of non-slip shelf liner reminds me to first put my sound hand on the counter so it's easier to lift my hemiplegic hand to counter top height.  I've seen improvement so I know I can stop this bad habit.

November 3, 2011

Back Pain + Stroke = Disaster

I herniated a disc in my back and had sciatica 20 years ago so I've been stretching my back for years.  After my stroke I was worried my back pain would come back.  It did.  I had to shorten my walks on the boardwalk at Point Pleasant because my back ached.  A recent bout of back spasms taught me stretching by leaning forward with my legs straight while sitting in bed was not enough. 

I was shocked to learn I repeatedly arch my back because the abdominal muscles on my hemiplegic (paralyzed) side are weak.  This weakness lets my pelvis tilt forward (bottom half of red line on left) so I stop myself from falling by leaning back (top half of red line).  My back is arched every time I lift my leg.  To lift the leg, hip muscles (arrow in diagram on right) need a stable base to pull on.  Abdominal and back muscles (triangles on right) have to be strong to hold the pelvis and spine straight (white line on left).  

It gets worse.  My PT discovered I arch my back when I lean down to pick up an object, like when I reach down to get a pot from a bottom cabinet, get milk from the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, or pick up something from the floor that I've dropped.  It gets worse.  When I rinse a dish and brush my teeth I arch my back so I can lean my stomach on the edge of the counter for support.  I arch my back when I stand with one foot in front of the other in the check-out line when I go shopping.

Thank goodness a PT showed me how to add abdominal strengthening to my morning routine.