February 24, 2015

Equipment that is WalMart Cheap

When I was an OT student I was taught to shop in expensive medical catalogs.  Now that I am a stroke survivor and living on a fixed income this is the last place I look.  First I shop at local stores and then go on-line.  Merchandise designed for able-bodied people can often function as an adaptive device for a stroke survivor.  Two inexpensive items are over-the-door plastic hooks and non-slip shelf liner.  I use a plastic hook to hang a terry-cloth bathrobe on a towel bar so it is next to my towel.  Another plastic hook keeps the head of the shower hose off the floor of my tub when I'm finished showering.

If I didn't have non-slip shelf liner under the pill container it would start slipping away from me as soon as I reached in to get a pill.  I'm glad non-slip shelf liner comes in neutral colors that don't clash with my decor because I have small pieces of it all over my house.

February 13, 2015

Does Reaching a Plateau Really Happen?

Regaining a skill 11 years after my stroke made me wonder why I believed in plateaus when
I was an OT.  Here are four factors that changed my belief about recovery after a stroke.

What Has Changed.  1)  Brain plasticity will blow your mind.  Click here to learn how an adult's brain grows new stem cells every night and makes them migrate to where they are needed.
2)  There is lots of new technology like electric muscle stimulation with biofeedback (click here).
3)  Blogging lets stroke survivors share their triumphs.  My continued progress is not unique.  4)  People who have a stroke as young or middle-aged adults have higher expectations placed on them that people who have strokes in their 70s and 80s.  Family members cannot maintain their own health if they do everything for a disabled adult for decades.  Reducing the time a family can care for a stroke survivor is expensive.  Assisted living where assistance costs extra is a long-term solution many families cannot afford. 

What Perpetuates the Myth.  Therapists see clients for days or weeks.  This small window is suited to orthopedic cases like hip replacements because bones and muscles repair themselves fairly quickly.  Brain recovery takes longer because the brain is so complex.  Therapists do not see the progress stroke survivors make in the next stage of rehab (e.g. out-patient) or after therapy ends.

The Alternative.  Using the word plateau shuts down the conversation.  "Will I get better?" is an opportunity to ask if there is something a client wants to do.  Here is something I wanted.  I have baby-fine short hair so I need a good haircut.  Before I sit down in a beauty salon chair I have to back up and then straddle the wide footrest.  The chair was initially an obstacle to having a good hair day so I never get tired of defeating it.  Challenges that pushed my continued recovery were walking backwards, twisting my trunk so I can reach far behind me to grab the armrest, and sitting down with my feet 18 inches apart.

The Bottom Line.  Skill acquisition can stop because of our beliefs as well as our abilities.  My progress has slowed over the years, but I have repeatedly seen
new goals spur new gains.  This evidence has changed what I think will happen to me.   

February 3, 2015

Snow Strategies, Part 3

I was lucky.  Trenton, NJ got only 4 inches of snow from Blizzard Juno instead of the 18 inches they predicted.  I cleared my sidewalk by pushing the light fluffy snow with a small light shovel while wearing snow boots (click here).  However, clearing snow off my car is always a balance challenge.  Before I lean my chest and stomach against the car for support I don an apron I do not tie.  An arrow is pointing at a smudge mark that ended up on the apron instead of my coat.  My sound hand and forearm cannot handle the weight of a long device for pushing snow off a car so I use a shorter, lighter device designed to clean windshields.  By 2 p.m. my car was free of snow. 

As I was driving to my breakfast club the next morning I thought about the people in Maine who got clobbered with 35 inches of snow and 50 mile per winds that created tall snow drifts.  That image triggered memories from my summer vacation in Maine two years ago.  I remembered the people who smiled at me as I walked around.  Instead of pretending they did not see me, many people initiated eye contact and smiled before I did.  Perhaps people who live in a harsh climate feel a connection with people who know how to defeat adversity.