November 15, 2015

Tying Shoes One-handed

I shuddered when my OT put brown shoelaces on my beige shoes.  I had forgotten elastic shoelaces only come in black, brown, and white.  I want to wear the color-coordinated laces I paid for.  I refuse to wear shoes with Velcro straps that a 10 year old would be embarrassed to wear to school.  I was horrified when my PT suggested I wear jogging shoes.  It would upset me to give a professional presentation or go to a wedding with shoes that an able-bodied adult would not wear.

I pull the free end of the lace shown in photo #1 across the shoe and slip my index finger under the top horizontal lace (photo #2).  My index finger is pointing towards my body.  I use the tip of my index finger to drag the lace under the horizontal lace to make a loop.

Photo #3 shows I used my thumb to push the lace through the 1st loop to create a 2nd loop.  You cannot see the 1st loop because my thumb is in it.  I take my thumb out of the 1st loop and yank the 2nd loop side to side to tighten the half slipknot.

With time the shoe lace stretches so I tuck in the free end of the lace so I will not trip over it.

Dutton, R. (2013)  My Last Degree: A Therapist Goes Home After a Stroke, 2nd ed., pp. 90-95.  Bangor, Maine: Booklocker.

November 4, 2015

The Zipping Challenge is Not What You Think

Now that it is cold I need to zip my coat.  Velcro closures on my raincoat do not keep me warm.  When I sit, gaps form between the Velcro tabs which lets body heat escape.  I was surprised to learn the hardest part of zipping a coat is not grabbing the zipper tab.  The step that requires the most precise finger control is holding the bottom of the coat.  The 2nd photo below shows I am holding the bottom of the coat with three fingers in a 3-jaw chuck grasp.

Holding the bottom of a coat has to accomplish two things.  First, my bottom finger is keeping the joined tab and the zipper perfectly aligned.  ONLY IF you accomplish the 1st step do you get to proceed to the 2nd step which is holding the bottom of the coat still as the other hand pulls up the zipper tab.  Having a stroke does not stop zippers from being cantankerous.

Before zipping I use one remedial strategy.
To remember what I learned while doing finger exercises, I rehearse pinching my thumb and index finger together to wake up the muscles I need to zip.  I use 3 compensatory strategies.  (1) I don a rubber finger cot designed to sort money to get better traction.  (2)  My hemiplegic (paralyzed) thumb and finger grab a small piece of fabric that is attached to the zipper tab (see white rectangle above).  The fabric is less slippery than the metal tab.  (3) My hemiplegic hand can pull the zipper tab up only two inches.  Going higher requires wrist flexion which forces my hand to open.  After two inches I switch my hemiplegic hand to holding the bottom of the coat still while my sound hand finishes the zipping.  The 3rd photo shows you why I am not sad that I use a combination of remediating deficits and compensation.  I also hate being stared at when I stand next to a wall near a store exit so I will not get bumped by people as I zip my coat - another reason to speed things up with compensation + remediation.

November 2, 2015

Volunteers Save My Christmas

You may think I am crazy to decorate a Christmas tree after a stroke.  My siblings and I never fought when we decorated the tree.  As I relive those memories I become peaceful.  My mother is no longer here to play Christmas carols on the piano so I play Christmas CDs.  The tree also makes me feel peaceful every night for two months.  I sit on the couch, turn off the light on the end table, and become mesmerized by the lights on the tree. 

A friend puts this tree together.  I cannot ask John to put up a real tree because that would violate the "even my husband would groan" rule.  Transporting a real tree, trimming the trunk so it fits in the tree stand, and using trial and error to get the tree perfectly vertical is a lot of work.  I live alone so I cannot get down on the floor to water a real tree anyway.  It takes John 10 minutes to get the tree out of my shed and snap the four pieces together.  I do not get that great pine smell, but I do not have to vacuum up the needles a tree drops as you drag it out of the house.

Caution: Leaning over to hang decorations is a fall hazard.
The photo above has no furniture.  I slide an upholstered chair out of my way with Moving Men (see arrow pointing at orange disc).  My friend Peggy put them under the chair.  I leave them there all year long instead of putting them away after Christmas.  A TV stand on the other side of the tree has rollers so it slides out of my way.  This gives me room to stand up straight to decorate the top half of the tree and sit on a chair to decorate the bottom half.  When I am done I slide the furniture back in place.