April 30, 2016

Long-handled Bath Sponges Are My Pet Peeve

Not being allowed to shower and wash my hair for two weeks after my stroke was misery I will never forget.  As an American I have always had quick access to copious amounts of clean water.  I took the pleasure of warm water streaming down my body for granted.  Showering is a simple pleasure I do not want ruined by aggravation.  Feeling clean always lifts my spirits.
Anti-depressants do not always come in the shape of a pill. 

I am sorry I ordered long-handled bath sponges for stroke survivors when I was an OT.  Long-handled sponges help clients with hip replacements wash their feet.  Having a stroke taught me this device has three flaws.  1)  Stroke survivors need a bath sponge to wash their back but choking up on the long handle was cumbersome.  I had to be careful not to stab myself in the head with the end of the handle as my hand moved up and down.  2)  The sponge is silky soft so feet will not be tickled, but I want a textured surface for the itchy places on my back.  3)  The straight handle makes it difficult to store the bath sponge which stays wet for 24 hours.  I lost track of how many times it slid off my hospital nightstand and bathroom sink. 

When I got home I ordered the Buff-Puff sponge and replacable sponge heads.  It has a short curved handle that makes it easy to hang up to dry on a suction hook.

April 27, 2016

Procrastination Comes Back to Bite Me

I used to be a procrastinator.  I would let tasks pile up and get them done by pushing through my fatigue.  Now picking up piles of clutter is exhausting.  Despite this awareness there are some tasks I need to trick myself into doing.  

For some reason I hate to fill empty ice cube trays.  It probably goes back to a childhood resentment I felt because my brothers used the ice cubes, but left the trays empty.  So I put the empty trays and ice cube container on the kitchen counter as soon as I use the last ice cube.  For some reason the job is easier to start when the preparation is already done.

Loading the dishwasher is a soothing ritual, but I hate emptying the dishwasher.  My solution is to put the clean dishes on a kitchen cart.  Later when I walk through my kitchen I figure it would not kill me to put away a few dishes.  Once I start I figure I might as well finish the job.  This wacky routine gives me the feeling that I am getting away with something.   

A psychotherapist would probably have a field day with this post.

April 16, 2016

Teach Us to Turn in the Kitchen

Walking in straight lines in the PT gym and walking around the block at home did not prepare me for the problem solving I need do while walking.  After I got home from rehab I had to teach myself to safely turn 180 degrees after shutting the bathroom door and again when flushing the toilet.  

Here is another example.  The photo shows the turns I take to prepare a glass of iced tea and a bowl of cereal with a sliced banana for breakfast.  Turning away from a counter is a fall hazard because it is done by stepping backwards.  Feedback about how far away from vertical you have stepped is crucial.  Balance information from the inner ears is important when vision cannot help. After I fell and broke my forearm while turning I got scared.  I learned to turn by taking itsy bitsy baby steps before taking normal size steps in the new forward direction.

Research on this topic is emerging.  Chen trained stroke survivors on a straight OR a turning-based treadmill (1). Subjects walked on a round treadmill that turned underneath them as they walked in one place while holding onto parallel bars.  Subjects who learned to to accommodate the constant change created by the round treadmill were significantly better at turning while walking on level ground.  The example above shows turning has implications in the real world.  PTs and OTs need to address turning in their clinical practice.  

1. Chen, I, Yang, Y, Chan, R, Wang, R. Turning-based treadmill training improves turning
    performance and gait symmetry after stroke. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. 2014;28

April 3, 2016

Carts Keep Me and My Stuff Safe

I do not use a cart to transport objects a long distance in my small kitchen. However, the cart saves me from making numerous consecutive turns.  For example, when I bring home groceries, the food that goes in the refrigerator is scattered in several shopping bags.  I collect cold items on my cart, push the cart to the refrigerator, and stand in front of the open refrigerator.  I use my sound arm to transfer objects from the cart to the refrigerator shelves - no turning and walking back to collect the next item and turning to face the refrigerator again.

How does standing still as I transfer objects keep me and my stuff safe?  1) Turning can be stressful for the knee when it is not done correctly. 
2) Turns increase the chance of a fall because turning is more difficult than walking in a straight line.  3) Maintaining my balance while turning is a challenge that distracts me when I carry an object.  It is aggravating to have only one hand to clean up a broken dish or food that I dropped.

If you have two good hands to carry a stack of plates, bowls, or pots, you can take fewer trips to put away dishes.  These stacks are too much weight for one hand.  So I use a cart to unload my dishwasher.  I transfer clean items to the cart and push the cart to various storage areas.  As I stand in front of a cabinet, I pick up and place dishware in the appropriate place.  I am not going to turn repeatedly to carry one dish at a time to where it belongs!

A cart allows me to bring a meal to the table in one trip.  Here I am
3 months after my stroke serving myself a cold lunch.  When I got tired of eating frozen dinners heated in the microwave I started cooking.  It took 3 more months before I had a cooked dinner ready to transport to the table.  Initially I cooked one food, ate out of the pot, and then cooked the next food.  The day I put three kinds of cooked food on a plate was a triumph.  Now that I cook regularly the cart keeps me from burning my hand on a hot dish or spilling hot food while transporting it. 

Two final reasons to love carts - a three-tiered cart allows me to sort my dirty laundry by color while sitting instead of repeatedly leaning over and standing up.  This cart helps me safely transport dirty clothes to my 1st floor laundry room.  Laundry does not start with loading the washing machine!  I also use this cart to transport my large box of Christmas decorations to my couch from the closet where the box sits on an accessible shelf.

P.S.  I am sitting on a folding metal chair that stays out of the way when I store it behind an open door.