Living with the Effects of Nerve and Neurological Damage
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Over the past year or so, I have been treating more people who’ve had a stroke or other neurologic condition more than any other condition or diagnoses. This is not because there has been a rise in people who’ve experienced injury to the nerves. It’s just the rise in referral sources that have recently flowed my way from companies who specialize in this area. Because of this, I have been meeting so many people who are struggling with the effects of a weak limb. Their desire has been to become more self-sufficient while safely taking care of their daily self-care needs.
As I rehab my clients and show them items that can be purchased to help make their self-care easier, I am told too many times that no one has shown them many of these items listed below, existed and they wish they had known about these products a lot sooner. This is the main reason why I have compiled a list of 20 very useful items. Most of these items are also made for heavier people who are over 250 or 300 pounds. Make sure you get the device that is right for you to ensure safety. In a future article, I will compile a list of equipment and devices specifically for people over the 250 to 300 pound range.
Along with that, we must also consider the effects of caregiver burnout. As much as the caregiver loves their loved one, caregiver burnout can happen when the majority of care for both the loved one and themselves is on the caregiver. Helping the loved one with the neurologic condition to become more independent is a gift to the entire family.
So for those of you who are still working towards becoming more independent, there are many devices that occupational therapy recommends to make life easier with self-care. Many of these items have been tested, bought and recommended during rehab sessions and have proven to increase the client’s and the family’s quality of life.
I hope you enjoy browsing the list that we’ve compiled to help you live more independently.
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Walking (Functional Mobility)
Many times a client says that they sit most of the day in their wheelchair and will barely get up to walk because they cannot use a standard walker because they only have the use of one arm and they are afraid of falling. The hemi-walker allows you to walk using the unaffected arm and has a wide base of support to help maintain balance.
A sling is a great item to put on prior to walking when you are dealing with an arm that is fairly flaccid or limp and just hangs at your side. This helps to prevent shoulder pain and subluxation when the shoulder does not have the strength to support the weight of the arm. Some slings are made to only fit the right or the left arm. Make sure to order the sling that supports the arm that needs the support. Here is also a word of caution, when you are seated, do not keep the sling on for long periods because it can cause the arm to begin to stiffen and internally rotate making it harder for the arm to function when it begins to recover in function.
To make sure your arm is properly positioned when seated in a wheelchair throughout the day, an arm trough keeps your arm supported and in proper alignment to decrease risk of arm pain, shoulder subluxation or contractures. The arm trough can be purchased for the right or left side. Make sure when ordering, you choose the correct side that needs support. I’ve selected a few, some are elevated if the arm needs elevation due to swelling or edema.
Wheelchair brake extenders
Many people cannot reach across their body to safely and easily lock their wheelchair brakes to safely transfer in and out of the wheelchair. This is a great item that fits over the brake and they come in various lengths. To apply the extender, you may have to take off the rubber piece that is on the brake.
For those of you who have a tub and cannot safely lift your legs over the tub, a shower bench is the safest way to go. This allows you to sit down on the bench while outside of the shower making it easier to slide/lift your legs in the tub and greatly helps to decrease fall risks. Make sure you choose a shower bench that correctly positions facing the shower head, not towards the back of the tub.
Or….this shower bench helps you slide more easily into the shower.
Bonus: Many people don’t get the shower bench because they fear getting the floor because of the overlap on the tub. This shower curtain is made specifically for a shower bench.
Adjustable Shower Head
Bathing without an adjustable shower head is a missed opportunity to increase independence while decreasing a fall risk. But the right one is a huge plus for safety when showering/bathing in the tub or shower. This one includes a sliding rail which helps the individual to reach easier while remaining seated.
Did you know that 3- in-1 commodes serve 3 purposes and can save money for anyone on a budget? It acts as a bedside commode, it fits over the toilet to raise the sitting surface and offers rails to help with safe transferring on and off the toilet and thirdly, it can be used as a shower chair.
There are also drop arm commodes for people who cannot safely transfer by standing to transfer to the next surface but may need a transfer board or are only able to complete a squat pivot transfer safely due to a weak leg or a lower limb contracture or pain.
Toilet roll holder with grab bar
Many times, getting on and off the toilet can be so much easier with help from a grab bar. The design of this item helps it blend into the design of the bathroom while also providing safe assistance to the user. (When installing make sure it goes into the studs to support body weight).
Simple and sweet. This is an item that is so commonly missed but helps so much to get dressed more independently. It also helps to safely reach for items that you may not be able to do due to a weak core or balance issues. Reachers come in various lengths. Below are ones that are most commonly used. (I chose this one in particular because this is a pack of two. Many times, people realize they need at least two to keep in different parts of their home).
The dressing stick can be used for so many things such as using the bigger hooks to hold your shoes down as you take them off, assist with getting pants down around the ankles and off from around the feet. The dressing stick also helps the waist of the pants stay open as you work on getting your legs threaded through. The dressing stick can help to assist the unaffected arm in getting shirts and jackets around the shoulders and at the other end of most dressing sticks is a smaller hook that can abe used for various tasks such as pulling the tongue out of your shoe or helping to zipper.
Long handled shoe horn
I’ve come to realize that many times, people didn’t know that long handled shoe horns exist. This assistive device helps so many to get their shoes on independently again.
Once elastic shoelaces are laced in the shoe, there is no more need to have to tie or untie the shoes again. There are many colors and types.
A button hook, with a little practice can help to button and unbutton clothing independently.
Dycem is used to help stabilize items that used to be supported with the use of both hands. Dycem helps to keep items in place such as bowls and plates when eating, checkbooks when writing out a check and even keeping the affected limb in place such as on the table without having it slide so easily off. This particular item was chosen because it is reasonably priced for the amount of footage and allows for several pieces to be cut for various uses around the home.
An easy to use tool that cuts food with a rocking motion. It is ergonomically shaped for an easy grip and reduces risk of injury while helping to cut food without the need to hold the food item down with a fork.
The StayNEat Plate
I chose this particular plate to highlight because there are two usable sides to this plate. One side is divided into sections, the other side is not. Both sides offer a spill guard and slopes to help keep liquids away from food, if desired, but can also be leveled. Last but not least, the plate also can suction to certain surfaces and offers resistance to help minimize sliding. It comes in several colors, is reasonably priced and is made in the USA. I love this product!
A Long handled brush and comb
These items help the individual to reach both sides of the head with the use of just one hand. It may not be the most fashionable but it definitely does the job.
Long handled sponge
When bathing, a long handled sponge helps to reach all of those hard to reach places while decreasing your risk of falling. While seated, you will be able to easily reach your back, legs and feet.
A bedrail is a must in helping assist a person to get in and out of the bed more independently when dealing with upper body weakness or pain. Most designs are very easily installed.
A device that helps to lift the affected leg as needed during tasks such as lifting the leg in and out of pants, the bed, the tub, the car or on and off the wheelchair footrests more easily..
For those of you who do not have an occupational therapist but need some advice on how to safely and effectively use an item, please feel free to contact us for a free 10-15 minute consultation on the proper use of the device.
I hope you enjoyed our top 20 list of must haves to becoming more independent.
Thanks for stopping by. 🙂
Disclaimer: This information is for educational and information purposes only and is not intended to treat or diagnose any medical condition.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi, I’m Christa Spence.
As an Occupational Therapist (OTR), I specialize in prevention and health and wellness within the adult population.
With a background in occupational therapy, I teach, coach, mentor, consult and counsel individuals and groups in personal growth.
I also educate and train clients in improving relationships, work habits, school engagement, and caregiving, as well as advise and support those who have experienced issues of abuse and neglect. I take pride in realizing and understanding the complexities of life and how it relates to intricacies of the human body – mind, body, and soul.