Sunday, May 3, 2015

Tools and Tricks for the Stroke Survivor

The following article was written and published on the StrokeNet Newsletter web site by David Wasielewski.

David is a stroke survivor and member of the StrokeNet staff. You may visit the StrokeNet web site by clicking on this link: www.strokenetwork.org 

Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp is not affiliated with StrokeNet, but they have many interesting and useful articles that I like to share with our readers, with permission from the StrokeNet staff, of course. 

by David Wasielewski

Tools and Tricks for the Stroke Survivor

Regular readers of my column might notice that the articles are normally focused on the larger social and psychological adjustment after stroke. I was recently reminded that there are many small day to day struggles to be overcome as well in order to make our lives livable. The challenge of being one handed (I am hemiplegic) forces many small adjustments, tricks and a search for tools that address them. I’ll try to share some of my discoveries here. Caregivers should pay particular attention as they will need to bring these tools into the house or consider these new rules when buying clothes and supplies for their survivor or furnishing the house.

RRSC editor note: hemiplegic means the complete parylisis of one side of the body. Not all survivors suffer from something this severe but many do.

Dressing, clothes and closets: Velcro is an essential for the one handed. Velcro strap shoes make getting dressed much easier. I understand that there are tricks for one handed shoe tying which I have never mastered, but Velcro is quick and easy. New Balance and Propet offer comfortable walking shoes that are easy to manage, durable and good looking for all occasions and seasons.

Buttons are preferable to zippers on all garments when shopping for easy to manage clothes (attention caregivers!!). I have found that ½ zip pullovers are fine but full zip clothes are a challenge. For those in doubt, try to zip up a winter coat with one hand. Winter might be over before you accomplish this task. Speaking of winter clothes, oversized mittens are preferable to gloves. It is nearly impossible to manage gloves with a spastic hand. Belts are often difficult to manage with one hand. A bathrobe with a button or a Velcro closure can make showers and dressing and showering easier to manage.

Closets: Hangars are almost impossible to manage with one hand. Try it and see. For frequently used items a series of coat hooks on the wall in the closet are essential and in most cases easy to install. For easy coat access, consider a hall coat tree.

Showers, baths: Many hemiplegics can manage dressing independently if a chair or bench is provided for that purpose. A small bench or chair in the bathroom or just outside the bathroom provides support for the survivor to be able to dress and undress on their own. A walk in shower with proper grab bars is essential for hemiplegic folks. Make sure a professional installs the bars to ensure proper safety.

Pump bottles for soap, shampoo, toothpaste etc. make one- handed bathroom tasks much easier. Towel hooks on the wall are much easier to manage with one hand than towel bars. Let your survivor choose the most comfortable positons for the bars, benches and hooks. Each survivor will have particular preferences depending on their affected side and strengths. It also gives them an opportunity to participate in and plan their own environment. Working on a project like this can be empowering and a confidence builder for the survivor.

Stairs and walkways: It is often possible for hemiplegic survivors to navigate stairs. The limiting factor here is that strong railings need to be present on BOTH sides of the staircase. Make sure the railings are properly installed to support the survivor. A Stairmaster might also be a consideration if stair-climbing is not possible. Look at any access walks to your house. Sloped walkways and outdoor stairs may need railings as well. Any sloped walkway, even if smooth, will present a particular challenge to a survivor with hemiplegia.

Scissors: A good pair of scissors is an essential tool for the one handed. Scissors allow the survivor to manage opening mail, accessing boxed foods like cereal and a myriad of other tasks. Mine are always on hand for help in the house

Kitchen: Eating can be a particularly challenging and frustrating experience for the one – handed. The ability to use a knife and fork is often lost. Cutting meats and other foods becomes impossible. 
rocker knife is essential for this challenge.

Opening cans and jars is new challenge with one hand. 
The ‘spill not’ jar opener is an invaluable device for navigating the kitchen one handed.

Google kitchen disability aids for a variety of other devices to help with eating and cooking.

I have found that folks with these challenges are often on the lookout for devices that can make life easier. On a recent visit to a friend’s house we discovered a battery powered wine bottle opener that I could operate. Not an essential tool but one that allows me to be a proper host when the occasion arises. 
Google “Rabbit wine opener”:

Discovering these new tools can be an important project for the caregiver and survivor to work on together. Caregivers should involve the survivor in the process as much as possible as it helps empower the survivor to take an active role in structuring their new lives. It gives both parties some sense of control over their new and challenging circumstances. Finding and sharing these unique solutions can be an interesting exercise at support groups.

RRSC editor note: the above links in blue are Amazon.com links that may not exist when the item sells out. We do not benefit from the sales of any of these items. However, if you do want to purchase them (or anything on Amazon, for that matter), use smile.amazon.com and name us as the charity and Amazon will donate a percentage of the sale to us. This does not increase the item price to you, but does benefit us through Amazon's generosity.
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Thank you David and StrokeNet for allowing me to share your articles with our readers.

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