Need a little help while you're on the mend?
Tuesday 29th April
There's a handy device to assist you each step of the way, says Caroline Molloy.
When you’ve been in the wars – whether through illness, an operation, or an accident – the time you spend recovering is vital to your long-term physical and mental health.
It takes a while for the body to heal and this can be a frustrating, even worrying period. At times like these, a few carefully chosen gadgets, or “daily living aids”, can make all the difference.
“Not being able to do the things you used to do affects your confidence,” says Caroline Molloy, who in her role as an occupational therapist (OT) tries to make the rehabilitation period as stress-free as possible. “Finding the right living aids for your situation should help you regain that confidence.”
Caroline is the consultant occupational therapist at Healthcare.co.uk and, with 28 years of experience as an OT, she is the ideal guide to how these everyday living aids can help.
“When you’ve had an operation and things aren’t quite right, the uncertainty, anxiety and fear of not being able to manage is quite disempowering,” she explains.
“One of my recent patients, a 68-year-old man, fractured his ankle when he slipped down his stairs one evening. He was treated in hospital and, after being discharged, he couldn’t put his weight on that ankle, which meant that he had to sleep downstairs for a while.”
With time and, just as importantly, a course of physiotherapy sessions, this patient was able to put weight on his ankle again, but he still needed some additional help.
“He’d lost his confidence on the stairs, so he had an extra banister rail fitted so he had something else to hold on to,” says Caroline. “Because his ankle was still quite weak he found getting up from a sitting position rather hard. We put in a raised toilet seat and suggested a riser recliner chair to make things much easier. This helped him be completely independent.”
Caroline was also able to provide practical assistance to a 72-year-old woman who’d had a minor stroke. The stroke had left her with weakness all down her left-hand side and she’d lost confidence in her ability to cope. “This lady started using a walking stick to give her more support, which really helped,” says Caroline. “She had actually rolled out of bed on a couple of occasions, which had really shaken her up, so I recommended an easy-fit bed rail for her. This made her more aware of how close to the edge of the bed she was and helped her get out of bed in the mornings.”
The kitchen was another problem area for this patient. “We looked at kitchen gadgets for her and found some items that really helped. I suggested an electric tin-opener, which did all the work for her, and a kettle tipper. You put this under your kettle and you can tip it just using a finger.
“Another useful aid was a cooking basket: this goes into a saucepan, then you just fill the pan with water and put your vegetables, potatoes etc. into it. Once they’re cooked, you lift the basket up and transfer the cooked food to your plate. You don’t have to lift a heavy pan full of hot water and you reduce your risk of burning yourself.”
The final aid Caroline recommended for this lady was a four-wheeled heavy-duty rollator. This looks like a walking frame but is designed for use outside, and has a small seat so you can stop and have a rest if you need to. “This meant a new-found freedom that let her visit her local shops, knowing that she didn’t have to walk all the way there and back without being able to sit down.”
The OT’s picks
Height-adjustable toilet frame with seat
“This is the aid I think is most useful,” says Caroline. “That’s because we use the toilet throughout the day, and at night, and having that extra height just makes using it that much easier. Having handles on either side gives you some extra support, too.”
“A very low-cost item that you can put almost anywhere, wherever you need something to steady yourself with.”
Folding easy-fit bed rail
“Getting out of bed can be challenging, especially if you’re feeling a bit stiff. This folding rail (or bed lever) provides extra support, allowing you to push off the bed more easily.”
“As we get older, getting in and out of the bath can become quite stressful. This lift helps to make it a more manageable affair.”
Electric recliner armchair
“The rise facility can give you that extra boost when you need to stand up. And the recline facility allows you to put your feet up, which is good for your circulation.”
This article was first published in the Spring 2014 edition of benhealth (issue 26).