Positive Personal Solutions
This compendium is a running collection of helpful hints, information and coping techniques submitted by GBPPA members to Linda Dobkinís Positive Personal Solutions column in our newsletter, TRIUMPH. Some of these items have already been published, while others will appear in future issues.
Share helpful hints for making your days go more smoothly, including ideas such as:
- products or tools
- places to shop/stores and catalogues
- labor-saving devices
- ways to combat fatigue
- books or publications
- internet resources
- what youíve tried that worked (or failed!)
- items for sale or to give away
Submissions. We are not yet equipped to accept submissions
over the web or by email, but you can contribute your ideas by mailing
P.O. Box 812726
1 Grove St.
Wellesley, MA 02482
Reprinting. If you reprint any of this information, please credit the Greater Boston Post-Polio Association and leave the names of the contributors in the text.
Please note! The GBPPA cannot accept liability for any damage resulting directly or otherwise from the information in this column. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual authors and do not constitute an endorsement or approval by the GBPPA. Always check with your physician or therapist regarding the feasibility of suggestions for you.
The following suggestions were submitted by Linda Dobkin:
- Select Comfort Air Mattress - has adjustable chambers for firm or soft, each side can be adjusted separately. Available at Select Comfort stores (Natick Mall) or by mail order (800-344-6561 - you save the sales tax). Mattress is lightweight and easy to maneuver when changing sheets. Prices range from approx. $1000-1500, depending on size.
L-shaped pillow made by ObusForme. Available at Medi-Rents (617-247-1000) for approx. $40. Comes with one removable pillowcase. Great for head, neck, and arm support.
- Johnson and Johnson Dorsiwedge Night Splint - designed for treating plantar faciitis. I wear my in bed to prevent nighttime pain and stress caused by foot drop. Very comfortable to wear, can hobble on it if you get up at night, has velcro closures. Call J&J for order information (800-255-2500). I purchased mine at my HMO for approx. $40.
- Building 19 is a good source for health aids - walkers, tubrails, canes, wheelchairs.
- Mole skin (Dr. Schollís), available in drug stores in large sheets, can be used to line the inside of braces where there are rough edges.
- Duro-Matic Ice Cane attachment fits over the end of your cane, has small metal teeth that prevent slipping on ice (can flip up when walking indoors). Available at Byrne Home Health Center (16 Main St., Natick, 508-655-3656), approx. $12.
- Before travelling to high altitudes, check with your MD to see if you need to adjust the doses of any of your medications.
- Low cost, low key swim classes are available at your local YMCA pool-arthritis aquatics, water walking, etc. The Framingham Y has an HP entrance that is on the same level as the pool and locker rooms. For greater stability in walking from the locker room/shower area to the pool, I always use my cane, as well as wearing rubber beach shoes and an athletic ankle support (avail. at sports stores, .such as MVP). Same goes for being on the beach, although I usually find a long piece of driftwood to use as a walking stick.
- For women - shoulder bags, with lots of compartments, in leather or nylon, purse or tote bag size, can reduce weight and stress on neck, arms, and shoulders. Since being introduced to these by a GBPPA member, my neck pain has vanished. Available in back stores or by mail order through Norm Thompson (800-547-1160) and LL Bean (800-221-4221).
- My solution to reducing the frequency of doing laundry - buy more underwear! Give yourself permission to leave dirty dishes in the sink.
- If you "canít", clean the kitchen in stages, relax after dinner, and while watching TV, only clean during the commercials.
- Treat yourself often to flowers - the supermarket ones are just as good as a floristís. Not only do they brighten up a winter-darkened room, but their scent can give you a lift. My favorite are stargazer lilies; I enjoy watching them bloom, they have a lingering scent that permeates the house, and the flowers last for days.
The following suggestions were submitted by Nancy Tuttle, wife, grandmother, and middle school teacher:
The following is a listing of changes, with some estimated prices, that have made to make my life easier as a Post-Polio survivor:
- Carry a small container, with a screw cap, handle, and filled with sand, to sprinkle on the ice as you walk. (Recycle an old liquid detergent bottle.)
- If you canít get to the door to let someone in, have a door release button installed by an electrician. Use an intercom for identification if you canít see the person.
- Use one of those footprint-shaped rubber mats in the bathroom to prevent slipping on the floor. They are very light and easy to handle. ($3-$5)
- Teaching school, seated most of the time, my feet are at rest on a cold tile floor under my desk. The cold immediately goes up my leg and becomes uncomfortable. Once it gets cold, my leg wonít easily get warm. I glued a half dozen rectangular. patio block sized pieces of sponge rubber, side by side, to a strip of poster board. The sponge blocks are thick and firm and do not compress under the weight of my legs and feet. The cold does not go up through the sponge rubber blocks. My leg was always warm.
- Donít wait until the last minute to apply for handicap plates. A physicianís letter plus sometimes other paper work is required. There is often a waiting period before receiving your plates. Every state has different requirements.
- Get a lightweight, easy to roll cart, 3-tier cart to carry things around the house or at work. Tie a rope or twine on the handle to pull it along so you donít have to bend over. They are made of vinyl-coated basket style shelves that snap into place. No tools are required and the come in colors. ($9)
- Use a snow and ice scraper with an extension handle to avoid having to walk around your car when it is slippery. ($5-$$) If you canít get to the passenger side windows that are dusted with snow, sit inside your car and push the window buttons for those windows. Most of the snow lands outside as the windows slide down. What little falls inside will evaporate. Itís better than putting yourself at risk.
- Use slippers with non-skid soles. Slipper socks will stay on any shape foot and are warm. ($5 on up)
- If you use pants hangers, try, the ones without clips. The clips are often hard to use. The ones with a release at the neck of the hanger are easier to use as they work with leverage. ($1 each).
- Carry liquid hand sanitizer to use when walking anymore seems too much for you. ($1)
- Use a bigger comb to comb your hair. Itís easier on your arms. ($1)
- Use a stool in the tub or shower. Itís safer and less strenuous. ($40)
- Get some kind of cellular phone. I once fell on black ice on my back walk on my way to work and nobody could hear me calling for help. They were all still asleep. I used the phone to call my husband to come and pick me up. You never know when you may need help. Plan ahead on the side of prevention (price varies).
- When the weather is wet and you have to walk on tile or wooden floors that may be slippery, walk slowly to the extreme left or right of the middle where most people have not walked. It should be dry.
- If you wear leg braces with fixed ankle motion, walk sideways when going up or down a slant such as a hill or ramp. Itís much more secure and less tiring.
- Keep a small, lightweight, folding stool or chair (no back) in your car. If you need to walk any length and get tired you can sit and rest. ($10)
- Store like things near each other to save steps.
- Push the tied laundry bag to tumble down the flight of stairs. Donít carry it.
- Have perishable groceries bagged together for you to carry into the house. Leave the rest in the car for someone else to carry.
- Keep a can of flat tire fixcr in your car. It will seal the leak long enough to get you to a station. Iíve done it. ($5)
- If you have trouble with weakness in your arms and canít hold a phone for awhile, purchase a headphone set that will plug into most portable phones that you have in your home. They weigh almost nothing and if the need be, you can walk around with the phone clipped on your waistband. ($15)
- Use a jar opener that works on leverage; not grip. ($3-$5)
- Try a shoulder strap bag rather than a hand held purse. It saves stress on your arm in muscles.
- Buy some type of orthopedic foam mattress to put on top of your regular mattress if you suffer from pressure point discomfort. It is more comfortable. ($40 twin. )
- When choosing health insurance, check to see if they will cover braces and other devices that you now need or may eventually need. Not all insurance companies cover the cost.
- Equip a work station on some kind of shelving or drawer unit, near your favorite chair or your bed. Include things that you use often to limit wasting precious strength repeatedly getting up to get things ($20 on up)
- Brace wearers try sneakers with a firm coiled gel in the heel part of the inner sole. Iíve settled on Nike Air Liners because the sneakers come in wide widths and the gel never compresses. It gives a bouncy cushion to your step. ($35 on sale - reg. $50)
- There are white "hobby" socks that have a comfortable ribbing woven into the instep area that keeps that part of the socks from wrinkling. (Pack of 3 is $6)
- Buy winter jackets made of a special thermal soft material and it will keep you warm all through the season without needing a lining. It is lightweight and not bulky or cumbersome. This is my fifth season with one. ($25 on up)
- Carry a list of family or close friendsí phone numbers in case you are ever injured.
- Reduce your medical history to fit behind your license in your wallet. Include any allergies you have.
- If light switches on lamps are too high or unreachable, install a switch on the wire, closer to your reach, that has a small wheel to turn. ($1)
- Look down often when walking so you will notice small pebbles, cracks, potholes, or changes in the height of walking surfaces.
- I recently had to buy a recliner because I could no longer get off the couch without help. If I was alone, I was trapped on the couch.
- When looking for a recliner that would be firm and higher, I purchased one that would also hydraulically lift me up as my need for such help increases. As an extra benefit it also has a massage unit for back and neck. It did not cost anymore than regular recliners of good quality. ($600)
- Get an automatic remote starter for your car. It starts, heats, defrosts, and unlocks your car from quite a distance. In the warm weather it turns on the air conditioning. Nobody can drive the car without inserting the key. ($200-$250)
- I teach and must use the blackboard, but my arms are too weak to be held very high. I just lowered the height of whatever I write.
- Plan ahead and combine things to do to save walking so you donít retrace your steps. When Iím at my strongest, I can walk around in 2 stores before exhaustion sets in. If I need to go to 3 stores, I plan my excursions so that the last store has an electric cart.
- When making plans to attend a function in a restaurant or other public building, call ahead to assure handicap access before confirming your attendance. I often forget that I have physical limitations and have gotten myself in a situation where I never thought of the need to call ahead, and have had to come home.
- Get yourself a folding 2-wheeler for luggage, and keep it in your car. They come in handy for carrying almost anything that is either too bulky or heavy for you to carry. ($20-$25)
- I allow an extra 10 minutes in the morning to rest after I shower, shampoo, and get dressed. I have to in order to regain enough strength to get myself off to teach school.
- If you have to move heavy items such as furniture or a file cabinet, lift it just enough to slide a towel, small rug, or an old piece of clothing under the legs or edges, and slide it over a smooth floor.
- Donít overdo!
- On trips to the doctor, therapist, or prosthetics and orthotics person, try wearing a walking suit with zippers going up the side of the calf of your legs. It saves the hassle of taking slacks off. Just unzip the legs and slide the pants up to your knees.
- Use a clipboard on your lap to hold papers in place when you are trying to write on them. ($3)
- Use a heat-bearing type of utility cart, on wheels, to transport hot heavy pans from the stove to the table, sink, or counter. ($20)
- Low-pile carpeting is more stable to walk on if you are unsteady on your feet.
- Put loops on the top sides of heavy-duty laundry bags and slide the loops over wheelchair handles. They will allow you to carry a lot of things. It is machine washable and can be folded up very small and flat. ($4)
- Donít think that using any of these suggestions is a sign of weakness, but rather that you are being good to yourself. Educate your family and friends to your limitations. Mine are wonderful to me! Ask for help rather than risk getting hurt.
More ideas from GBPPA member, Linda Dobkin
- Sleep Comfort - you can't invest enough in a good night's sleep! My switch from a queen size to a king size bed has made it much easier to sleep in comfort. The extra length and width allow me to stretch out my arms and legs. I preheat the bed with my electric blanket and top it off with a down comforter. Between the mattress and bottomsheet I have a thick wool underquilt, made by Cuddle Ewe (800-328-9493). Because my
husband was not interested in having it on his side of the bed, I ordered an extra long twin size (approx. $195 + S/H). It comes with a 90-day, money back guarantee, but I'm keeping it! If ordering, ask about their offer to include a free gift ("The Fibromyalgia Help Book" or a standard sized wool pillow). Because keeping warm at night is the key to my sleep comfort, my "sexy" nighttime attire usually consists of a flannel nightgown or pajamas, long underwear, a turtleneck shirt, and cotton socks. I usually buy inexpensive men's socks (mid-calf length cotton tube socks) and long johns.
- Boots - I have bought a lot of shoes and boots from Panza Shoes (48 Union Ave., Framingham, 508-872-3334). They are excellent at accomodating difficult feet and braces. Most recently I have purchased wonderful ankle high boots, ToeWarmers (approx. $60), made in Canada, which are comfortable enough to wear all day. They are very well insulated, for indoor and outdoor use, open wide enough to get my
brace in, and lace up the front. The Boston Globe often runs their flyers with $10 off coupons. In the center of downtown Framingham, they are worth the trip.
- Shoulder Pads for Brace Comfort - My new brace comes higher up on my leg than my old one, and looking for some padding to use under the strap, I came upon my collection of shoulder pads. I always cut them out of new clothes and was saving them to give to a friend who sews. I gave some away at our conference, but I still have many left. I will gladly send them out to those who request them, but I can't promise the
colors will be your favorites!
- Book Review - "The Thread of Life" is a semi-autobiographical novel by Wellesley author, Frances Kubitz. It tells the story of a young college student who didn't let her polio problems stand in her way of becoming a successful author. Available through Barnes and Noble.com.