Tuesday, 13 May 2014

My Essential Aids to Living

Well today is my 9th ME-versary and I didn't know how to mark it. Looking back on the year things have improved drastically as I said in yesterday's post. So on today's ME-versary I'm feeling much more positive than last. After 9 years of being ill, I've nothing to really grumble about - I'm moving in the right direction - and no one wants to read a blog post full of moans anyway!

Bearing this in mind I have decided on a post I hope will be useful to some, and give an insight into my life for others. So without further ado I present to you...My Essential Aids to Living. A post full of all the things I need in order to have a bit of independence and get out of the house. Some are shop-bought, others are ingenious ideas but they all help me in some way.

The Perching Stool
My perching stool post washing up.

For any task that requires standing for a length of time I often require my perching stool. Ironing, washing up, preparing food, sometimes even just making a drink can involve me needing to have something to sit on as it doesn't take as much energy as standing. Besides there are occasions when my legs absolutely refuse to support me! I recently discovered  when washing up or preparing food it's much easier to have an open cupboard in front of me rather than wedging my knees against the cupboard door!


The Shower Stool
My shower stool in the shower.

Another vital aid is my shower stool. Without it showers would be a lot more difficult, if not impossible at times. Again it's needed to save energy, since sitting takes less energy then standing and also because my legs often give up on me after a short while standing and falling in the shower is not on my 'to-do' list! This stool is not just used in the shower though, I often sit on it when washing and dressing as well as when I clean my teeth. It's been a life-saver for me on a number of occasions especially in the evenings when I am at my worse.



Chunky Handled Cutlery

Our polka dot chunky handled cutlery.
This is a fairly recent discovery of mine. I find chunky handled cutlery much easier to grip and therefore use than the smaller handled stuff most of my family used to prefer (I'm slowly converting them!). It means the occasions when I have to ask my parents to cut my food up have become less frequent. The number of times I drop the cutlery I'm using whilst eating has also dropped dramatically. It may be a small thing but it's made a huge difference to my life!

One-Cup Hot Water Dispenser 

My one-cup hot water dispenser.
I must have had my one-cup hot water dispenser for almost two years now. I got one when it became very difficult for me to lift a kettle. I'd often come close to dropping it, my confidence in being able to make a hot drink dropped so low I wouldn't attempt when there was no one else in the house. As a result we got me this little beauty. I can safely lift a jug of cold water (it's less dangerous if I drop or spill that), pour it in and let the dispenser do its magic! I have had a few near misses when I've forgotten to put the cup under the nozzle until the last minute but nothing disastrous yet and it gives me a small piece of my independence back.



Large Handled Mugs

My large handled mugs for cold drinks.
Something I discovered early on in my illness is that glasses were more dangerous than anything else - they just slip through my fingers and I end up very wet! So we've had to invest in a number of mugs with suitable sized handles; not always an easy task when buying a mug without going to a store! But after a number of years we now have a collection of useable mugs for me. I've got some large mugs - often described as latte mugs I believe - which I use for cold drinks.
My large handled mugs for hot drinks.

I always have one of these filled with a soft drink whether it be day or night as it helps keep the dizziness at bay as well as soothes my constantly sore throat.The 'normal' sized mugs are used for any hot drinks I have throughout the day. The advantage of having this large handle is I can have my hand around the mug (if the drink is cool enough of course!) and my fingers through the handle meaning it's almost impossible to drop the mug completely and I'm less likely to spill my drink down me.

Jumbo Foam Curlers on my Toothbrush Handle
My toothbrush complete with foam curlers.
What can I say?! I was having trouble keeping a grip on my toothbrush for months. My hygienist and I were coming up with weird and wonderful ideas (including pipe insulation and drilling a hole through a tennis ball) when I saw this posted on a chronic illness page so thought I'd give it a try. It really has made an amazing difference to my ability to hold the toothbrush and clean my teeth, something I really do my best to take care of. It may look daft and I now require a pot just for my toothbrush as it won't stand in the pot with my family's due to it's chunky size but it works! It's made my life that little bit easier which makes a big difference.

Crutches

My crutches for downstairs and going out.
I have a potentially strange setup with my crutches. I own two pairs; one provided by the NHS, the other bought off the internet. I'm betting you can tell the difference from my pictures! Currently I have one pair, my posh web-bought pair, at the bottom of the stairs. These are used around the house and garden when necessary as well as when I go out. This pair has some comfy grips on the handles which reduces the pain of using them for a lengthy period. They are also have an open cuff meaning wearing a thick coat isn't a problem!

At the top of the stairs.
In my room.
I keep my NHS pair upstairs. When I'm very bad they'll both be at the top of the stairs if I'm downstairs, or in my room with me if I'm up there. Currently because I'm not too bad I have one at the top of the stairs and one in my room. This means if I get up in the morning and find my legs aren't great I have one with me for support or if I get upstairs and find I need a bit of support there's one there to grab too. If at any time I'm going upstairs and feel I'll need both when I reach the top, I ask my parents to get the one from my room and put it at the top of the stairs with it's partner! My NHS pair also have pipe insulation and sweatbands on the handles so they don't hurt my hands quite as much; I used to get horribly sore and blistered hands from using them so we had to come up with a solution for that and of course pipe insulation was the obvious answer!


The Folding Walking Stick

Folded,
Upright.
Whenever I go out without my crutches (a very rare occasion right now) I carry a folding walking stick in my handbag, 'just in case'. It has it's own plastic bag to keep it folded up and any dirt out of my bag! However this is starting to fall to pieces and I will have to see about getting a new bag, maybe even making one. This stick has been a regular in my handbag since around 2009, when I was at my best but still occasionally needed some support when walking. The best part of this stick in my opinion is that not only does it fold up but it has a jazzy floral design AND gives me an excuse for a large handbag! In recent years it has had a bit of a break since I've required my crutches more, so it's been left resting in a handbag under my bed.


The Helping Hands

My Posh One
I have two helping hands but only my 'posh' one is pictured as this one provides me with much help than the cheaper one I first bought. Although that one is still kept and is in my room should I need it upstairs! My 'posh' helping hand has been a vital help in reaching things on the floor and sometimes even getting my trousers on! It means I'm less reliant on my Mum when I find myself too stiff and in too much pain to bend and dress my bottom half. However it really isn't much use for getting socks on! Believe me I've tried in the past without success!! The only problem is my family use it for all other sorts of things and I often can't find it because they've used it somewhere else and not put it back where I left it! 
 


The Dark Sunglasses

My dark glasses.
The must have accessory for any person with ME. For me it's been a struggle to find any cheap sunglasses for this purpose - wearing glasses all the time and not being able to see without them I can't just go out and buy any old sunglasses. While my eye sight is still changing each year I refuse to buy prescription sunglasses on top of the price of my glasses. So I have  two of this rather unstylish pair which fit over the top of my existing glasses; one lying around the house and another in my handbag, as you probably guessed! I find these help not only for the sunlight outdoors but sometimes for the sunlight indoors, the main lights and also the fluorescent lights many shops and doctors surgeries have. All of these hurt my eyes and can leave me with horrific headaches. I even use them when on my laptop or tablet whether I'm studying or just browsing the web!


The De-Tangler Brush
 
The brush fitted as a lid on the pot.
The brush and pot.
After hearing I was struggling with brushing the knots out of my hair my best friend picked this up for me. Designed with little ones in mind this de-tangler brush makes it a lot easier, and less painful to get the knots out of my hair. It seems to take the strain off my wrist allowing me to de-tangle my hair without causing an awful lot of wrist pain. I also seem to have less weakness when using this brush. Not only that but it comes with a storage pot for hairbands and clips! Being such a girl this really does come in handy!   


And not forgetting 'Bob' my Wheelchair

Meet 'Bob' with an extra cushion.
Yes I've named my wheelchair 'Bob'! I figured since I rely on it so much to get out it might as well have a name and is often referred to as 'Bob' and as such a male! He is the best wheelchair I've had by far (I've had one other but used a total of 4 during my 9 years of M.E.) I can even manage to self-propel myself a little bit these days which gives me a little bit of independence in shops. Without 'Bob' I wouldn't be able to get out much at all; I can just about make it up the road to the corner shop on crutches at the moment and even that takes requires a long rest afterwards!


'Bob' can even hold crutches!

We've even modified 'Bob' slightly, well made some additions so he can hold my crutches for me! It's amazing what you can do with some pipe clips, velcro, scrap material and the tops of some old bunk bed posts! Thanks to my Dad's innovation with that little lot my crutches can now be secured to the back of 'Bob' whilst I'm sitting in the chair meaning I don't have to hold on to them as we go along! I don't always take my crutches out with 'Bob' but when I do this modification has proved very useful! Particularly when shopping. 




I realise this has become an extraordinarily long blog post, I've been working on it for a few weeks here and there so it's not all been written in one lump. But this only covers the absolute essential living aids that get me through the days, weeks, months and in some cases years! There are other things which help and it's not that these aren't now an essential part of my life it's just that mentioning everything would turn this into a colossus blog post I'm sure many of you wouldn't have the time or energy to read. As it is this post is already long, (I'm sorry if it's too long) but I hope it's been useful to my spoonie readers and insightful for rest of you! All of these things have now become essential for me to live my life, without them I would be even more reliant on other people than I am now. A slice of independence when you suffer from a chronic illness like M.E can really mean a lot, probably more than most people imagine.