We Have a New Plan

My biggest problem for the last weeks has been my inability to put my shoes on myself. Since I can’t walk without them, or at least not safely, my walking has really suffered, and I’ve worried about losing hard-won ground. But now there’s a new plan.

Starting next week, my aide Jamie will be coming Monday-Friday from 6:30-8:30am after she finishes a night shift as a sitter for someone in assisted living. It means I’ll be working with her five days a week for 2 hours instead of twice a week for 5 hours. I’ll get more showers and most importantly, shoes on my feet every day. My time will be more free during the mornings to go to exercise classes – sitting Tai Chi and Yoga are tops on my list – and I can practice doing standing leg exercises using the rails in the hallway. Having shorter blocks of time will be easier for me since I’m not used to filling time for someone else, and Jamie will still help with laundry and grocery pick up as well as house projects.

And I’ll get my shoes on.

Image credit: Photo 25575020 / Have Plan © Karenr | Dreamstime.com

I’ve Been Home a Week

You probably noticed that I haven’t been writing a post a day the way I did in rehab. I’m in a different place with my recovery, getting settled with my new community, and sorting things out at home. And my world is shrinking – not forever, but at least for now.

I’m going to therapy three times a week but because my therapist was on vacation for part of last week, my three days were all in a row. I’m working with a new therapist who is using electrical stimulation (e-stim) on my leg muscles to help wake up the nerves as well as doing targeted seated leg exercises on the mat using weights, plus hand weights for arm work. Stim feels really weird but I’m glad we’re doing it. She has the stim up to full power on the lower right leg, which had the most damage from stenosis compression, and I can still barely feel it – but I can feel it, and that’s an improvement.

Yesterday at the end of my session, they created a little “teeter-totter” kind of deal with a weighted stick topped by a wooden sliding board on top for my foot. I was to push down with my toes, then pull the foot up to gauge movement in the ankle, which has been basically frozen for at least 18 months if not longer. Much to my surprise, I could see it move. Mostly it feels as though I’m moving those muscles but I haven’t been able to see anything, so this is promising.

I still can’t put on my shoes by myself, so I tootle around in my chair wearing my fuzzy blue gripper socks. My aide puts them on for me twice a week when she’s here, and I bring the shoes to therapy so they can put them on the other days. But I still have to find someone who could pop in to help. Lots of my neighbors here have helpers; I’m hoping one of them could spare a little time. But first I have to meet people, and I’m working on that.

Actually, the people here are very friendly and welcoming, and they all seem to know about the woman who was here 4 days then gone for 10 weeks. Last week there was a new resident orientation and delicious lunch, which was a great chance to visit with people as new as I am. Friday I went to happy hour and today is an amazing Sunday brunch. The food is amazing here, with generous portions that I’m splitting into two different meals so there’s very little cooking needed. I look at the stuff in my kitchen, already greatly pared down from my house, and wonder what on earth I’m going to do with it all. Life in a year could look very different, so I’m not going to let anything go just yet, but it does make me wonder.

Pictures finally went up on Friday and the apartment now looks like home. I’m slowly (very slowly) moving things around to make them work better. My wireless printer isn’t working properly which is annoying, since I’m a techie and figured this would be easy to do. Ha. I should have known better. Fortunately it’s not a top priority, so there’s time to get it sorted out. But everywhere I look I see piles of things that need to get put away or moved, and it frustrated me that I can’t just stand up and do it myself.

My world is shrinking, at least for now. I know that people with physical limitations travel, go to church, go out to eat, shop, visit friends, etc. But that’s not going to be true for me for a while, at least as long as I’m in the chair. I never really had any down time when I retired from Yale, moving straight from Connecticut to Texas to take care of my dad. I’ve been running hard ever since, and it actually feels good to just BE for a while without expectations except going to therapy. I’m tired and just wish I could sleep better but there’s always the chair with the cats wandering by to sit in my lap. Spending time with them, even in the middle of the night, makes me happy.

Figuring Out Home

This isn’t as easy as I’d hoped it would be. Oh, I know it will get better. But I have things to think about that I hadn’t expected and need to process. I’m learning that there are many things I cannot do easily, including carrying things from room to room, particularly when in the chair. The walker has a tray/caddy thing on it but it can only handle relatively light items. Doorways are wide enough for the chair but I have to approach from the right angles or my right hand crunches into the door frame (I have some interesting bruises). Rolling the chair on the carpet in the bedroom is a lot harder than rolling it on rehab carpet or carpet in the hall, especially when I’m going backwards. Manouvering the chair to let me clean out the litterbox is tricky. I may need to remove the bedspread and just have a blanket on the bed because rolling over the corners stops me in my tracks.

Feeding the kitties is tricky. If I move the footrests on the chair, I’m close enough to the ground to put the dry food in their bowl, but am still a wee bit too high to pick up the wet food bowls. I can put the bowls down but getting them back up is the problem. I’ve had a spotty record with it using the reacher tool; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and when it doesn’t, I can’t clean it up. I’ve learned that I can add water to their water bowl using a water bottle, but if they drop a toy in the bowl (and they do like to “baptize” their toys), I can’t pick up the bowl to wash it out.

The bathroom has grab bars but the one by the commode is too short for me to feel really comfortable, so it helps enormously that the toilet itself (which I had installed) is very tall. That makes me more stable when I stand, especially without shoes. I’m going to ask maintenance to add a vertical grab bar outside the shower that I can reach when standing up from the toilet. I also have other projects for them, including hanging up all the art. When my things are on my walls, it will definitely feel more like my space. I have more art than I have walls but maybe I can trade some things out now for variety.

I’ve hired someone to work with me 10 hours a week. She has been helping someone else here who recently passed away, and I like her energy and personality. I don’t need medical help, but I do need help with showers, laundry, household projects, and running errands that I can’t do now, such as picking up grocery curbside orders or making a quick run to Walmart for something. Lots of things in the house are very confused right now and need to be moved around once we figure out what they are; she was a big help this morning with the first things we tackled. I think she will work out fine and I will enjoy her company.

My new routine will involve going to therapy three times a week in the afternoon, but my new therapist is on vacation today and Wednesday so I’m starting late. Today there was just lots to do, and Wednesday I’m going to a new residents orientation and lunch that may run into my scheduled time. I need the orientation, though, so I need to do that for sure. I have home exercises to do here for both upper and lower body, and I have a plan to try and fix the hated AFO’s AGAIN. This time we used Goo-Gone to get rid of every bit of old glue and I’m going to reattach the straps with my Gorilla Glue tape and give them time to cure rather than using right away. Hopefully this will make things last longer – it doesn’t feel safe to walk around when the straps drop down around my ankle.

Oh, and about the screen for the porch that still isn’t up. We realized on Saturday that the screen they were planning to put up was actually solar screen rather than pet screen, and it’s definitely not what I wanted for that location. I do not want the screen to block the view from my living room of grass, trees, and flowers. I had a chance to talk with the guy putting it up (he was hammering the screen up on the sides on Saturday) and we’ve come up with another plan. He continued with the solar screen on the sides of the porch, which will give me more privacy from my neighbors, which will be lovely. But instead of doing some sort of giant screen in the front, he’ll do three panels with dark screen that will run from the top of the iron railing down to the concrete; three panels so one can be for the gate that will open out in case of emergency. I have to pray that Ellie won’t try to escape over the top but if I don’t have furniture right next to it, I think I’ll be fine. Say some prayers for that, too. Ellie is incredibly curious.

I’m Finally Home

I flew the rehab coop yesterday and finally, finally, made it home to my apartment and my cats. My brother and sister-in-law were totally amazing – I couldn’t have done this without them. Because not only was I coming home with all my accumulated stuff and needing to navigate wheelchair and walker, I also had to do it amidst the chaos of not knowing where anything was and with things still boxed up from a move many weeks ago. Moving is confusing at any time but this was crazier than usual.

All of my boxes are now unpacked and shelves are filled, though not necessarily where things will actually live. It takes time to figure that out but you need to see them to know where they should go. The next big thing still to do is sort out art and get things up on walls so it really looks like my house. I have many fewer walls here than the last house, so I think I’ll have some things left over, even though I gave away so much before I moved. Actually, I have way too much stuff period. But right now I have things leaning against walls where I think they’ll go so I can live with them for a bit before things actually go up.

The cats, of course, were a bit confused by all the activity. Emma spent a lot of time under the bed or peeking around chair legs. But she and Ellie are more socialized by having several different people take care of them over the last weeks, and they quickly started investigating it all. Last night was a two-cat night, with one on each side. They were almost as glad Mommy was home as Mommy was.

I haven’t done much walking today, but did spend a lot of time standing up from chair to walker as I learn to navigate my space using both. I’ve gone from chair to kitchen counter, too, which gives me access to many things like dishes, glasses, and the sink, but doesn’t feel very stable for any kind of bending. Note that feeding cats involves bending, so this is going to be creative.

My walker now has a basket and a separate tray/caddy thing (the two are used separately) to help me move things around from place to place, say, with food from fridge to counter and counter to table. And I’ve learned that although it’s more economical to buy food like yogurt in larger tubs, individual portions are easier to move around in a walker. Note to self for the next grocery run: buy individual yogurt servings.

Navigating the apartment is tricky because of the cats. Rehab walking didn’t include floor obstacles with floofy tails. Here I have cats who don’t move out of the way until the very last minute. I’m glad they’re not afraid of the chair or the walker, but wish they would just move already so I can get by. It’s hard enough trying to back up and turn around on the bedroom carpet or in the bathroom.

I didn’t sleep well last night because a bed rail we installed (and by “we” I mean my brother and sister-in-law) was a bit too high and I could feel the rods through the mattress. Actually, I felt them in rehab when we tried this, too, but I thought it was because of that bed. Apparently not. I ended up sleeping in the recliner with the cats alternating in the lap. Not great for sleeping, though. The bed rail is only there until I get the new adjustable mattress base which is due in two weeks. Tom made some adjustments this morning and I’m hoping it solves the problem. I could really use the sleep, especially if both cats decide to join me.

The other big project of the day was selling my car. I got a quote from CarMax that was $4,000 over the BlueBook value, and it was too good to refuse. But since I wouldn’t be actually going with the car, my brother drew up a limited Power of Attorney for the sale which we had notarized by a kind friend late on Friday. The sale itself went very smoothly. It’s the first time in my adult life that I’ve been without a car so it feels a bit weird, but it’s a logical move and will save me pots of money.

So many people helped me get here but I especially want to thank Carolyn, Jane, and Lana. They took care of my cats for weeks on end, opened boxes and put things away so I could move around easily in the wheelchair when I got home, returned equipment to Suddenlink, brought me clothes and other stuff while in rehab, checked and brought me mail, got my car battery replaced and took the car for repairs. I couldn’t possibly have gotten through the last 10 weeks without these three and all the other wonderful friends who visited, called, wrote, and prayed for me. I cannot ever thank you all enough for your love and care. But I will pay it forward, with love and appreciation.

Image credit: Photo 84025702 © Feverpitched | Dreamstime.com

Last Full Day of Rehab

Today was very much like every other day here, except that I know I’m leaving tomorrow. Yayyy. I was awake and dressed by 6am which I certainly hope not to be doing at home if I can help it. Breakfast was our usual fare of eggs, bacon, toast (for some), cereal (for some), and fruit (for me). I’ve eaten more breakfast eggs in the last 5 weeks than I think I’ve ever eaten in such a short time and am looking forward to fruit and yogurt or fruit and oatmeal.

I walked to PT as usual (175 ft), did standing leg exercises at the parallel bar, then seated leg exercises in the chair, thirty “sit to stand” exercises from chair to walker, followed by 15 minutes on the OmniCycle. I ended up with mat scooting and then transfer practice from chair to mat and back again. When the folks at the Olympic Center first asked me if I could do that, I looked at them as tho they were crazy because, hello, I couldn’t stand up. You can’t do a standing turn/pivot if you can’t stand. But today I could do them and the therapist told me that in outpatient therapy, I’ll be doing more things like that because they’re what I’ll be using in Real Life. Hmmm. Makes me wonder why we didn’t work on them earlier.

After lunch I was back for OT, with 15 more minutes on the Omni Cycle for arms. But then we did something new – side-stepping around the parallel bars twice to practice moving the way I’ll move at the kitchen counter. That wasn’t particularly hard which is a good thing since I won’t be wearing a gait belt or having someone monitor me in the kitchen. The therapist and I talked about how I’ll be moving around my apartment, using the kitchen, etc., to try and identify any problem areas but we think I will be fine. Then I did a few sets of “move the rings from side to side while wearing arm weights” and walked back to my room (175 ft).

I leave rehab for my apartment at noon tomorrow, and it will be busy before that. For one thing, I’m getting a shower and a chance to wash my hair. I need to pack up my stuff which really won’t take that long since everything is already in this room. But I also need to get official discharge papers, hopefully have a discussion about outpatient therapy so I know how that will work, and get my meds from the nursing staff. My brother and sister-in-law will be here about 11:30 to load up my belongings and we’ll head down the hill to home.

I can’t wait.