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.

Therapy continues

More of the usual stuff – walked to PT in the morning, did standing leg exercises at the bar (kick forward, march in place, kick back, kick sideways, bend up, squats). Then did more leg exercises seated in the chair, and 15 minutes on the bike, followed by another spin around with a rollator, this time on carpet and not the hard hallway floor. That sucker really is fast and I found my arms were really tired from squeezing the handles too hard trying to make it slow down, even though I know that you are SUPPOSED to do that by gently squeezing the brakes. Yeah, like I’m going to remember that when I’m trying not to have the thing fly away from me. It’s a good thing I have a while to get used to this because it ain’t as easy as it looks when you watch a bunch of old people all using rollators to scoot around their space. I asked my PT about her guestimate for my discharge, and she said probably 2.5-3 weeks. That puts it right where I had it myself, and I’m now targetting October 15th as my date

OT was this afternoon, and again, more of the same – arm bike, hand weights, practice standing up/sitting down, and standing up with a walker batting a ball with someone else holding on with only one hand. Okay, I used to think that would be impossible but it didn’t seem that hard, which tells me (again) to remember to celebrate the small incremental changes and not get bogged down in the hard scary new stuff.

I love my kitties and it made my heart so happy to see them, but it’s even harder to be back in this place now. I just want to be done with it and moving into the next stage – but my body isn’t ready. There are things I need to learn, to strengthen, to figure out physically to make sure I can manage on my own at home. Will I need to hire home health? What about a Visiting Angel? How do I interview for that while in rehab? If I wait til I’m home, how can I get clean? I can’t shower on my own yet and probably won’t for some time.

I don’t feel that it’s okay to cry and get depressed over what I’ve lost, in part because I don’t know what’s just missing for now and what’s permanently gone. That’s going to take me a year to know. I have to suck it up and power through no matter what. It’s not enough to just want to be home and cuddle those furry girls. I have to be ready to do it and not risk having to come back into residential rehab.

I’m in limbo rehab land now. I’m not in Emerald Bay anymore, with that active community of friends, golf, events, parties, Mah Jongg, and I’m not really at Meadow Lake, which also has an active community that I’ve barely discovered. Rehab land has a cast of residents (aka patients) who have a wide variety of problems, plus a revolving cast of care givers. We residents don’t know each other except the bits revealed as we notice that this one is deaf without hearing aids and that one has dementia, or the other one had a stroke and has limited movements, or another broke a hip in a fall. Meal times are almost completely silent, and the food isn’t all that appetizing so we don’t want to linger anyway. We mostly stay in our rooms except for therapy time with TVs blaring and interruptions to get meds or have our vitals checked yet again. And of course, in therapy, we see how very different we are. It’s isolating and lonely. Guess that’s great incentive to work hard and get home stronger and able to stay there.