There is a tool/aid/device for everything and as I mentioned yesterday, I have my fair share of them. I thought it would be good to review what they are and how I use them.
First we have the tools for mobility that I am or will be using:
AFO Splints – AFO stands for Ankle Foot Orthosis, and I need them because my feet drop when I walk, making me trip and fall. The AFO is made of plastic and goes from my calf, cups the heel, and runs under the foot until just before the toes. I’ve talked about these a LOT but am including here because they’re important and I use them every day. Not good. The right foot is a lot worse than the left and there’s a chance that the left will not be permanent, but the right one may not improve. They’re a pain in the neck to wear and put on, but when they ARE on, I can trust that my feet won’t trip me when I walk.
Sock Aid – Who thinks about putting socks on? Not me, that’s for sure. But I can’t sit on the side of the bed, bend one foot over the other knee, and pull on a sock. I need to use this little three-fingered device. You open a sock and slide the device into the sock with the heel on the bottom. Then you dangle the sock aid on the floor with the two long handles, manouver your foot to get into the opening, and pull the handles slowly and voila! you have a sock on your foot. Mostly. Sometimes it turns sideways or gets hung up on the heel. That used to give me problems and require the help of an aide, but now I can bend enough to pull it on properly as long as it’s mostly in place.
Gait Belt – A strong, durable belt that helps prevent falls. Made of cotton webbing with a metal buckle, the gait belt is tightened around the patient’s torso, where it gives caregivers a way to safely lift and support patients when transferring or walking. I wear one most of the time when I’m in therapy, especially when walking or doing standing exercises, because I’m a fall risk. I can’t say I like it, but I’ve seen how a therapist or aide can use it to just provide support and guide me when I’m wobbly. I have one of my very own.
Reacher – This one is SOOOOO important! I’ve had “grabber” tools for years to help me reach something on a high shelf, and a Reacher can do that, too. But it does much more. I also use it to get dressed and undressed, picking up a piece of clothing with the claw and holding leg openings in place to get my foot through. The little point sticking up on top makes it really easy to push pants and socks off the foot when I’m getting undressed; I then use the claw to get items off the floor. When doing laundry, I use the Reacher to move clothes from washer to dryer and from dryer to my basket when finished. I literally use this all the time.
Leg Lifter – Made of foam webbing around a sturdy metal rod, the lifter has a loop at one end that goes around the foot and a hand loop at the other to hold it. My legs do not lift themselves, so I use this to hook around one foot at a time to haul my leg onto the bed from the floor, or vice versa when I get up. I also hook it around the handle of my wheelchair so I can use it to help get my feet on and off the footrests as needed.
Toileting Aid – There are several different tools you can use to help you be clean, but they all work basically the same way. They have long handles and some way to position toilet paper or wipes at the end so you can use it to wipe yourself. When you can’t bend well and/or have mobility issues, you can’t reach what needs to be cleaned up easily. Asking for help with this is the very hardest thing for me, because it’s so personal. I don’t want to ask someone to clean me and know I need to be able to do this for myself before I go home. So I use my tool that looks like a set of long kitchen tongs with a slightly curved end. You wrap toilet paper or a wipe around your fingers in a big loop, then insert the tongs in the middle and then pinch a section between the tongs so they’re completely covered. Then use it to reach back and wipe. Sometimes it works great and sometimes not so much, but it helps me be independent which cannot be underestimated.
AFO Assist Device – This one is new to the collection, used for the first time this morning. In theory it works great; in practice, or at least my first practice, the results were uneven. The shoe stays in a type of angled cradle with a loop at the top to hold it steady. That part worked fine. I was able to get my left shoe on in two tries on the initial test. The right foot is still more of a challenge. It would work great if I was just trying to get the foot in the shoe, but the AFO sticks out and gets in my way of angling the dead weight foot into position. This is going to require some additional work and I’m hoping my OT will help me work it out. I think it’s my best shot.
Transfer Board – Here’s one I no longer use. It’s a hardwood board with very smooth surfaces and tapered ends and two cutouts for hand holds. It’s used to provide safe, convenient location transfers for patients with mobility disabilities. One end of the board goes under the patient and the other goes where the patient is going – from wheelchair to bed, or bed to bedside commode, etc. When I used this, I needed two people to help me because my mobility so limited. I no longer need it. Yayyy!