Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: It's the Little Things That Count

There must be a thousand little things that I now do as second nature without thinking in living post stroke. I got to thinking about them when I got my shower this morning. Some I've mentioned here eons ago and others I have not.  It may just help someone out there. The point is that I took the time after my stroke to think these through before doing them just after my stroke almost six years ago. Now, they are habits.

I got my clothes out of the dresser and stacked them in the order I would need to put them on after I dried myself. I have a storage basket within easy reach of the shower chair for my stack of fresh clothes. I just push it between the tub and the commode when I'm not showering. It also holds my extra pouf, shampoo, and liquid bath soap. I make my own and reuse a previously bought pump bottle of liquid soap. Don't you just hate finding you are out of something in the middle of a shower?

In the old days, BS (before stroke), I'd get dressed from the top down. My bra, shirt, underwear, pants, socks, shoes. Now I dress just the opposite. I need my AFO to stand and balance so my legs and feet get dried first while I'm on the shower chair. I'll don my socks first. My AFO is next while I'm still seated. My socks are on the top of the pile. Next I'll grab my panties. Once they are pulled knee high, I'll insert the urinary pad and grab my pants. I always lay my pants flat against my body the front side up to stop me from putting them on backwards. Too many times have I put them on backwards and didn't realize it until I was pulling them up. I'll pull these up to clear my feet and also about knee high. Then, I'll stand up to pull both the rest of the way up being careful not to get my panties in a wad.  I'll put on my shoes next for better balance. When buying new jeans I make sure of a couple of things before I order them: they are elastic waist (it's faster and easier to get them off on my double Lasix days), they have pockets (preferably deep pockets since I don't carry a purse) and lastly that they are flared or boot cut (easier to pull on over my AFO).

Oh, to make reaching those hard to reach spots, I use a  Pouf on a handle.I found mine at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. One side is nylon mesh and the other is a loofah for those spots that really need a good scrubbing. I'd be lost without one of these. I can used a washcloth in a pinch, but this one adaptive tool takes most of the aggravation out of bathing with one hand on a shower chair. When I go to Bed, Bath, and Beyond, I always buy two of these at a time. The nylon mesh is notorious for coming apart and nothing is worse than being halfway through a shower when it unravels on you.I do miss standing up in the shower.

I'll head over to the sink to finish drying my hair and comb it out of my eyes. Notice I haven't put on my over the shoulder boulder holder or shirt yet. At the sink, I put on deodorant and prepare to brush my teeth. I had bought a Spin Brush (battery operated toothbrush) prior to my stroke. Speaking of deodorant, a person asked me how I applied it one handed. This person recently had surgery and was one handed while she healed and said her wrists wouldn't bend enough to apply it. .First, I use a stick style, solid deodorant.  I'll twist the bar all the way up, and then lean forward until I can reach the spot it needs to be applied to. I'll then roll the stick back down and recap it.

I usually make a mess brushing my teeth. I wish I could blame it on my stroke, but I had this problem BS. I find with a the battery powered toothbrush it's easier to apply toothpaste to because it stays where I put it. I do use Rebecca's trick with the washcloth when I don't have mine. In case you were wondering, this same toothbrush is still going strong after 7 years of twice daily use. How's that for an endorsement? Now, the small trick I do with the toothpaste is I use the edge of the sink to push out the amount of toothpaste I need and then apply it to my toothbrush. Sure, I could just squeeze the middle of the tube, but I'd have to straighten it out eventually, so I save myself a step. I've finally used all the removable cap tubes of toothpaste. Yeah! Now, I've got the flip caps. 

All the time spent doing this partially unclothed isn't an oversight. There is a method to my madness. While I'm doing these other things, my hair and back have a chance to dry. Even though I've used a towel on these areas, any dampness will cause my bra and shirt to wad up. I've almost eliminated this problem by doing the other things first. Now, I'll don my bra and shirt. Since my stroke, I've eliminated the standard over the shoulder boulder holder for yoga crop tops. My twins are rather substantial and a sleep bra just doesn't provide enough support. While the yoga top doesn't lift and separate like a conventional bra will, it does offer lined, firm support and they are cheaper than regular bras too. At my age, I'm beyond caring about having perky breasts. The gardens, chickens, and rabbits don't seem to mind at all.Yes, I know how to fasten  a regular bra and put it on. I had an excellent occupational therapist who showed me how, but I'm beyond all of that. I  am as I am and I just want them controlled to lessen the chance of them blackening my eyes.

Now, for me, donning compression knee-highs one-handed is an inch worm game. I will usually put on regular knee highs after a shower to let them absorb any extra moisture. Once I've done everything else, I'll head to the bedroom and put these on. Yes, it means undoing my shoes, AFO, and socks, but now my legs are really dry so it's easier. Baby powder works wonders for getting these on one- handed. I'll sprinkle some on my bare feet and legs. The only down side is the drying effect the powder has.

I usually start with my affected side first because it's the hardest. Remember my spastic toes? My big toe points up and the rest either splay out or curl under depending on which muscles in my calf and foot are affected. Getting a regular sock on is trying, but a compression sock would try the patience of Job. But still it has to be done. So I corral my toes one at a time if need be and slide the sock over the ball of the foot smoothing as best that I can. The next major obstacle is getting the compression sock over my heel, then ankle. A shoe horn works wonders, but it's hard on the stockings. I'll roll the sock up my calf smoothing as I go. If there is any bunching, I have to straighten it before going and farther. It can take upwards of fifteen minutes getting this one sock on, and then I repeat it on the other side. But my functioning foot and leg can flex to ease the process. My old cardiologist once told me that I needed thigh high compression hose, but I looked at her as if she was insane. I told her that I'd only wear them if she came every morning and put them on me. She dropped the subject and instantly decided that knee highs were good enough.

Moving on to my favorite and cleaning.

When cooking I now use a variety of gadgets. My absolute favorites are my Ulu knife (Thank you, John!) and my Tornado can opener. Both are cheap enough (under $10) rather than the specialty adaptive varieties. I also use a Santoku knife. The Tornado can opener is an As-Seen-On-TV battery operated can opener. A little gimmicky but it works. I also paid good money for a Swedish Adaptive cutting board just after my stroke, but now I opted for regular cutting boards mostly. I just use the groove cut into the meat carving side to hold rolling vegetables like the first cut of an onion or carrots. I found this trick when I picked a half bushel of peaches from a neighbor's orchard two years ago. The fruit was too soft for the pins in my Swedish cutting board to hold it steady to pit the peach. Now it's my go to way of cutting any fruit or vegetable.

My other gadget that I love is my Vidala onion chopper. I can quite a bit of vegetable soup each year. Pickle relish with the fine grate is fast. I can chopped three quarts worth of zucchini and onions inside of thirty minutes. It's a fast, easy way to get uniform chopped vegetable. Making tuna or egg salad sandwich filling is a breeze with this thing. Although chopping hard boiled eggs posed a messy cleaning issue for this chopper, I did find a solution for this, a baby bottle brush that we use to clean the rabbit water bottles. Even my stepmother uses this chopper for potato salad. Yes, a food processor will do the same thing but it takes electricity and I don't have one of those. I may eventually break down and buy one this year though because grating homemade soap for laundry detergent has burned up two blender motors. I see them all the time at second hand stores. It almost makes me have doubts about buying one.

For cleaning the bathtub and dishes, I swear by Scotch-Brite sponges. They are worth every penny I pay extra for them. They'll last twice as long as the other brands which actually makes them cheaper in the long run. I'll keep one in the kitchen for dishes and one in my bathtub. Rectangle ones are the best (no curved corners) to get into corners.

When I shower, after I finish with the bathing part, I'll use my feet to scrub my bathtub with this scouring sponge. I don't have a back to my shower chair so I can pivot around to get the other half of the tub.  Before I thought of doing this, scrubbing out the bathtub was a dangerous proposition. I'd have to climb in with sponge and cleaner, stoop down into the slippery mess and scrub. Many times, I slipped and fallen or almost fallen doing this chore.

My February 4th blog, "It's Overwhelming" brought me a slew of emails on how I hand wash dishes. I answered each and every one of you, but thought this might help others too. Once again, it's Scotch-Brite and Dawn to the rescue. Try as I might, I can't reproduce a dish detergent that works as well. Smart shopping by using coupons and sales together, I'll usually pay less than 10 cents a bottle. I can't make it for that cheap. I strongly dislike oily feeling water while washing dishes. Now being one-handed, oily dishes mean slippery, broken dishes.

similar to a hand holding the pot
How I wash pots is I wedge the pot handle into the left or right corner of the sink and pull the sponge towards me. The downward pressure of me using the sponge in this fashion wedges the handle firmly in place so it doesn't spin or move while I'm scrubbing. I lift it out of the water to check that I've gotten the inside clean, and then do the outside the same way. I'll do the same with baking dishes and loaf pans. The downward motion of the sponge keeps it from moving too much. For pie pans, I'll hold the pan under water with the palm of my hand, and use the sponge and my fingertips to scrub outwards. Then, I'll spin the pie pan to clean another section until it's clean. I should mention at this point that I do get splashed with soapy water when I do dishes, but it gets done. I wear an full apron or change my t-shirt after I'm through.

For plates, I use rubber shelf liners or one of Mel's thick dishcloths in the bottom of the sink to makes the job go faster. The dishes don't spin and move as I wash them.

These are just a few tricks and tips I've learned living post stroke. There are tons more, but they'll have to wait for another day.

Nothing is impossible.


  1. You've got it down to a science now.
    We might have to get one of those onion choppers.

    1. If you chop a lot of vegetables and cook meats, it's a real time saver. For me I make my own meat salads(spreads), pickles, salsa soups etc. It saves me hours. I looked at them when they first came out and thought what a waste of money, but that was before my strokes. Now, I'm glad I purchased it.

  2. I love reading about stroke survivors who know how to eliminate thousands of irritations that can be exhausting and diminish our quality of life.


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