Accidents happen. Have you thought about how you would manage if you suffered a stroke or had severe arthritis? What are you going to do if you break a bone, have pain from repetitive stress injuries or carpal tunnel syndrome? What are you going to do if your manual dexterity is seriously compromised? We thrive on being independent, but we are all guilty of taking our good fortune for granted. Go ahead. Can you brush your teeth, or cook a meal, or even dress yourself if you only have one hand? What about slicing a tomato or buttering a bagel or unlocking your front door? We don’t give much thought to activities of daily living until something happens that takes that independence away from us.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be something catastrophic; even a minor setback can serve to make you realize how vulnerable you are. I have worked through carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger and now deal with degenerative joint disease in both thumbs. No biggie, you think, but when a body part let you down it is more than a minor inconvenience. A friend of mind fell and broke her wrist. With a history of rather severe osteoporosis it is going to take than a few weeks to heal. Her cast is positioned in such a manner that she can’t use her fingers to type of button a blouse, more than a minor inconvenience. A disability, permanent or not, is only a heart beat away from any us.
Once you get over the shock of being dependent on others for putting tooth paste on a brush or pulling up your slacks, you will want to think of ways to do things for yourself again. Some people are very creative and come up with all sorts of clever ways to compensate, but others need to shop around and find innovative assistive devices to make life easier. Some of us aren’t particularly gifted when it comes to figuring out or manipulating anything mechanical and this is doubly frustrating. An Occupational Therapist can guide you through the maze of products and teach you how to use them. Older people and those living with any degenerative or painful disease processes will welcome gifts designed to meet their needs. Look for items like easy to grip utensils or ice cube trays that don’t have to be twisted to release the cubes. Many are so subtle that they don’t look any different than regular products. People with disabilities don’t want to call attention to the fact that they need to do things a little differently than others.
Shop around for ergonomic products that are easier to use, and may even prevent some repetitive stress injuries from occurring in the first place. The latest Arthritis Today magazine (January/February 2012) featured an article by Sean Kelly that lists 25 tips and gadgets designed to make activities of daily living easier. Visit www.arthritis.org for a complete list. You will be quite delighted at the many products available that can make life manageable again.