dahlia in my garden: Rio Fuego in Coleus leaves

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Don’t Forget to Keep it Simple

Living with chronic pain can be a struggle which complicates all aspects of life. Handling the big stuff like managing treatment, regulating medications, maintaining relationships, and being employed (if you are able), etc. ... take enormous energy to accomplish. Our lives become a juggling act with chronic pain acting like a tantrumming terrible two-year old constantly poking us in the leg, causing us to lose our focus and drop a ball we are so desperately trying to keep aloft.

Though it’s true the big things can really be overwhelming, sometimes it’s the small daily stuff that grates upon us the most. Those activities which we cannot do at all, those which are limited by our pain, and those which cause us pain by doing them can cause us a great deal of consternation when we must face them over and over and over again.

So what can we do besides grind our teeth and let the pain win? The trick is to face the problem head on and find a simple answer. We tend to underestimate low tech solutions. Just because something sounds ‘too easy’ does not mean that, properly applied, it wouldn’t work successfully. Here are some daily life issues that pain/illness can complicate, followed by simple ideas for how to circumvent the problem and keep your pain level low at the same time.

Problem: Perhaps like me you can’t lift a gallon of milk to pour yourself a cup. Instead of struggling with the container and spilling it or just foregoing the drink entirely, you can find another way. 

Solution: Buy a set of Tupperware-type cups with sealable lids and have someone fill them up for you. Now you’ll have milk whenever you want it. This solution can be applied in other situations where lifting or opening an item is too difficult.

Problem: I can’t lean over or squat down to feed & water our cats.

Solution: Make a food chute! Take a wrapping paper tube and duct tape a funnel into one end. Now you can place the bottom of the tube into the cat food dish and pour the dry food into the funnel and you won’t spill it. You can use a PVC pipe with a funnel to fill the water dish, too. A completely pain-free solution that I use nearly every day!

This is my trick for feeding dry cat food to my buddy, Jaspurr.

Problem: When you want to cook dinner, it’s too hard for you to reach the pots in the lower cabinets.

Solution: Buy or make a pot rack. My husband got permission from the landlord and used pieces of pipe to make a plain one over our stove. It has helped me tremendously!

Problem: It’s painful for me to use a blow dryer to dry my hair. My wrist gets sore from holding up the dryer, and raising my arm above my head can cause my shoulder to dislocate.

Solution: When I shower at the YMCA after my daily physical therapy, there are wall-mounted blow dryers which work great. If you like to shower at home, you can buy a counter top stand or a wall mount to put your blow dryer into which will keep your hands free.

Problem: It’s hard for me to access lower shelves in the fridge or pantry because of my physical limitations.

Solution: Work out a plan with your spouse, roommate, or family for the kitchen. In my home, I am allocated the top shelf and drawer in the refrigerator and the top three shelves of the pantry strictly for my things. My husband gets the rest of the fridge space and all the low shelves and cabinet areas he wants (he has a lot of items for his diabetic diet and his camping food). Storage containers, spices, cooking utensils, and other items we both use are kept where I can easily reach them. We started this system last year and it really helps me.

Here is the pot rack my husband made for me.

Problem: It’s difficult to get my laundry down the stairs and into the washing machine. It’s also hard to get clothes in and out of the dryer because I can’t bend over or squat down.

Solution: Collect your laundry together and if it’s a small load, stuff it inside a pillow case or if it’s larger use a garbage bag. If you can’t carry it, tie it securely and roll it down the stairs. Keep a short stool and a reacher in your laundry area. When you need to remove the clothes from dryer (mine has a low door), sit on the stool so you can get the clothes out and use the reacher for what it beyond your grasp. Collect them back into your bag or pillow case. If it’s too much for you to carry up the stairs, just wait until someone can take it up for you.

So you see, there are options if you stop and look for them. Don’t let the annoying daily stuff cause you mental frustration or physical pain. Find another way. Look for the simple solution!

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