Friday, January 20, 2012

Daily Living - Coping with a Broken Right Arm

I wrote a blog post back in June 2010 on this topic. This week I met a friend - Anne Sowden from Here's Looking at You - who has suffered a similar incapacitation. Her suggestions are below and my original Blog Post follows hers.

General Comments from both of us:
Don’t go to hospital/fracture clinic appointments alone. Take a relative or good friend who can ask the right questions and intervene on your behalf, if necessary. Even the most intelligent of us need that kind of help when we’ve suffered a major injury. This advice also applies for medical issues.

Comments from Anne:
I broke my right wrist while on a secret mission and had a plaster and fiberglass cast on my arm from my knuckles over my elbow for four weeks. Like Heather, I learned a number of coping mechanisms that I’d like to share:

Personal Hygiene:
If you don’t want to get an electric toothbrush, get an “End Tuft” brush. The small bristles on the end make it easier to brush, especially those hard to reach places. You also don’t end up with as much toothpaste all over the place.

Flossing is impossible with one hand, so get yourself an Access Flosser. It’s like a toothbrush with a U shaped head containing floss.. All you have to do is work the floss between your teeth. And, it’s easy to replace the floss with one hand. In addition or as an alternative, chew gum.

With a huge cast over my elbow, I discovered baths were easier than showers. I didn’t have to worry about keeping my balance and a long soak in bubble bath before bed was relaxing.

Fingernails grow a lot in four weeks so I became a “regular” at my local nail bar—a habit that still continues even though my cast is off.

What to wear:
I totally agree with Heather about shoes. High heels are impossible with a cast. My go to shoes were rubber soled flats with Velcro on the straps.

Long sleeves were a challenge but fortunately winter weather was delayed and I was able to go outside wearing one of my husband’s sweaters. Yes, it was big and bulky but I’m told the colour looked amazing on me! The trick to putting on a sweater or jacket is to get the sleeve over your cast first. However, consider cardigans rather than pullovers and definitely sit while dressing.

I was lucky that I had someone to cook and wash dishes. However, we learned that I made less of a mess while eating if my food was served in a bowl or deep sided pasta dish, except for soup. That was definitely best eaten from a mug.

While I could stab food with a fork, my favourite and most effective utensil was a spoon.

Anne Sowden, AICI CIP
Here's Looking at You
P: 416-429-8028

Original Post from Heather:
Back in June 2010, I was having wild and passionate sex and swinging from a chandelier. No one told me you had to reinforce the chandelier first ... and the next thing I knew, I had a displaced fracture of my right humerus. If you prefer version 2, I was out walking and tripped, lost my balance and fell off the sidewalk and broke my upper right arm – so that it was in two pieces.

This started the process of not having any use of my right arm for almost three months. I was lucky and didn’t need surgery, for all but 3 weeks got to wear a plastic (Sarmiento) cast as opposed to an “old fashioned” plaster cast. However, my arm was held to my side with a strap and held in place with a sling that I was not allowed to remove (24 hours a day).

There were loads of coping mechanisms that I learned – and here some of them are. Please feel to pass them on to anyone you know who might find them useful.

• Did you ever try to brush your teeth with your left hand? It was humorous. An electric toothbrush came to the rescue!
• With only one functioning arm – I discovered the easiest way to put on powder was with a powder puff.
• To wash myself, I switched to liquid soap and a face cloth from the bar soap I had used before. (I didn’t drop the soap and I didn’t have to chase the bar soap.)

• For the first three weeks, I needed to wear my top over the plaster cast – off to Value Village to buy some extra large men’s shirts with buttons up the front. Once the cast was changed, I could put my arm through the sleeves, but still needed a men’s shirt to fit over the cast – and the buttons as I couldn’t put anything over my head. Fortunately it was summer and short sleeves were fine – and I didn’t need a sweater or jacket.
• Pants – I couldn’t do up the zippers on my pants – so I needed pants with elastic waists. I went one step further and bought scrub pants as they have loads of pockets and therefore I didn’t need to carry a purse.
• Shoes – I converted to rubber soled loafers. My balance was off, so the flat shoes were essential and the loafers were easier to put on one armed.

Men – you can skip the next point:
• As for bras – if you can get away braless or with a sports bra – that would be my recommendation. You can also try bras that fasten in the front. I went with a size larger and assistance to put them on.

• I converted to preparing foods that only required heating with a microwave and that didn’t require much cutting. I also purchased shelf liner to put under my plate to prevent it from sliding around. I used a pizza cutter instead of a knife as I could do it one armed.
• My left arm was not strong enough to pour from containers larger than one litre – so I had someone pour liquid into single serving containers.
• When it came to washing dishes – I bought a smaller container of cleaner and used a protector in the bottom of the sink so that I could wash one handed.

Now that it’s almost a year post injury and I’m able to do almost everything I could do before the accident, my main suggestion to everyone is to do all of the exercises recommended and find a good physiotherapist. I’ve spoken to a number of people who had much less serious injuries and lost a lot more mobility than I did. So - persevere with your exercises. If you have any additional suggestions – please let me know and I’ll pass them on.

Heather Freed
Insure Your Freedom