Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Chronic Illness & Disability - My tricks and tips

I know that every chronic illness and disability is different regarding symptoms and the effects that it has on a person, but the difficulties and restrictions people face with everyday life and tasks can be very similar. 

This post is to share my tricks and tips that make everyday tasks that bit easier for me and so I can save my spoons for the more important stuff like taking care of my baby and actually trying to live a normal life. 

For those of you that are new to my blog and have no idea what I'm talking about when I mention those all important 'spoons', please take a look at  'The Spoon Theory'.  I think it's the best analogy of how people with chronic illness & disability may feel. It explains me perfectly.

Maybe many of you may use some of these or if not, give them a go. Anything to make life easier if worth a try. 

Obviously some will and will not relate to you depending on your condition but hope you can find something which you can identify with.

Joint Supports and Walking Aids
  • Bandages & Splints - As I sprain really easily I have bandages and splints for just about every joint. I don't wear them all everyday or i'd look like a mummy, but I keep them handy and wear them when any of my joints are feeling particularly weak saving me from spraining them further.
  • Support Belts - I have a Serola SI Support Belt which I wear religiously. As my hips are one of my most hypermobile of joints I wear it everyday to give me that extra support when walking around. I can notice the difference straight away if I ever leave the house without it. I basically feel weaker and get tired quicker than usual. My hips, legs and lower back ache a lot more when I don't have it on. They are one of the more expensive types of belts and there is no way that the NHS are going to hand anything this good out but they are well worth the money. Plus they are pretty slimline and dark in colour so no-one can notice that your wearing it, even under tight clothing.
  • Folding walking sticks - These are great, especially if your going out to a party and dressing up and don't want to carry around a full size stick. As they fit in your handbag you can also take it out with you even if your feeling OK just as a precautionary measure. You can get them as cheap as  £8 on Ebay and in a load of different colours and patterns. Mine is just a plain black one but i'm planning on 'blinging' it up :)
Home treatments
  • Heat pads and hot water bottles - If there is anything that I can say that definitely helps my joint and muscle pain it is heat. At the minute i'm going through endless supplies of heat pads throughout the day as I wear them under my clothes but they're not cheap. I would recommend buying a trusted old hot water bottle or the more modern microwavable heat wraps and packs for you to use when you're at home.
  • Jacuzzi Spa Bath Mat - These things are A M A Z I N G!!! Ours is pretty old so could do with updating to a newer model but if you can't afford to adapt your bathroom with a fully fitted jacuzzi bath then this is the next best option. I just wish I could sleep in it! I think its the only time my muscles feel fully relaxed. Maybe I should start looking for a job that requires me to sit in a hot jacuzzi all day, i'd never be off sick!
  • Epsom Salts  - Not to take orally but to use in the bath. These salts are also commonly known as magnesium sulfate. They work by the sulfates being absorbed through your skin, increasing the magnesium levels in the body which help relieve muscle pain and stress, improve circulation and apparently can improve your nerve function to! Another bonus is that it makes your skin feel nice and soft.
  • Tens Machine - Another must have for those chronic pain sufferers. Not exactly cheap but great for first thing in the morning when your legs wont stop spasming and the pain killers haven't yet kicked in. Not exactly a cure but a very good quick fix.
Things around the home

These are things that aren't necessarily aimed at people with disabilities or illness but I've found using them help save time, energy and those ever important spoons!

  • Long handled dustpan and brush - For the dreaded house hold chore, cleaning the floors. We could do without having to do chores but its obviously a must especially if you have small children who are constantly crawling around, they seem to pick up everything they're not supposed to! If your not lucky enough to be able to afford a cleaner or have a family member help out than this product is a must. If you have trouble with your back or any lower joints and you can't bend well or get down on the floor to clean than they are great. It means you can sweep the floors and pick up any dust/dirt without feeling like you're going to break your back.
  • Bar stools - If your like me and have trouble standing for long periods of time but don't want to spoil the look of your kitchen by having a ugly looking perching stool or seat which reminds you of an old people home on view, than why not get a bar stool to help you when your busy in the kitchen? At the minute I have a folding bar/kitchen stool which I will use when cooking or washing the dishes. You can pick these up relatively cheap at places such as Ikea. They're also ideal if you get lumbered with a huge pile of ironing! 
  • Buying pre-peeled veg - This tip makes cooking a Sunday Lunch so much easier. No standing for nearly an hour peeling loads of veg and cutting it all up ready to cook. It simply comes out of the freezer and straight into the oven saving you time standing around and if your like me, helps prevent spraining your wrists while chopping everything up.
  • Using the kettle - Instead of filling the kettle right to the brim I only put enough water in for what I need or what I can hold comfortably so I'm able to lift without spraining. This does mean that when filling the babies bottles it takes that bit longer but worth it to not cause any injury.
  • Dry shampoo - I've recently had my hair all cut off into a bob. I never thought about how much more time it takes to style shorter hair! My tip is to wash it less often and use dry shampoo. Or even easier just keep your hair long enough to tie back so you don't have to waste energy attempting to dry it and then style.
  • Travel hairdryer and straighteners - If you can't go a day without washing your hair than I suggest buying a travel hairdryer and if necessary, straighteners to. I've only just recently realised as my wrists are starting to get weaker just how heavy my full size hair dryer is and how much it actually takes it out of me trying to hold my arms up long enough to dry and straighten! I've resorted to using my travel hairdryer as its much lighter and easier to hold up.
  • Product size and weight - Buying products that aren't too heavy, such as shampoo & conditioners, milk and boxes of washing powder can really help. Don't buy large bulk items just because its cheaper. I've had to start thinking about will I be able to lift the product without hurting myself doing so. . 
  • Buying products that can be opened easily - There have been a few time when my partner has bought a carton on milk and not opened it for me before he's left for work and my hands have been too weak to get the top off resulting in no cup of tea or cereal before work. The ones with the foil caps are ideal, although obviously the glass bottles that they come in are heavier than the regular plastic. I also buy packets of powdered baby foods which are easy to open just in case I have trouble getting the jar lid off his regular food.

Things that will help which I haven't got round to buying yet!

  • Instant boiling water - Without having to fill and boil the kettle. You can get products such as the Tefal Quick Cup which has instant hot water at the press of a button so no need for heavy lifting!
  • Lever taps - We've just bought a new house and i'm really hoping that it already has lever taps installed instead of normal twist taps. Much easier to turn on with weak wrists.
  • Shampoo and Conditioner dispensers - To save on trying to squeeze the last bits out and lifting the heavy packaging. They will have to be stylish ones of course to fit in with my new bathroom.
  • A new bed or mattress - Or both! I've found an adjustable bed which also has a memory foam mattress but it's pretty expensive. I think the cheaper option of a memory foam mattress will have to do for now. Once we're in our new house anyway.
This is all I can think of for now but there are probably many that i've missed off so please feel free to comment with any spoon saving tips that you use.

As I mentioned i'm moving house soon. An actual 'HOUSE' not a ground floor flat like we're in now. I will obviously have to find more ways of adjusting and adapting to living over two floors instead of just the one especially when at the minute I try to avoid stairs as much as possible. I've been trying to think of ways of building a slide down the stairs so me and my baby can get downstairs on a morning but can't see that being very sensible! It would be fun for him but not very practical having a huge slide in your house!! Don't think the husband would agree with me either lol :) 

I will update my blog with a 'tips & tricks ii' post once I've had time to work out what helps and what doesn't.

Stacey xxx


  1. I have several illnesses, and I had to laugh a little when I read what you said about getting a travel hairdryer. I know none of this was funny, but it reminded me of when my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia were particularly bad. Our hair dryer broke and my husband was doing the shopping. What did he bring home? A very sturdy, heavy blow dryer that had a retractable cord. After that, I let my hair dry naturally more. It felt like picking up a brick to dry my hair. Really, until one is weak with sickness,it is hard to understand how wielding a blow dryer could take more energy than one has at the moment.

    1. It might seem daft to some people but I get wiped out from doing my hair from just hold my arm up for so long. I should get one of those dryers you sit under like the ones that the OAPs use to their curler set in the hairdressers lol x

  2. I wrapped giant foam-covered twist-ties around the handle part and attached it to a set of shelves at head height. Can do my makeup or meditate while my hair dries :)

    1. Love it! I have a microphone stand maybe I could get the husband to adapt to a hair dryer stand lol x

  3. Sounds awful but maybe a chair lift is a more long term solution? I know you dont' want the house to look like a nursing home but if you find the stairs hard it might be an option?

    1. I can still manage them, I just avoid them at the minute as the tire me out more than anything. I'll be waiting until I can't manage them at all before I look at other options :) x

  4. Taking care of PWDs requires a lot of patience, tons of patience actually. Only people that are calm and intelligent enough to understand PWDs should take over the job. These simple things are indeed very tricky yet effective to lighten up the difficulties. It can help out a lot of people.

  5. I wear my hair short too :) We have a miniscule bathroom with a teeny shower. It tires me out, instead of relaxing me, to take a shower. It is tiring and time consuming to change clothes, and on bad days, impossible. Difficult to impossible to manage a pram. And so on...These things are very difficult to explain to people.

    Liked your blog, hope you will start writing again.

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  7. Thanks abhijeet, ive been away from blocking for a few year now but I think im going to start it up again!

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