So you’ve just got home from hospital with a broken leg or following a hip replacement, knee or foot operation. You’re probably a bit out of your comfort zone and quite likely feeling a bit fuzzy-headed due to the painkillers.
Hopefully there’s someone there with you (at least for the first few days) to help you through the transition period whilst you get yourself set up and learn, all over again, how to do all the things you took for granted. You know, walking, sleeping, sitting down, standing up, getting a drink, having a shower. Here’s a few tips, learned the hard way, on how to cope…
1. Reorganise your living space
You’re going to need to make some changes and this will be a lot easier if you have help. Ideally you’re going to have access to a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room all on one level. If this is possible it’s worth doing as you’re going to need a fair amount of sleep while you recover. Make sure that you have enough room to move. Corridors need to be clear and furniture should be moved to leave plenty of space to manoeuvre. Doors should be left open (it’s hard to open a door on crutches) and wedged if necessary, so long as they are not fire doors, of course.
Bedroom – having a double bed to yourself is the best solution, a single is second best. If you do have to share, your partner is going to have to be a saint! You’ll need a bedside table (with a lamp) so try and arrange something if you don’t have one at the moment. Plenty of pillows is a must so you can sit up comfortably as well as being able to lie down with your leg raised as you were shown in hospital.
Bathroom – ideally easily accessible from the bedroom. Plug in nightlights can be useful but are not a necessity if you have to negotiate a corridor. Ideally you have a walk in shower or one with a low lip to the tray. A proper shower stool isn’t cheap, but it’s a good investment if you can afford it (they are about £25 from any mobility store). They have handles, holes in the seat to drain and rubber feet so that they don’t move or damage the shower tray. Make sure you measure up before you buy. Find somewhere to stand your crutches where they won’t fall over.
Living Room – You’re going to need somewhere you can sit down with your leg raised – a sofa is good. But you’re going to have to be able to stand up again so ideally not too low. You could consider doubling up the seat cushions if that raises the height enough, but make sure your leg can be raised. You’ll need a table nearby but leave enough room to manoeuvre.
Kitchen – this is the tricky one! Sometimes a smaller kitchen can be an advantage here. But you still need to leave plenty of room to access cupboards and appliances. Don’t underestimate how hard it is to reach items in low cupboards. Ideally reorganise the food and utensils you’ll need to get at so they are at or above waist height. Leave frequently used items on the worktops if there’s room. You’ll find a Hopper (available from here) particularly useful in the kitchen – see the section below on food & drink.
Hopefully, with some help, you’ve made some changes which will make coping with the challenges easier.
2. Hopping about
No doubt you had some lessons in hospital on how to use your crutches. Maybe you remembered all of this, maybe not. You can find plenty of videos on You Tube about how to adjust your crutches and how to negotiate stairs and chairs. Here’s one we like…
There’s also a new app that has been developed in the Netherlands and is available in a number of languages. It is free to download
3. Carrying stuff
OK, so unless you have a full time servant to move and carry things for you this is a pain. Both your hands will be busy with the crutches and stability is an issue, especially for the first couple of weeks. We recommend The Hopper! Now we would say that, but here’s why. It can carry pretty much anything you’re going to want from room to room, including drink. Everything is right in front of you so you can get to it easily with one hand. It has been designed so that it doesn’t affect your balance. It’s comfortable to wear, easy to put on and take off and it stays with you as you go up and down stairs. It costs the equivalent of just a few pence per day and is available by clicking here.
You could try a few shopping bags hanging off your crutches. Good luck with that as they bang into your bad leg and make it much harder to walk. Or you could try a rucksack. Zip up, put on (both arms so it doesn’t fall of your shoulder), take off, unzip, repeat again and again and again and again. You’ll soon be looking for an alternative. Oh and neither of these options carry a drink.
4. Food & drink
At some point you’re going to get thirsty and hungry. You’ll need a butler who can wait on you night and day. If you don’t have one of those don’t worry there are other solutions.
If you’ve got a Hopper you’ll be able to make tea or coffee without having to drink it standing by the kettle. Just make it in the mug with the spill-proof lid and pop it into the Hopper to take to the kitchen table or the living room.
Snacks are easy too but meals are also possible. Soup can easily be transported in a thermos flask while bowl, plate, spoon, knife, bread and butter etc can all be carried in the Hopper. More complex meals are not out of the question if you have a few tupperware boxes – the sort available from Lakeland for a few pounds each. You can search online for tasty recipes which you can easily serve to the table using a Hopper.
OK so we’ve recommended that you get a shower stool as this will make the process of showering much easier, especially for the first couple of weeks. No doubt you have stitches and possibly a cast which you can’t get wet. Having help the first couple of times you shower will make it much easier and give you comfort that if you were to slip someone would be there to assist. If you have a cast, there are waterproof products such as Limbo which are a great solution, albeit not cheap. If you just have stitches it may be possible to keep that area dry just using a large freezer bag with the bottom cut off. Slide the bag up your leg and secure the top and bottom with quality tape such as Micropore which is available from any chemist (it comes in several widths – make sure you get a wide one). It comes off easily afterwards and will keep the water out for 5 minutes whilst you shower.
Make sure you have everything ready before you start and in easy reach – soap, shampoo, towel, bath mat, dressing gown and somewhere to keep your crutches upright close to the shower. If you have a hard floor surface, make sure the floor does not get wet as there is a risk your crutches might slip.
So there we go. Hopefully you’ve found this useful. If there’s anything you think we should add to this please let us know. In the meantime we wish you a speedy recovery and happy hopping!