Healthy Living: ASSISTIVE DEVICES

Healthy Living / Christine Harness

Recovery from either upper or lower extremity surgery can present unexpected limitations for patients. It can leave the patient with loss of independence in self-care and increasing dependence on family members, requiring help such as those morning dressing routines.

Inability to fully bend over makes for much frustration, with dropping objects, trying to pick up objects, or again, having to rely on someone else to help you.
Occupational therapists are well-known for their knowledge and resources with providing suitable devices for patients. From time to time we do have patients donate some of those tools to us, not having used them; usually they were not provided with adequate training but merely issued them to take home with them following their hospital stay. With proper orientation, they do find these tools do help them regain their own independence in the areas they are striving for.

An item commonly in use is a long handled reacher, a lightweight aluminum bar with a jaw opening. You squeeze with your hand to grip the object otherwise beyond your reach. Patients in wheelchairs usually present an additional problem, that of trying to find where to store the reacher when not in use. This usually requires adding some sort of a clip to the arm rest for ease of attaching and releasing. The leg-lifter strap is a long, reinforced webbing strap around an adjustable metal rod with a loop at the end to slip onto your foot with your hands to lift your leg. Patients like these, for they no longer need to ask their mate to lift that leg onto and off the bed. A long handled shoe horn also comes in handy when you are restricted in bending over and struggle with trying to get into your shoes. A sock aid is less popular, yet effective if you take the time to master its use. It’s a flexible plastic half-tube with long double cords. You insert the tube into your sock, drop it down to the floor and insert your foot without bending over; as you stretch your foot into the sock, the cords remove the sock aid and you proceed to the next foot.

There are many, many such assistive devices available to help those in need, and therapists can often customize these to suit the patient. Don’t forget to ask your therapist on your next visit for an update and availability of these.

Christine Harness has worked in the field of Occupational Therapy throughout her adult life, both in and outside of the Kern River Valley. She has helped countless individuals to maintain or regain their independence. Christine believes that enjoying and taking satisfaction in one’s day-to-day activities is the key to a meaningful life.


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