Because I have never known any different than living with cerebral palsy, I have always gone about my day doing things in the way that they work best for me. To an outsider looking in, they would probably be called accommodations. To me, they are simply the things I have to do to accomplish what I want in my life. I call them the Lorraine Success Strategies. The set up tends to make all the difference.
Most people know that for the last few months, I have been shorthanded on caregivers. Because that has been the case, I find it easier these days to sleep in my clothes. Changing a t-shirt or getting my sweats to go over my shoes is much easier when I am sitting in my wheelchair, and when I am shorthanded, the fewer times I have to change clothes in a day the better. If I have to change one article of clothing, I usually do so while leaning on one of the grab bars which are strategically located in various places throughout my house. Holding on to a grab bar with one hand means that most of my body weight is supported and I can use the other hand to pull clothing on and off as I need to.
I also sleep with my shoes and socks on. If I have to get out of bed in the morning without help, having my shoes on is the only way that I can have enough support to balance and transfer from my bed to my wheelchair. If I don’t have my shoes on when attempting that move, my feet slide on the carpet in my bedroom and I and up having a close personal conversation with the floor. The EMT’s in this town are exceptional, and they always greet me with a smile. But it just wouldn’t be fair to have them come visit me every morning.
Once I am in my wheelchair, I feed Leah, my service dog. Her food is inside the ottoman of a leather chair I used to have. The chair proved to be too slippery to be comfortable, but an ottoman is a good place for Leah’s food because I can reach it there. She gets one scoop of food that I carry in a container over to her bowl and her kibble is topped with her medication. (Leah moves kind of like I do, it’s one of the reasons we belong together. Her medication keeps her joints comfortable.)
While Leah is eating breakfast, I brush my teeth at the kitchen sink. My bathroom is rather small and my power wheelchair is rather big, so I am in there as little as possible. My kitchen is set up in such a way that all the food I eat most often is within my reach, as are my plates, cups, and condiments. The cabinets in my kitchen house the things I don’t use on a regular basis like vases and paper plates and such. Everything that I need in my refrigerator has to be within my reach as well. Frustration levels rise quickly when I can get to my cereal, but my almond milk is out of reach. If I decide to cook, there is a mirror above my stove that hangs at an angle. That way I can see what is happening in a pot on the stove without having to stand and hold myself steady when the stove is too hot to touch.
When I work at my computer, my feet fall off my foot petals frequently. There is a whole lot of spasm in my body that has only gotten worse as I have gotten older. Since I am not able to independently bend my knees at this point, I often use my socks as leverage to get my feet back in place. As a result, there are holes in the tops of most of my socks, because they were the tool used to get my feet to behave.
When my feet are in place and the weather is nice, Leah and I usually go for a stroll on the bike trail. A hands-free leash around my waist allows me to guide my wheelchair while she is walking. A leash that I would have to hold in my hand just would not work for us, I have always needed both hands to navigate my wheelchair whether it was a manual one or not.
After the stroll, we check the mailbox located just outside our door. Most people in our neighboorhood have mailboxes that are some distance away from their house, but after I wrote a letter explaining my situation, the nice people at the post office graciously agreed to bring my mail to me.
These days, caregivers come to my house frequently to help me with things I have trouble doing on my own. My appreciation for that runs deeper than I can express. For the times when I am alone in my house, my day goes better when I utilize Lorraine’s Strategies for Success.