This is a bit off of my normal topics of childrearing, however, it has shed new light on how to cope when a family member is unable to function due to being incapacitated. I’ve found it quite interesting how all this is unfolding, and ways for everyone to cope.
I happily acknowledge that my role within our household is an important one. I am “just” a stay-at-home mom (who also attends college), but the work I do is real, and the presence of a parent at home with the kids is an important one. It’s hard work, but worth it. It’s a sacrifice too. My husband and I fantasize frequently about having two incomes again, down the road, but for now, we sacrifice.
Since I broke my leg two days ago, here are some observations & tips.
- If you’ve never broken a bone before, like me, I was shocked that it didn’t hurt (hardly at all)! I know some breaks are realllly going to hurt, but my little fibula didn’t hurt. But I definitely knew I was hurt. When the bone snapped all I felt was a pop and heard a pop. When I rolled over, my leg was sore, but I could move it. It was the adrenaline and endorphins in my body that protected me from pain, and they did a good job.
- When you think you’ve really hurt yourself- DON’T MOVE. Call 911 with as little movement as possible. In my case, my sweet little boy grabbed my cell phone for me and I was able to make the calls I needed.
- Go straight to the emergency department. You need to know what you’ve hurt, and what to do about it. If you try to walk on it, or move around, you could be going from a mild fracture to needing surgery. Bones are sharp when broken or if there are splinters. You don’t want to bleed internally or damage ligaments, nerves, or muscle. You will know when you’ve really hurt yourself.
- Do everything the doctors tell you to do. Again, this prevents a delay in recovery and further damage.
- There are some things the doctors don’t tell you because they aren’t always that helpful or thorough. If you’re taking pain killers- drink lots of water to help your kidneys flush out the meds so that you don’t end up overdosing or other problems. Drink milk to help your bone heal. Eat high in calcium foods- not supplements. Supplements may cause kidney stones or other issues. Rest. Make every effort to get family and friends to help you at home. If you have no one, ask the hospital where you can find help. There are resources in every community.
- If you have children that you stay at home with- find a way to have people help you with the things you cannot do and DON’T try to do things you’re not supposed to. JUST STAY PUT. No excuses.
- Be mindful when you move around so that you don’t fall from crutches, etc. Go slow, have someone with you, it’s not like you’re in a hurry.
- Set things up so you can take care of your basic needs, and your helpers only have to care for errands and children. I have a bench set up for the shower. A good ‘ole bench from the barn that is long enough that I sit on it from the outside of the shower, and scoot across into the shower. YIPPY! A SHOWER! Plus we have a shower wand which will be very convenient. I have a portable laundry bag that has all my “broken leg clothing” in it. It’s easy for me to reach and has all my designated, easy to put on clothes so no one has to look for my stuff. Get a backpack and put all your stuff in it. Laptop, magazines, wallet, books, whatever keeps you entertained. You can wear this from room to room when you switch resting locations. Get a water contained that has a lid which you can carry in your backpack.
- Ice your injury for 20 minutes, 3-4 times per day.
- Move your injured limb often. Not the injured site itself, but in my case- wiggle toes, go for “walks” through the house with the crutches, take care of yourself as much as possible or that is allowed. This is not only healthy, but it will prevent bad things from happening like a DVT (Google it). In other words- don’t just sit around eating Cheetos all day!
- Get non-slip socks for your good foot, or go barefoot (if you have a broken leg).
- Get lots of extra pillows- cheap on Amazon.com.
- Sign up for Amazon Prime service (free 2 day shipping on almost everything for about $80 a year). You can get medical supplies, entertainment, even rent movies on your computer (many are free for Prime Members) fast and at your door without asking someone to get it for you.
- If you have people helping, make a list of the daily routine so they know how to help and to keep the kids on schedule. For us, despite how much our kids love the grandparents, our littlest is pretty upset about Mommy’s booboo. Not only did she see it happen, but she’s generally pretty disgruntled about this disruption. So try to do as much as you can with your kids, set up camp in the main living space if possible, during the day, so that you’re a part of all the action. Plus this will motivate you to get better and to get off your duff.
- Demand sympathy from your caregivers. It’s not easy being laid up, and it’s painful at times. Going to the bathroom is an Olympic event, and taking a shower is enough to require a nap afterward. They absolutely need to be patient, supportive, sympathetic, and loving.
- Notify people immediately if you might miss deadlines or appointments. It’s not like you’re “busy” so get to it. I took a picture of me in the ambulance and sent it to my professors. They were very sympathetic and immediately gave me huge leniencies and it’s FINALS week! They went out of their way to accommodate ME! Really nice of them! Cancel any and all other obligations for at least 3 weeks so you have time to get accustomed to the situation and demand less from your caregivers. Stick with essentials.
- Find out about exercising your injured limb. At each appointment, find out what you can do and can’t do. It might be nothing more than wiggling toes for leg lifts, but you’re protecting joints & muscles that are supporting a lot more now. For example, my left hip is sore from hauling the orthopedic boot, and it probably was mildly twisted when I fell, so I asked about it. My right leg is sore from supporting all my weight now. Plus, you have to keep blood flowing to avoid complications- even if rare- can be dangerous.
- Eat prunes or drink prune juice to avoid constipation. Also, a cup of coffee can help. AND LOTS OF WATER. EVEN IF YOU CAN’T STAND IT ANY MORE- DRINK.
- Try to take just Ibuprofen and avoid the narcotics. Narcotics are addictive, and can be very quickly. Ibuprofen at prescription strength works amazingly well.
- Don’t be afraid to boss your helpers around about the schedule. Everyone needs to stay on task when there’s kids involved. Is lunch made? Kids showered? Cue your helpers, keep people flowing to avoid chaos. Break the day into sections- morning routine, afternoon, evening. Don’t be afraid to send spouse back to work. If they don’t need to be there because you have help, send them on their way. It might be a big disruption initially after someone gets injured, but it’s time to carry on. The less change in routine the better- for everyone.
- Get a disabled parking permit. You’re going to have to take it reaaaal slow for at least 3-6 months, depending on your treatment. I’m hoping for 3 until I am feeling pretty good.
- Finally, call your doctor if you need ANYTHING. That’s what they’re there for. Period. If they aren’t willing to help you, take too long to get back to you, find a new one.