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Helpful Hints For Those On Crutches

Posted by Pat D on 11/25/03 at 16:12 (138679)

Thanks for all the helpful advice on using crutches. Here are some more suggestions from friends and from the 'school of hard knocks.' Fortunately I am retired. My heart goes out to you if you have to drag yourself to work everyday on crutches.

Adjust the crutches so they are 2 to three inches below the arm pit. If they are too tall and jamb into your arm pits you will quickly become sore. Hold them against your sides with your elbows so they don't slip out. Have your arms slightly bent and try to distribute your weight along the length of your arm muscles and hands. Stand straight and keep the crutches as straight as possible. If they are held at an angle to your body, they are more likely to slip on wet spots. One lady suggested wearing fingerless gloves if your hands get tired. Pad the crutch tops with dish clothes and tape.

I go up and down long flights of inside stairs sitting down and dragging the crutches along with me. At the bottom I sit on the second stair from the bottom then turn around with my knee on the stair while I get the crutches under me. The top of the stairs is harder. I sit at the top of the stairs with my feet two steps down. I stand the crutches up and lean them against a wall. Then I turn around and holding the handrail I use my knee to get up one more step and stand up. Then holding the hand rail very tightly, I hop the last step and get well away from the top of the stairs before I start putting myself back on the crutches. On short stairs or exterior stairs you can't sit down. In this case put the good foot first going up and the bad foot first going down, (up with the good, down with the bad). If you grab the handrail while clutching the crutch under your arm it seems to work better than using crutches alone. If there are one or two steps with no hand rail, try turning sideways with your back braced against the wall and go down sideways, hopping down each step on the good foot, with crutches carefully placed. Approach all stairs slowly and with deliberation. All of my accidents with crutches so far have been on stairs or at the top of them, when I am off balanced and fall backward. If you must use crutches alone on stairs, lean your weight towards the stairs so if you lose your balance you will fall into the stairs, not down them.

I put the big 'ski boot' walking boot right over my cast. It weighs a ton but it allows me to stick my bad foot out the back and at least touch my toes to the floor. Although I can't put any weight on the foot I can at least use it like a motorcycle kickstand to stabilize me a little when I'm standing or walking on the crutches.

Have a friend go out and buy you some extra large stretch pants that will fit over the cast. Ski pants or pants with elastics, zippers or snaps on the bottom also work. Athletic stores are a good place to find these things. If they are not shoppers (like my husband), have them enlist the help of a store clerk.

Don't try to play either hero or martyr. You can't do the things you did on two feet! If you try to hop around you could just make things worse (like I did.) Don't feel guilty about people waiting on you for every little thing, while you can do nothing. You would do the same thing if the positions were reversed. Be appreciative and never critical of what others do for you. Your significant other is now pulling a double load so be extra nice to him or her. No one can do things 'perfectly' like you did, so don't expect it. Now is the time to hire cleaning or outside help, and call in favors from family, friends and neighbors. Alert your neighbors to the fact that you are injured and might need some help, especially if you are alone.

Carry a cordless or cell phone with you. My mother in law bought walkie-talkies so I can call my husband when he is outside. (She told me to hide it when I am better, so he can't use it on me.)

Fortunately my yard is fenced and I just let the dogs out when they need to go. If you have kids, or if you have dogs that need to be walked, or animals that need to be cared for, you MUST have a bunch of people lined up to help. You cannot do it yourself. If you have to spend money to hire people, then do it. This is an emergency situation.

If there is any pain and the doctor has prescribed pain killers, try to get off of them as quickly as possible. The prescription ones can be addictive and make you drowsy or woozy, and that is not what you need on crutches. Try substituting the non prescription ones instead. The Tylenol PM is especially good for night because it helps you sleep, but don't use them during the day. Try to stay awake the whole day and not take naps, or you will have a very rough time at night. No alcohol. Alcohol and crutches do not mix!

Baby the good foot and leg. It is suddenly carrying twice the weight overnight and it is all that is keeping you from a wheelchair. Don't try to hop around on one foot. Remember that the good foot and leg have to get you through however long you will be on crutches. If you injure them, you are sunk.

Have your friends/family make your place more 'crutch friendly.' Take away any small scatter rugs or any stuff laying on the floor, and especially stairs, that you could trip or slip on. Make your family aware of how important it is to KEEP things off of the floor. This means no newspapers, junk mail, clothes, toys, dog bones, etc., etc. This especially means no dropped liquids. Even the smallest drop of water on a tile floor can send a crutch in all different directions. Have non-slip strips put on any outdoor steps. I tripped down a stair with my crutches, stepped on a piece of recycling that was at the bottom of the garage steps, and turned a one month foot operation into a four month broken heel!

Have someone pad the shower with wall to wall non slip pads (not just one) and put a great big, non slip rubber backed flat rug in front of the shower. Get one of those shower benches and a thigh length 'rubber boot', used to keep casts dry, from the local medical supply store. Have someone install a hand held shower spray.

I made kangaroo pouches out of an apron and safety pins (or you can use plastic grocery bags with a belt) and wear them around all day. One pouch contains a pen, a small pad of paper, a cordless phone, reading glasses, and anything else you need but would have to get up and search around for. The other pouch is for transporting small items like newspapers, mail, an empty cup, a book, etc. Don't carry bags in your hands or they will bang against the crutches. Give up on carrying anything heavy or awkward. You can't do it.

My laundry is on the same floor, so I got a light wheeled laundry cart that does not collapse when I nudge it along with my knee or crutches. It also keeps my husband from throwing laundry on the bathroom floor where I can trip on it.

I have a small table on wheels in the kitchen so I can at least move a plate of food or a cup of coffee to the table. A small thermos with a built in cup allows me to transport coffee in my 'kangaroo pouch.' If you have to be alone, have someone stock you up on 'grab and nuke' food (TV dinners, cup of soup, fruit, SMALL dishes of pre cooked food, etc.) You will be unable to cook because it involves too much moving around, carrying and standing on one foot. Wheeled chairs in the kitchen help, too, but make sure that the back is up against a counter or wall when you sit down.

Have a couple of comfortable places in the house where you can park yourself with your foot up. They should have everything you need within reach (a water bottle, light, blanket, books & magazines, TV remotes, etc.)

Keep movement to a minimum, especially in the first couple of weeks when you are the most delicate. Bathroom breaks are about the only reason for getting up. Everyone else should bring you what you need. I know this is very hard for us independent types. Make the most of every time you do walk from place to place. Take a second and ask yourself, 'Before I leave this place is there a light to turn out, a door to lock, something I need to bring along in the pouch, a bathroom stop along the way?' You don't have the luxury anymore of hopping up and running to the other end of the house for something.

Don't count the days until you are off crutches, or they will pass very slowly. Don't watch TV all day or you will go nuts. Figure out some activities that you can do in one place like reading, sewing, computer, arts & crafts, etc. Take the time to read those finance or self improvement books, practice piano, take an on-line course, go through computer manuals, do jig saw puzzles, etc. Make the most of your time. Remember when you wished you had time to do all these things? It's here now, even though you are paying a price for it.

So far I have not really ventured out. I can theoretically drive, since the broken heel is on the left foot. I got one of those handicap parking cards to hang up in my car. I am afraid of what will happen when I get to my destination, however. I really don't think I could manage to drag myself around a store, for example. I don't really feel like socializing with friends at their houses or having them at mine. (My husband tries, but it looks like a hurricane went through it.) I'm also afraid of an emergency on the road, like a flat tire or an accident.

When I feel a little braver I will give it a try. At that time I'll try to add some more helpful hints to this for the other folks having to go through time on crutches.

Re: Helpful Hints For Those On Crutches

Dave C on 12/21/03 at 14:07 (140486)

Pat,
Thank you for this post! I've been putting some of your methods to practical use!! Thanks again for sharing them!

Re: Helpful Hints For Those On Crutches

Tracy S on 2/17/04 at 12:50 (144477)

This is great advice. I just wanted to add another good idea. It is helpful to place a chair by the bathroom sink so you can rest the knee of your bad foot on it while you are brushing your teeth and washing your face. I found that very helpful when I had surgery 18 months ago. I will most likely have more surgery in a few weeks and it was very helpful to read your advice.

Re: Helpful Hints For Those On Crutches

V Bennett on 2/11/05 at 15:13 (168908)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Been on crutches 1 week and I found your comments right on.