Showering and dressing

When you’re incapacitated it only makes things worse to feel dirty, sticky and unkempt. I started to tackle this on day 1 by requesting a pack of disinfectant wipes in the downstairs loo. Not for me, but for the radiator, tap and flush that I am touching with my single functional hand. It feels good to clean up after yourself! Washing your one hand is tricky too. I do my best with liquid soap, but also have wet wipes to hand. I asked hubby to get some so I could keep wiping my poor swollen left hand too – it was feeling  left out. Feeling cleaner is a bit of relief.

Note – cleaning under your broken arm is too sore at first but it eases off. Within a week I was able to lean forward slightly to create a gap between my arm and armpit, and if you very carefully wipe with a flat palm, pressing mainly against your chest, not your arm, you can do it. Forget putting deodorant on for a while. Maybe try deodorising wipes? I also realised I would have to face having a hairy armpit for a while until that arm can be raised enough for a shave. Meh. Whatevs!

So far (day 12) I’ve had four showers in all. It’s been a bit of a trauma tackling each one but it’s getting easier. It’s so worth it to feel fresh again, and apart from that it feels lovely and soothing having warm water flowing over your sore arm. My goal is to be able to shower alone, maybe the shower after next. I appreciate some people don’t have anyone to help them, so here are a couple of hacks to help.

  1. Baby wipes. Time to imagine you’re at a music festival living in a tent! Best way to keep clean? Wipe where you can reach!
  2. Dry shampoo. OMG – revelation. I remember the dry shampoo my mum used in the seventies – kind of like fine talc in your hair. It’s come on leaps and bounds, I am SO impressed! I’m blonde, so I’m using the Batiste blonde spray shampoo. It’s so easy and works like magic.

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3. You shouldn’t shower in your regular sling, it would make it heavy and uncomfortable and lead to sores on your skin where you leave it wet. It’s probably bad for bacteria and stuff as well. The first two showers I had, Geoff removed the sling for me and I used my right arm to support my limp lower left arm – which gave me a slight feeling of security but left me unable to hold anything for balance, wash or do anything with the taps. You need someone to help you if doing it this way.

The third time we made an improvised sling. I read somewhere about using a pair of tights to make a proxy sling for in the shower. I grabbed a little cotton scarf that would dry quickly. My husband ties it round my neck so it is tensioned to the same length as my collar and cuff, then removes the proper sling. This provides enough support and security to allow you to use your other hand to assist in the showering process.

  1. Getting the sling back on. It’s really scary taking it off at first – but it’s getting it back on that’s miserable. My left hand is swollen – sausage fingers – so the gap is narrower, you’re pushing the lower arm back towards the elbow, which hurts, and if your skin is still slightly damp it makes it all the trickier. I was almost in tears, yelling ‘No, no, wait!’ and having to deep breathe and relax and get a grip on myself. We tried talcum powder the second time, which did help. The secret is to make sure your ‘broken’ hand is as dry as possible to make slipping it through the loop in the cuff as frictionless as can be.

Time three, I was sitting air-drying on the bed (nicer if it’s summer!!) and asked husband to give me a pillow to rest my arm on. With my sling hanging ready round my neck, I was able to put my own wrist back through the cuff – progress! The fourth time this was even easier. We’re getting there.

  1. Don’t neglect your teeth. You can face life and other people better with a fresh mouth, and, lord knows, toothache is the last thing you need right now. But how the hell do you rinse and spit if you can’t lean forward over the sink? Simples! With a glass or mug in front of your mouth. Brush (carefully at first, the jiggling wobbles your arm and hurts…), then spit your foam into the mug, tip it out, rinse, sloosh, spit, tip. It’s long-winded but it works without getting foamy saliva all down your chest.

Dressing

The clothes I had come home from hospital in had to be cut from my body the next morning. Only an old t-shirt and stretchy netball dress. I knew I was going to be housebound for a few weeks so only comfort would matter. The problem is, what can you wear that doesn’t involve having to lift your arm? Putting on a bra is out of the question for now. Luckily for me it’s summer, and the ideal solution is to wear stretchy strapless bandeau-style summer dresses which can be pulled on upwards, under your arms, and helps get round the bra issue. I already have one maxi-dress in this style and put out a request on Facebook for others to borrow from friends. One friend popped round later that day with two perfect shorter examples she’d bought on a beach holiday, and I’ve been cycling through these three dresses since then. You can buy them very cheaply on ebay so I might order a couple more.

Another thing I hadn’t expected at all was the swelling and bloating. My tummy has billowed out as if I’m six months pregnant. Rock solid – I’m sure this is a reaction to the pain relief meds, but I’m swollen in my legs and hand too so who can say? My friends have suggested it’s nature’s way of providing me with a little shelf to rest my broken arm on. Anyway, I’m glad I have these sundresses as they are nice and loose – not sure I could bear anything with a waistband right now!

When it got cooler, I needed a cover up, so the ideal thing, as I’d read online, was an oversized man’s shirt with your good arm through the sleeve and the other held inside, with one button done up to keep it in place. This feels really nice and snug. Also it acts as a bib when you spill food down yourself!

I haven’t been worrying much about underwear – but actually it has been OK getting pants (as in knickers) on and off. It’s my feet I need to think of next. I’ve been totally barefoot for 12 days. It feels safer and is no hassle. But now they’ve been getting chilly at night. Not sure I want socks on, so I’m going to ask hubby to look for my duvet slippers today. Stylish!!

Oh – and I haven’t bothered changing at night. I think some people might struggle with the idea of not separating day and nightwear. But this is only for a short while. Comfort is the main thing – I don’t mind getting a bit grubby and crumpled. I’m changing outfit every three days when I shower.

Really would like to hear from other people their tips and tricks for day-to-day living with a broken arm. What clothing have you been able to put on? Wearing normal t shirts and tops is going to be an accomplishment – how long did it take you to be able to do that? Ladies – what about bras? I’ve got a couple of front-loader sports bras which I think are going to be very handy once I’m ready for that.

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