How to shower alone in * easy steps

So hubby went away for a few days. I still had to shower. Arm was feeling a bit better and slightly steadier in the brace by day 23 so I thought – ok, let’s do this. But… how am I going to do this? Step by step was the answer. It was long-winded but I’ve tried to detail below the steps I took, including some tips. Note – I’m not yet ready to remove my brace/splint and couldn’t do it by myself even if I wanted to… so the aim is to keep the damaged arm, brace and tube bandage dry.

  1. Make sure there’s plenty of hot water in the tank. Showering one handed could take a while with long hair.
  2. Make a waterproof arm shield out of a black bin-liner. Cut an armhole in the sealed end small enough to make it tight when pulled up over your shoulder, wide enough to fit over the brace (about 10 cm across, doesn’t matter if it splits a bit further but try to keep it snug).
  3. Get everything ready. One towel within reach outside the shower, another spread on bed. Comb beside bed (right hand side). Shampoo and conditioner in basket at reachable level in shower. Make sure bottles are unsealed and ready to use. A facecloth in the shower to make it easier to get a grip on the shower tap.
  4. Prepare proxy sling (I use a long, thin cotton scarf)
  5. Remove dress/clothing
  6. Sit on bed and remove collar and cuff, resting lower arm on lap or on a thin pillow on lap
  7. Gently work black bin-bag up over hand, arm and brace. If you pull it up over your shoulder it should make a reasonable seal at the top to stop water running down. If in doubt, you could have an elastoplast handy or some surgical tape to hold it in place.
  8. Tie on proxy sling by placing it round neck, and passing it under forearm. Tip head forward to narrow the gap between arm and neck. Use teeth to pull sling tighter so it supports wrist at the right height. Tie in a slip knot if you’re clever or just a granny knot if less so or doing this with your ‘wrong’ hand.
  9. This should feel comfy and secure enough to stand.
  10. Climb in shower and turn it on, keeping your damaged arm away from the shower of water.
  11. Squeeze shampoo onto your head directly or if you can, into the palm of your bad hand (I found this difficult as I still can’t rotate my lower arm very well). Massage in as well as you can. My friend Marjory suggested you could do this before even getting in the shower while looking in a mirror to see what you are doing.
  12. Rinse and repeat. Wash yourself/condition/rinse etc.
  13. Turn off shower and step out.
  14. Pat gently where you can reach, then sit on the towel on the bed to air dry while you remove the proxy sling, then the bin bag. Take your time and relax. Remember to drop your shoulder down to allow gravity to help your bone alignment – don’t hunch your arm up.
  15. At this point I like to make sure my limp arm is dry and put my collar n cuff sling back on for a bit of security while I take my time combing the knots out of my hair.
  16. If it’s still too difficult to wash under your broken arm, you can use a baby wipe now to gently clean there. It’s easier if you lean forward slightly to create a gap between your arm and side, then slide your hand in against your side rather than pressing against your arm, even when it’s in the brace, because pushing your arm away from your side hurts! Use a tissue to dry in there and (if applicable) under your boob/moob on the sling side.
  17. Apply roll-on deodorant – this is quite fun to do (chimpanzee impression) on your good side, and if you are careful you can use it under your bad arm too.
  18. Get dressed etc
    Ta daaaa!

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.

2017-07-16 11.50.24

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.


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.

Fragile Days 1, 2 and 3

The scariest thing about a mid-shaft humeral fracture is that it isn’t protected by a cast. That was an eye-opener, being sent home with just a collar and cuff. I’d always thought those were for people with minor wrist injuries, not major limb breaks! The idea is that gravity provides the traction needed to align the bones. It’s the ‘natural’ way to set them, referred to as the ‘conservative’ approach vs surgery/pinning. There are massive drawbacks though.

Staying vertical

You have to keep the upper arm as loose and vertically suspended and relaxed as possible. For the first few days, I spent a lot of time sitting bolt upright on the sofa or standing at a kitchen counter, or sitting at my desktop pc. The problems come with moving from one state to another. Standing up from the sofa got harder and harder. At first I was all bravado… “My quads are going to get a great workout!”. It is certainly easier to push up through your legs. You can’t lean at all, well, not by much, without feeling your bone shifting and pain shooting through your lower arm. So the best way to get to standing is to squat and push up. Going to the loo gets easier with practice. I have been staying downstairs to use the downstairs loo, which is narrow so enables me to grip the radiator on the right hand side to balance while sitting down and up. After one day though, with all this standing and sitting vertically, my lower legs began to swell again, and my muscles got tired. More on this swelling later.

the best way to get to standing is to squat and push up

In any case, I decided after a couple of days not to try to be brave, but just to avoid sitting down low if I didn’t have to, and to make sure I had a support of some kind to my right or to ask for help if I needed it. I even tried a walking stick to try and stand but that didn’t work. I rejected the low garden chairs and asked for my office chair to be taken outside.


If you need to stay upright, how do you sleep? On day 1, husband Geoff made me a nest in one corner of the sofa, with loads of pillows and cushions to hold me up while I slept. The problem is, twisting to lift your feet off the floor is agony, and over night, as you relax, you flop backwards into the sofa or sideways onto your bad arm. Getting back up to the vertical feels panicky and painful. If you manage, exhausted, to find a comfortable position to sleep, it doesn’t last long, your lower back, hips and legs get stiff. For the first two nights I spent a few hours at a time with my legs on the floor, asleep sitting propped up on the sofa.  Best I could do but it wasn’t ideal. Getting up in the night for pain relief or the toilet was a whole traumatic experience leading to at least an hour awake, making strategies for getting to my feet, trying, failing and trying again. No fun at all.

The second night I awoke in pain at about 5am and decided to make the expedition upstairs to wake my husband for some co-codamol I had stored away in the bathroom. I knew taking co-codamol on top of my prescribed paracetamol and codeine was a bad idea but I was desperate. I decided to call my doctor in the morning for advice on how to better get through the  night – perhaps something to knock me out so I could get at least six hours, perhaps…?

like the princess and the pea

I started to realise I needed to come up with a better solution for sleeping. For the 3rd and 4th nights I experimented with different ends of the sofa and with piling on more sofa cushions to give me more height vs the floor – like the princess and the pea. But by Day 4 Friday, I also had another idea… I started looking for a reclining chair.

Feeling vulnerable

With your arm supported only by a piece of spongey sling at the wrist and round the neck, your broken arm feels terribly exposed. If you think about it, with the humerus bone snapped, the entire lower arm is connected by just the muscle, tendons, arteries and nerves, it sometimes feels like an artificial limb dangling off a living stump. Every little movement results in a crunching, grinding or popping sensation, with or without pain. Sometimes the bone pops out sideways again, making the muscle spasm and tense involuntarily.

You become quite scared in order to protect your injured limb. Tiny jolts can cause it to spasm – so you do anything to avoid tiny jolts. You walk around at snail’s pace, carefully placing one foot in front of the other. Gliding as much as possible. Don’t knock into doorways, countertops, other people. I am SO glad not to have boisterous small children or pets around. Avoid steps… stepping down with your injured-side leg first is OK – but stepping back up on either side is hard without help or a support to keep you on the vertical.

my husband and I manoeuvre around each other like tanks

Even now, the idea of falling, or of being attacked by an intruder, keep popping into my mind as I shuffle around the house. It’s hard not to become fearful. There’s definitely no question of going anywhere away from the house and garden until I have to for my next X -ray. It’s lovely when friends come round to chat – it has been brilliant having them round, but there’s a tacit understanding they need to keep their distance – don’t touch me. My husband and I manoeuvre around each other like tanks, being careful not to collide anywhere. He moves towards me proffering a cushion for comfort, I flinch. It’s not nice at all.

Relax and let it hang

If you get it wrong in the first days, you will find your bone sticking out again and locked out of position, with your muscle firm and proud. This really hurts and feels uncomfortable and it’s easy to panic and tense up. Each time this happened to me I said out loud to myself, ‘Relax, breathe, loosen. Relax, breathe…’ and by allowing my left shoulder to relax and droop and my arm to dangle, eventually gravity pulls the bones back into alignment with a series of pops and clicks. Such a relief!


After a few days you will work out what works for you and what range of motion you can manage. I find I can lean a little to my right so that left upper arm is stretched along my ribs and supported by my torso. You have to be careful straightening up again though.

I’ve also learned I can lean forward slightly so long as I allow my left arm to dangle in its sling and on the vertical still. This helps to get your arm back if it clicks out. It has proven helpful for washing and drying myself and changing my dress.