Throughout our lives many of us may have lived with a sprain or some minor aches and pains. But, having surgery and/or breaking a bone and navigating life with a cast, boot, crutches, etc. is very different. After my daughter’s 12 breaks, and the tens of thousands of customers we have served, I think it’s safe to say I’m an expert at how to care for an injured person and helping someone live with an injury. Following are my 7 best tips to help you help someone living with an injury. (BTW, regardless of the suggestions, always use common sense and follow your doctor’s advice!)
- Make Life Accessible
Ahhh, accessibility! It’s something we take for granted. Here’s an exercise to help you understand your loved one’s need for accessibility. Put on a similar device to what your loved one is wearing (sling/boot). Now, pretend your arm is broken or you’re on a scooter or crutches. The next thing you need to do is pretend you need to go to the bathroom. Can you get there? Is it up or down a set of stairs? How about doors or clutter impeding your path? Can you see it? Is the toilet paper out of reach for a rotator cuff injury? Try the same exercise for dressing, then fixing a simple sandwich or a bowl of soup (practically impossible when on crutches or in a sling; stay with the sandwich). Are things accessible in the kitchen? Check out our post on “Cooking While Wearing a Boot, Cast, Sling, or Being on Crutches” for helpful cooking ideas.
If you have an arm in a sling or cast or have to use crutches, try to carry the items you’re loved one wants/needs from one room to the next. How can it be done? One of our customers, Paul, kept duplicate magazines, pillows, blankets, home phone, fresh water bottles, and the remote control all within easy reach for his wife who was on crutches due to a bunionectomy. He also made sure the path was clear for her when she was on the move. The more accessible things are the less likely additional injury, or strain on the current injury, is to occur.
- Stay On Top of Pain Medications
The first few days after an injury and/or surgery is not the time for your loved ones to be stoic. If they were prescribed pain medicine, please give it to them at the allotted time according to the doctor’s prescription. Research has proven that staying on top of pain medication actually speeds up the healing process. Missed a dose? Contrary to popular belief, doubling up on pain meds does not help in healing. In fact, I could be detrimental. Please, check with your physician. Well-meaning friends and family may suggest herbs and/or natural remedies, but beware. Some could have serious contraindications if mixed with certain medications. Always check with your doctor, first, when altering, modifying, changing, adding to, or missing your medications. For more information on pain management and medication options, here’s a helpful article from the Mayo Clinic.
- Encourage Rest
The best thing you can do for your loved one is to help them rest. Quiet the phones, limit the number of visits, and the length of the visit, and limit exposure to electronics. Nothing is better for healing from an injury than good, old-fashioned sleep. Your loved one may try to do everything they used to – even at the same pace. The reality is that in order to heal better, and faster, they need rest. They need to rest the injured body part and they need physical rest. It may seem a bit dramatic, but sitting or lying down before feeling pain and/or fatigue is a sure way to heal faster. This is especially true if they are tired from not resting at night due to pain or poor sleep.
- Move Clutter
Remove any unnecessary clutter out of an injured person’s path. If you have rugs, temporarily remove them to avoid any trips or falls. Pick up all toys, shoes, magazine piles, and other items that are in the pathway where your loved one will walk. Remember, they are compromised and may not be able to see as obstacles or maneuver around them.
- Avoid Boredom
OK, your loved one has an injury….does that mean that they have to stop enjoying life? No! They can still get out and do things, within the limitations of their injury. Include them in activities, even if they need to stay immobile. Play games with them, talk with them, or just hang out with them. Help them to not get bored, but don’t go overboard! You don’t want them getting too tired or get tired of you! Need more ideas on how to keep busy? Check out our blog on 10 Fun Things to do While in a Cast, Walking Boot, or Crutches.
- Be Patient with the Patient
An injured person has had their life turned upside down and are also in pain. You may be surprised to find your mild-mannered child or upbeat adult become suddenly sullen and snappy. They are adjusting to their new reality at the same time you are adjusting to your new role. In most cases, the pain and inconvenience is a temporary one, so please keep it in perspective. Also remember, people act differently when in pain and when on pain medications. You need to turn up your empathy dial and try to imagine how much pain they’re in or the fact that they can’t do something they really want to do. They may communicate in an abrupt manner or their patience is short.
It’s up to us to exercise even more patience to help them through their current situation. Basically, give’em a break! Pun intended. Ultimately, we want to make sure we’re doing all we can to help our loved feel as comfortable as possible while injured. Just ask what they need, keep them comfortable, and their environment as quiet as possible. That will go a long way in helping them feel better, so they heal better!
- Get Help and Rest
This one’s for YOU. For you to be the best caregiver you can be, you need to take care of yourself, too. Eat and sleep as well as you can, say “no” to new requests, find the humor, accept dinners from friends, and receive and give hugs. Lots of them!
Feel Better, Heal Better