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PREPARING FOR SURGERY TO THE UPPER LIMB

During discussion with the consultant about your forthcoming surgical procedure,

you will have been told what to expect about your care postoperatively.

You may know that you will leave theatre with your arm in a sling

--which can be temporarily removed to get dressed,

--or the sling may be permanently in place, requiring garments to be draped over a bare shoulder Either way, you will be temporarily one-handed.

This leaflet has been designed to help you prepare for being as independent as possible during this phase.

CHOICE OF CLOTHING

Try to practice getting dressed using only the hand which is not being operated on. Bear in mind that sleeves gathered onto a cuff will not slip over a bulky bandage Can you operate a zip -in both directions -with only one hand?

Without a second hand, do you need to look for garments with an elasticated waist  which can be pulled on such as:

--track suit trousers

--loose fitting T shirts and jumpers

Ladies may find it useful to obtain a tee shirt 'with hidden bra' (to avoid trying to manage hooks and eyes.)

Could shoes with VELCRO straps replace shoelaces?

Can you solve the problem of how to put socks or tights on with only one hand?

ORdo you need to find someone to assist you twice a day when you get dressed and undressed?

FEEDING

Practice filling the kettle, making tea and opening a new bottle of milk with one hand

Attempts to feed yourself may be easier with an anti-slip mat under your plate/bowl

Can you operate right-handed scissors with your left hand?

If you can retrieve and transfer a frozen packet of food from the freezer to the microwave without its wrapper, and then take a dish of hot liquid from the microwave without scalding your one good hand....

...then you might be able to get yourself a meal. Can you fill and operate a dishwasher?

If not, help may be needed not only for opening and emptying tins etc but also for making a sandwich (as a snack to eat later,) peeling and chopping vegetables, cooking and serving a hot meal, and washing-up and emptying the rubbish bin.

Help of this order just once a day will make a huge difference if you live alone.

Plan to have some ready meals in the fridge,( including some treats), and portions of frozen peas etc in individual one -portion bags in the freezer.

The risk of accidental injury is best reduced by planning ahead.

MEDICINES

Can you take tablets out of a blister pack with one hand?

If not, you could transfer a week's supply to a small labelled container, in advance Liquid medicines pose a problem requiring a different solution...

WASHING/SELF CARE

Having practised getting undressed with one hand, now try getting washed.

Can you devise a method of washing your armpit on the unaffected side?

Will a sponge/flannel/brush help to reach?

Can you wash your ONE hand more easily with a small tablet of soap or liquid soap?

Having decided on the best option, get all wash areas organised accordingly

Would use of an electric toothbrush help just now?

Is tearing sheets of toilet paper off a roll easy enough, or would it be easier to have boxes of interleaved toilet paper instead?

BATH OR SHOWER?

Whilst walk-in showers are usually the easiest option for able-bodied people, to suddenly have one arm needing to be kept dry, and the other busy reaching inaccessible bits to wash , there lacks a steadying arm to help out when feet find themselves on a slippery surface.

So- can you sit down whilst in the shower to steady yourself?

-or- get someone to help you?

-or -strip-wash for the time being?

An enormous bath sheet will be cumbersome in one hand, especially if one corner gets soaked, so experiment with a smaller towel!

PETS

Going for a walk is one thing, but what if another dog causes yours to run off, or tug you...

DEPENDENTS

All at once it's YOU who is MOST in need of help and support

Delegation of normal responsibilities may be necessary for a while.

SIGNING DOCUMENTS & CHEQUES  etc ,will suddenly be difficult if it's your dominant hand that's involved. ( But beware of leaving blank signed cheques around !)

NOW WHAT?  Hopefully, these suggestions will enable you to pinpoint the areas where you are likely to need help after your operation

If doing these exercises poses nothing more than a challenge, then perhaps all you need is to have some friends to drive you to and from your Hospital appointments.

But if you become aware of problems you will need help with, then when friends offer to help you, you can please them by having a list ready of the tasks for which you know you will need their assistance.

Make and display a LISTof jobs to be done each day, who has offered to do them, and their contact details. Give a copy to whoever is involved in your care plans.

 

(drafted by a patient of the Reading Hand Surgery team in March 2010)