How to Improve Self-Care and Coping at Home

By Barby Ingle, Columnist

Whether you are in pain or caring for someone in pain, it often seems the weight of the world is on your shoulders.

Want to know some ways to lighten that load?

The Chronic Care in America survey was conducted by Harris Interactive in 2002, but still holds some valuable lessons.

The survey of over 3,000 chronically ill patients found that those who were who were organized and made lifestyle changes at home were more likely to be free of depression and to live healthier lives.

They were proactive and knowledgeable, and firmly believed their lives still had value and purpose.

I have my own list of things that I’ve done at home to improve my self-care and coping skills over nearly 20 years of living with chronic pain diseases.

The Bedroom

In the bedroom, the most used room in the house, I created a blanket support frame so that the weight of blankets or sheets does not rest directly on my feet.  I used a body pillow for $7 from Walmart and put it at the bottom of my bed. The sheets and blankets go up and over and keep me warm, but without physical contact with my feet.

You can also install blackout curtains in your bedroom so you have a quiet and dark place where you can retreat during breakthrough pain, migraines, etc. I did this throughout my entire house, which has helped so much on my severe migraine days. For safety, I added nightlights throughout the house so I can still walk around.

Keep commonly used items close to the bed for easy reach (remote control, medications, cup of water, reading materials, etc). Keep the floor from being cluttered to avoid tripping and falls. I even removed area rugs after a few trips and falls myself.

We all know how important sleep is. Keep your bedroom ventilated. Being too hot or too cold can interfere with quality sleep. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and use pillows that provide support as needed.

The Bathroom

The second most used room in the house is the bathroom. I found that drying with smaller towels so the weight of the towel doesn’t wear me out or drag across painful areas is extremely helpful. I also put small towels between me and the shower water when taking a shower, as the water drops can feel like thousands of needles poking me.

We also installed grab bars in the bathtub, shower and next to the toilet for when I am off balance and or having a migraine that has me seeing double. We also put a shower bench into the tub. I love it and so does my husband. This helps save energy pennies. Showers and baths can be one of the most draining activities we face.

My husband got me a hairdryer stand as a Christmas present a few years back. It is great -- no more having to try to hold my arms above my head. I can just sit in front of it and dry my hair with no effort. My dentist also suggested an electric toothbrush which has helped me improve my dental hygiene. And for the worst of worst days, I soak in Epsom salt baths to relax

The Kitchen

The third most used room of the house is the kitchen. I suggest you come up with easy to make recipes that are good for you and that you like. I found crock pot cooking is a great way to have a good meal and they’re easy to prepare.

Keep commonly used items at waist height so you don’t have to reach, which can increase pain and use up energy pennies. We switched out our smaller kitchen knobs for large knobs on the appliances and cabinet doors so they’re easy to open and close. Lightweight dishes and pots, as well as paper and plastic plates and cups, are also easier to use and inexpensive. They also have the bonus of when you drop them there is no glass to clean up.

Long handled brooms, dustpans and sponges make cleaning easier, and long-handled "grabbers" make it easier to reach items on high shelves or picking them up from the floor. Turntables on kitchen shelves make it easier to reach items in the back. My husband helps me split larger food items or food needing to be prepared in Tupperware. And my favorite kitchen tools are the electric can and jar openers.

I hope you find my tips helpful and that it sparks some ideas of your own so you can organize your own home. The goal is to have better daily living, spend less energy pennies, and have more time to do things that you actually want to do.  

You are worth the investment in yourself! It’s easy to put these steps on the backburner, but taking the time and energy now can help you feel better and may even help you live longer.

Barby Ingle suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and endometriosis. Barby is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and president of the International Pain Foundation. She is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics.

More information about Barby can be found at her website.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.