People who are living with spinal cord injury can do just about anything that anyone else who is not paralyzed can do: they just have to find alternative ways to do it. Part of spinal cord injury rehabilitation is teaching patients to live again using adaptive devices, which are prescribed by a doctor, physical therapist or occupational therapist.
Tools for Eating
People with quadriplegia, in which both the arms and the legs are impaired, often need special devices to help them eat. Because their abilities range from difficulty grasping a utensil to complete paralysis of the arms, a wide range of feeding equipment is available for people with a spinal cord injury. Some benefit from utensils with larger handles or utensils that slide into cuffs fastened around the hand. A bowl or plate with a lip or a plastic plate guard can make scooping easier. Some people with more involved injuries use sling systems so that they can get food to their mouth. Additional equipment is available for drinking and includes sipper cups with easy access handles as well as long straws.
Simple devices added to clothing can make dressing easier for a person with a spinal cord injury. Some examples include zipper pulls and d-rings, which eliminate the need to grasp smaller fasteners: the person can operate them by hooking her thumb through the loops. Additionally, OTs may sew loops onto underwear and pants to make pulling them on easier. Other equipment that makes dressing easier include a grabber with a long handle and a sock aid.
Equipment for the Bathroom
People with lower level spinal cord injuries can be pretty independent with their daily living tasks, including toileting and showering. Bathroom equipment for paraplegics with a low level of injury include a tub transfer bench or shower chair and a commode with an optional removable armrest. A person with a higher level of paraplegia or quadriplegia may benefit from a rolling shower chair, which can roll in and out of an adapted shower and can double as a commode. Jefferson Magee Rehabilitation also recommends installing grab bars in the shower and around the toilet for extra stability.
Devices for Other Daily Needs
Other equipment is available to help with the little things most people take for granted. A person with paraplegia still needs to sign his name, use a phone or type on the computer. Some people can use a writing aid that attaches to the hand and can also serve as a phone-dialer and keyboard aid. For someone with a high level of quadriplegia, a mouth stick is his lifeline. This can be used to type on a computer, dial a phone or use an environmental control unit.
Environmental Control Units
Someone with a high level of injury may need an environmental control unit or an electronic aid to daily living (EADL). EADLs allow a person to control such devices as lights, the television, a phone or even windows and doors without any assistance from others. These devices can be operated without using the arms, such as a through a sip-and-puff straw or pads activated by moving the head.
By Erica Jacques