Towels have so many uses

I used to think towels were for drying. Or maybe, if it was big and multi-coloured then lying on and changing under on a beach. Now I have a very different view of towels. Two hand towels every day are used by my carers, one for top and one for tail, I didn’t even know I had a tail. Now here’s the clever bit, somehow the two towels double as modesty towels and drying towels. I know, amazing dexterity and swapping must go on. Actually I do have another towel, a large towel used for the lymphatic massage, no it doesn’t do the massage, it’s not that clever, it covers me up, but let’s not confuse things.

I have discovered that modesty is something carers are keen to maintain. It’s quite funny really when you think about it, they are washing your personal bits and making sure that you are covered. It’s like washing a car with a blanket over it, just uncovering the bit you are washing. I understand why, just seems funny. Humans are strange when you think about it. We have some bits of our body we hide and some bits we display. These vary over the years and in different societies. Anyway, that’s an aside. The point is we all get embarrassed if we are caught part dressed. We even allocate bits of clothing that can look identical to other bits as under garments. I digress again.

Over this last year and a half there have been a few funny moments, that come as a result of having my bed in our main room and my main care visit mid morning.

One time I was mid being washed and dressed, in the early days of one of my carers. She didn’t know all my family and friends. The door bell rang, so she left me with the two towel setup and answered the door. A lady we knew was at the door, she walked in past my carer saying she was just there for a quick visit. As she was so quick and confident, my carer assumed she had a right to come in. I heard her walking into the kitchen next to my room and I called through, “I’m not dressed, you’ll need to come back later.” OK so me in a towel is no different to any other Holywood Hulk rippling in muscles lying on a bed, but it seemed better for her to come back later. I thought she may prefer it and I certainly did.

Another time the district nurse was visiting and Mary was asking about a mark on my nether regions. Checking it wasn’t a pressure sore starting. In chatting, after showing her the mark Mary left my bottom exposed, the nurse covered it back up. Not surprising, there’s only so much excitement someone can take, oh yes and it was the correct thing to do from a modesty viewpoint. You see there is a right time and a wrong time to see a bottom.

Then there was the time, fairly recently in the hot weather. I was so hot I couldn’t face wearing joggers. I don’t really have other trousers, joggers are nice and soft. So I said to my carer I would just wear pants. She pointed out that it would be embarrassing for me if a visitor came. I said none were due, so it seemed fine.

Mary was out with friends at a meal and she phoned to say she was on route back. My carer needed to leave, so as Mary was due back any minute she left. Unfortunately, I had a collapse in those few minutes. Mary then came home, accompanied by two new friends, a husband and wife. Not knowing I was lying in my underwear she brought them in to meet me. I don’t think they were at all phased. But I felt embarrassed and being in a collapse couldn’t cover myself up. Mary was too distracted by the new people to notice. They only stayed a few minutes. Ah, the joys of limitations. Which also takes me back to an earlier point, what’s the difference between multi coloured underpants and swimming trunks? A button fly I suppose, but if it’s buttoned up, not a lot. Yes, it was.

I have been in Nursing homes where in the middle of a wash with two carers, the door opens and a third stands there asking a question. I have considered selling tickets, but maybe they’d ask for refunds. You can feel very exposed. I am sure the carers in those situations don’t think about it, obviously they should.

Hospital was the worst. I was in hospital last during the flu epidemic they had early 2018. It meant that they used the dining room as a side ward and my bed didn’t have curtains. They had to move a very unsatisfactory mobile screen around my bed if I needed a wee. It vaguely covered about a third of my bed, with a lot of effort they could borrow screens from another bed and totally screen my bed. But the ward was under staffed due to the extra patients, so it was hard to find staff to get a bottle let alone move screens. I don’t think modesty and dignity were words I thought of during that week. I won’t even talk about the time I used a bed pan.

Back to the towels. At least now, at home, I have a regular cover of modesty provided. Isn’t it great that something as simple as a towel can act as a modesty screen and a drying aid, and a beach bed and a massage cover. If you have read “Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy.” Then also a means of interstellar travel. Amazing things towels, they have so many uses.

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Flash, bang, wallop, what a picture!

I have always enjoyed photography and still do, even in a wheelchair.

My first camera, in 1972, was a Kodak Instamatic, it took cassette films of about 12 negatives and I had to badger my mum into processing it. Of course I could only afford black and white photos, or rather only convince mum to get me black and white. It was a few years later when cheaper colour, processing included with films came in.

The first photo I took was on Christmas morning at Church. Everyone leaning into the photo and many still excluded, this was a camera where you didn’t see what you were taking. The viewfinder was next to the lens and it wasn’t until you got the photos back you realised Aunty Fanny had no head and Uncle George wasn’t even in the photo. In these days of digital photos via phones, it’s difficult to comprehend such limitations.

I used to so love photography, as I grew up the cameras and equipment I had improved. I started processing my own photos, both black and white and later colour. When I met my wife, Mary I was able to invite her up to my darkroom, quite genuinely, without any puns about enlargers or seeing what develops. We both used to love going on photo expeditions then processing the photos.

Before we met, Mary had gone to the same camera shop as me, looked at the same two SLR cameras and decided against the one I bought. Not because she thought it a worse camera, but she thought it was a bit gimmicky. The traffic light exposure system didn’t appeal to her. It appealed to me. Red for too dark, orange for almost, green for go. Good old Pentax ME.

Later on, I did find working in photography took the joy out of it for me. Probably like the plumber whose house needs taps fixing, or the cleaner with a dirty house, or the builder with a broken door. When we were married, Mary had to give me a nudge to take photos of our children. Taking hundreds of photos of other children took the novelty away.

Oh how I wish digital had been around when I ran my photography business in the early 1980’s. I had to pay all of the up front costs of film and processing, hoping to sell enough packs of photos to make money when I did a photo shoot in a store. Portraits, weddings in fact everything I did would have been simpler and cheaper if I could have shown the results instantly to clients and just processed what they liked. Plus of course with digital you can take unlimited numbers of photos, instead of the 12-15 in medium format or 36 in 35mm per roll of film. Then with digital, you just print the ones that work, oh the joy. Mind you I now have tens of thousands of family photos on my PC when I used to just have hundreds of negatives. So there are limitations, digital makes us lazy. With film you shoot sparingly. Plus of course now everyone has a camera so I guess professionals find it harder to sell any photos. Most people just can’t ‘see’ the quality difference.

Fast forward to me now. Photography in a wheelchair. It’s a challenge, have you thought about angles and heights from a wheelchair. When I used to take photos I would, crouch, kneel even lie on the ground to get the angle I wanted. It did surprise me no one called the police or an ambulance when I lay on a path at night in the 1970’s taking time delay photos of passing cars. Back to now. At the very least I would want to be able to use a tripod and take higher angles. In a wheelchair, especially one without a riser, everything is one height. At least within a few inches. You can use a selfie stick to increase angles and heights a bit, but they are not ideal. The last one I used broke, fortunately just after removing my phone. I also find now that I just don’t have the physical and mental energy for photography, both taking and editing. If I take photos at all these days it tends to be on my phone. Mary takes most of our photos now and there are a lot unedited. You are probably thinking, ‘edited, What is he on about?’ If you just take photos and use them, that’s great. I have the curse of a professional past. It’s hard for me to look at a photo without seeing tonal, colour or cropping issues. That’s just the basics, if I really look, I can tweak a photo for ages.

Much as I enjoy the convenience of PC photo software, I miss a darkroom. There is something about the direct connection of chemicals, an enlarger and handling the negative and prints yourself that you lose with digital. Yes it’s messy and time consuming and takes skill and trial and error, but there’s nothing quite like it.

I find it very interesting that with the higher and higher definition photos and video we can now get, the latest style is low quality, scratched, black and white and out of focus. I guess we kick back and long for an earlier simpler time. Even current movies wash out the colour and deliberately shoot into the lights to get flare, they use hand held and out of focus shots. Still it’s helpful with clothing, I don’t need to buy new ones when my trousers get torn, just claim it’s a fashion statement. Torn joggers are the same as jeans aren’t they?

I wonder if we will reach a time when disability will be the desirable norm. People have become too perfect so they will want to be limited and broken. Just musing, not being serious. Although it’s not that far fetched, glasses for fashion rather than need are a real thing.

On a related topic. No it’s quite distant, but my mind jumps. I often hear people say they wish they could have a Blue Badge. I guess my answer would be, “wouldn’t it be great to have any plus without it’s associated negative.” A Blue Badge is a necessary thing for many people who struggle to walk far. Not all problems are visible, they may not be in a wheelchair, they could have heart or lung problems. I do object to able bodied family using the Blue Badge of their disabled family member. If you are thinking you fancy a Blue Badge, remember they come as a result of limitations, not as a prize.

Back to photography, (you knew I would get back to it J-B, didn’t you). The other weekend we were taking a group shot of Mary and I with a couple of our family who were visiting. Thinking the Quaker garden would be an ideal backdrop we headed there. But we forgot to take a tripod. Mary tried balancing the camera on a bench arm, a bin lid, a bench arm and brick, bin lid and brick then eventually the bin lid with a brick on its end. We all stood with an arbor behind us. An arbor that was home to a wasps nest as we discovered. Not the ideal location to stand still.

Self timers don’t go well with swatting wasps. Neither do smiles come naturally when you are avoiding being stung. At first I tried to operate the self timer, but discovered that the 10 seconds timer was insufficient for me to wheel back to the group and line up. So our son pressed the button. In the end we did get photos. Even some where we were all smiling.

Photography is great fun, I do still enjoy taking the odd photo and it is possible to take good ones, even in a wheelchair. I try to do things I used to get pleasure from, wherever I can. There are new limitations, but some can be overcome. In case I have waffled too much, very unlike me. Let me summarise.

1/ use a selfie stick to increase the angle you can take photos from in a wheelchair.

2/ take lots of photos, you can just use the best

3/ use a self timer, if necessary get someone else to start it

4/ have fun.

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Ten Hints & Tips

These are a list of ten things I have found make life easier when you are mobility limited:

1/ Litter picker/grab sticks. I can’t over state how useful I find these. Do look for ones that have a decent grip. They are still limited by two things, your strength and the weight of what you can pick up. But they are great to get smaller things that are out of your reach. However much it may sound fun, its no fun having to keep asking people to fetch everything for you. If you can grab what is just out of reach, that is really great. I have a piece of string on the top of mine so it can hook onto another thing I have lots of, hooks.

One type of litter picker/grab stick

2/ Hooks, I have a number of Velcro strapped hooks around my bed and on the wheelchair. As mentioned in the 1st point, a litter picker is on one. I have my Trabasac wheelchair tray/bag on another. You will find them very useful.

One of the types of hooks I use, yes they are pram ones.

3/ Panniers, I have several of these, all different types. Two on my bed, two on the wheelchair, one on my reclining chair and one on my bedside trolley. They hold medicine, remotes, snacks, papers, magazines, pens etc.

One oft the pannier types I have

4/ Sleep headphones, these are a soft headband with built in headphones. I can lie down and listen to music or my iPad films. You can get wireless ones, but I gather they last a few hours per charge.

Sleep headphones

5/ Multi charger unit, this is most useful in nursing homes, but also good at home. As I have a lot of technology it enables me to charge many USB and Apple devices at the same time, from one 3 pin UK plug.

Multi Charger

6/ iPad stand, I have a heavy based, goose necked stand and it is so useful. I can easily view or operate my iPad without having to hold it or balance it on my knee.

The iPad stand I have

7/ Non slip tape on my wheelchair footplates, I had non slip tape added to my footplates because I found that as I was being driven along my feet would slip forward and sometimes off the footplates. The tape keeps them in place. It’s especially needed for the times I have the enclosed bottom leggings on, as that has a smooth base. This may be specific to me, but you will know if your feet slip around.

8/ Water bottle holders, I have had to try several of these to find the one that works on my wheelchair as every chair is different. My one has to grip onto the side cover by the seat as there are no available bars. I also have one on my bedside trolley.

The water bottle holder that works for me

9/ Clip on hand sanitiser, I have one of the types of hand sanitisers used by health professionals in their uniforms. It came with a clip and a spring retracting wire. I attach the clip to my wheelchair side pannier and then can’t lose the bottle. It’s very useful to have out and about.

Hand sanitiser and clip

10/ A bottle of Neutrodol by the bed with a temporary cover. It can be uncovered as needed. When your bedroom is also your toilet, its good to be able to keep it fresher smelling.

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Review 4

The question on everyone’s lips is what bedpans and urine bottles do you buy? I’m sorry, but it would be top of your list if you were unable to go to the bathroom. But seriously these things are important to those of us limited with mobility and those who are Carers, paid and unpaid.

I’m a man, I feel like I should add, “ooh Betty I’m a man.” As I did love “Some mothers do ‘ave em.” So, I am limited in my knowledge of female toileting needs, I am married though. So, I will try and cover both.

Let me start by saying I have a soft bottom. No, I’m not boasting, it’s a fact that results from spending a lot of time in bed. Therefore, bed pan shape and design are important. Let me take a step back here, if you’re reading this eating your breakfast, you are probably thinking, ‘what am I reading?’ If you are walking along reading on your phone; watch out for that lamp post! If you are reading this at work, what are you doing? Get back to work!

Design; just imagine if your job was designing bed pans. It’s a very valuable job, but not one you are likely to shout about. I digress, as usual. A good design of bedpan has a wide smooth seat with rounded edges, think about a conventional toilet seat. Then think about depth, maybe not something you want to think too deeply about, no pun intended. But you are going to be filling this bedpan and a certain depth is needed for clearance purposes, if you see what I mean. “You feel me?” Is a ‘street’ expression that may be appropriate here. Another consideration is for your poor Carers, how easy is it to clean out. One practical idea is to put a temporary paper lining in before use. Much easier to dispose of. One problem that will decide on the depth of pan you buy is your degree of mobility. The shallower the pan, the easier to roll onto it. At least bedpans are unisex, now onto urine bottles, oh joy.

Here is a well designed bed pan

‘Ten green bottles, hanging on the wall.’ You won’t need ten and they hopefully won’t be green, but a urine bottle hanger is a great idea. I found chromium plated ones on Amazon very reasonably priced for a set of two.

Urine bottle hanger

The bottles themselves take some consideration. Will you only use them in bed, or out and about? If only in bed, then it’s less important that they are totally leak proof when sealed. If out and about, you don’t want them to leak. Also note the cheapest ones have sharp edges around the opening. They can cause nasty scratches, ouch, I know from experience. Most urine bottles these days come with an add on female adaptor. It push-fits in the end, like a shaped funnel. Or you can buy a female only urine bottle. Another consideration might be colour, do you want a see-through bottle? Or would you rather be more discreet if you have visitors or are out and about, you know bright red. Personally if you are a man and out in a wheelchair I recommend Conveens (See my blog ‘Not so public convenience’) If at home a urine bottle hanger enables you to hang the bottle on the side of your bed away from visitors.

Urine bottle with screw top, different colours available and female adaptor
Female urine bottle, no lid
Female urine bottle with lid

I found that trial and error was necessary to get what worked for me. Having stayed in several Nursing homes I also got to try several styles of both.

May your experiences be good ones. It’s a difficult and embarrassing subject. I hope my attempts to lighten it have helped rather than hindered.

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Flying round the world in my bed

When I was a child, I used to gather all the neighbour’s kids and we would sit on my bed and imagine we were flying to far off lands. Imagination was always my strong suit. I was inspired by ‘Bedknobs and broomsticks’, a Disney film we saw that year. If you’ve not seen it, I probably wouldn’t bother. I would get all the younger children so convinced that we were flying, they could almost see the ground pass beneath them.

I have found imagination very useful in illness. When you spend a lot of time in bed, being able to travel in your mind is a useful skill. There is a technology that makes things even easier. Computers, they have become able to produce such realistic imagery that you can feel you are travelling without leaving your house, or in my case, bed.

I have a flight simulator and the joy of it is that many of the planes have auto pilot, and even when they don’t, I can fly them very simply. I have flown a real plane, back in the early 1980’s, but don’t expect me to fly you to New York, I only had a few lessons in a Cessna. With PC simulations I leave them set on easy and just drift along looking around at the scenery. Mind you the other day I was so intent on looking at the scenery that I crashed a Boeing 747-400 in London. You probably read about it in the news, or you would have if it was real. Flight simulators are great fun when you are limited in bed, flying anywhere in the world, slow in a hang glider, or high and fast in a jet, there is nothing quite like it when you are unable to even walk. I am so looking forward to Microsofts new flight simulator due out in 2020 it’s so realistic, it almost looks like a real plane, that’s if the demos are anything to go by. The current Microsoft simulator, FSX is no where near as good, you do need a good imagination to believe you are flying in that. There are people who buy complete artificial cockpits, controls, multiple screens and realistic seats. They go on imaginary flights all the time, although I guess they come down to earth when they look at their bank statements.

Modern PC car simulations are much more realistic. The problem is they are much more tiring to operate. I can’t use a steering wheel as they all seem to come with pedals and the alternative, which is hand controllers, are a bit twitchy and take a lot of concentration. But a quick crash around Scotland, on Forza, driving into other cars and people’s front gardens is great fun. The realism is amazing on a powerful PC. Trees, grass, shadows, water, dust, flowers, reflections on cars and sun glinting. You could believe it was real. That is apart from the fact you can crash into anything and not get hurt. It’s especially fun as in my case I can’t drive any longer in the real world.

Why am I talking about simulators? Because I believe they are a great idea for anyone who is as limited as I am. If you spend a lot of your day in bed, as I do, it’s a thing to do that is not too tiring and yet not totally inactive. Many things I do just involve watching TV or are too tiring, like puzzles or reading. Even writing this blog wears me out. As I mentioned earlier flight simulators can be really easy to fly, no effort. My favourite thing to do is choose a mission where the plane starts out flying above interesting scenery and then leave it in autopilot. There’s an option in FSX to view outside from the wing, above, side or behind, as well as in the cockpit. Plus, you can move the point of view within that. You can also skip to other planes nearby. The most realistic part of FSX is the sky, flying through the clouds is brilliant. When you are many thousands of feet above the earth the scenery below looks more realistic too. It’s a very freeing feeling.

I am fortunate because I can take myself on a similar trip in my head when I can’t use a PC. I do so often when in a “collapse”, the times when I lose muscle function for about 10-15 minutes at a time.

I would recommend a simulator on your PC if it can run one, for anyone in my situation. If you only have a tablet, like an iPad there are basic flight sims available for those. I realise that escape into your imagination doesn’t solve underlying problems. But it can give you a break and that is helpful. Often, it’s what you need most.

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Review 3

Slippers and socks

This review is not specific about makes of slippers and socks, but types and designs. I have found that certain things work better and worse since being in bed and a wheelchair, so I wanted to save others that ‘learning curve.’

First socks, when you spend most of your time in bed or a wheelchair, your feet will swell. Plus having other people put your socks on, it’s a good idea to take pity on them. For those two reasons I have two bits of advice.

1/ buy socks about two sizes bigger than your feet. I am a size 9 and usually get size 6-11 socks, instead I now buy size 12 or 12-14. I also make sure they are loose topped ones, these are often advertised as being for diabetes or swollen legs. Believe me your feet and ankles will thank you, as will your Carers. I am also amazed that they never seem big on me.

Second I have given up on shoes. I figure that as I am not needing soles and if it rains I have waterproof covers, then slippers are warmer and cosier. Plus it’s a lot easier to buy easy open slippers. Look for ones that have Velcro and open completely up. (See photo.)

They are easy for your carer to put on and they can be done up very loosely, again a big advantage. In winter when it’s very cold I have 100% wool slippers, they don’t open up, but they are very large for my feet, so easy to put on. When I have worn these in nursing homes and disability hotels, other guests have always asked where I got them. Have a guess? Yes, Amazon, I get most things from them. But I also return anything that doesn’t work.

This is only a short review to highlight the importance of oversized socks with loose tops and easy open cozy slippers when you are in a wheelchair or a bed.

Slippers and socks

This review is not specific about makes of slippers and socks, but types and designs. I have found that certain things work better and worse since being in bed and a wheelchair, so I wanted to save others that ‘learning curve.’

First socks, when you spend most of your time in bed or a wheelchair, your feet will swell. Plus having other people put your socks on, it’s a good idea to take pity on them. For those two reasons I have two bits of advice.

1/ buy socks about two sizes bigger than your feet. I am a size 9 and usually get size 6-11 socks, instead I now buy size 12 or 12-14. I also make sure they are loose topped ones, these are often advertised as being for diabetes or swollen legs. Believe me your feet and ankles will thank you, as will your Carers. I am also amazed that they never seem big on me.

Second I have given up on shoes. I figure that as I am not needing soles and if it rains I have waterproof covers, then slippers are warmer and cosier. Plus it’s a lot easier to buy easy open slippers. Look for ones that have Velcro and open completely up. (See photo.) They are easy for your carer to put on and they can be done up very loosely, again a big advantage. In winter when it’s very cold I have 100% wool slippers, they don’t open up, but they are very large for my feet, so easy to put on. When I have worn these in nursing homes and disability hotels, other guests have always asked where I got them. Have a guess? Yes, Amazon, I get most things from them. But I also return anything that doesn’t work.

This is only a short review to highlight the importance of oversized socks with loose tops and easy open cozy slippers when you are in a wheelchair or a bed. I am not saying buy the same makes I have shown, although they work for me, they are just examples.

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Review 2

Smart switches, plugs and connectivity

When I first came out of hospital in January 2018, I was having far more of the episodes where I lose muscle function. These have been improved greatly by the new medication. It meant that at the time much of my day I was unable to move at all. My first priority was to buy voice activated controls. This gave me the ability to call for help, if Mary or a carer was in the other room. Request music or an audio book, adjust the heating. Then after later additions, control lighting and even TV and other devices. I also had several cameras setup and activated by voice so that my world was expanded. The most important being a view outside our front door. I will look at the devices that made all this possible and explain their strengths and weaknesses.

There are two main things needed for a voice activated system. 1/ An internet connection. 2/ A smart voice control system. I know of three, Amazon Echo (Alexa), Google Home and Apple Siri. There are others. The main two that offer connection to devices in your home are Amazon and Google. I use Amazon, but I have tried out Google.

You setup the system by buying one or more of your chosen devices. I bought an Amazon Echo speaker and a few of the small Echo dots as my first purchases. Having connected them to my internet router (instructions with device), putting the speaker by me and the Dots around the house, I was then able to listen to music (add reminders, check weather etc) and call to Mary or my carers. The Echo Dots can also listen to music etc, but their speakers are a bit small. We used them as an intercom system. After we added smart wi-fi cameras and doorbell it became necessary to upgrade my Echo speaker to an Echo Show. This has a small screen that can show the picture from the camera in the doorbell or external camera.

Echo Show

The other thing that we did at the beginning was have Hive heating fitted. This is where the heating control and thermostat is replaced by a wireless smart, internet linked controller and thermostat. Then you can connect it to an app on your phone or iPad and also to your Alexa or Google Home, you still have a wall thermostat. So, I can say “Alexa change the heating to 20 degrees.” Or “Alexa, ask Hive the temperature.” We were fortunate that the initial cost of fitting Hive and the first Amazon Echo was covered by a grant. This is because of its benefit to me in giving me control in my limitations.

Hive Thermostat

There are weaknesses with the Echo system. Sometimes it doesn’t hear you right. I have often had to repeat myself many times when trying to add a reminder. Even the heating can be a frustration at times, either Echo or Hive can have connection problems. But for the few times that happens I would not swap it. It gives me such a great satisfaction being able to control my environment. It’s very difficult being able to see but not reach light switches and thermostats. I wake at 4am, long before Mary, so I can turn the heating up in winter when I wake.

If you are thinking of getting a smart system. Consider if you will get cameras, if so, buy an Echo Show, or the Google equivalent. Amazon have upgraded versions of their system, but that means they are selling off the old ones cheaper. I would also consider security. The smart devices listen all the time. Amazon and Google say they don’t record and keep your conversations. Do you trust them, that’s up to you? If you buy an Echo Show or the small Echo Spot as a bedside clock, remember it has a built-in camera. Do you want a camera by your bed?

Echo Spot for a bedside clock?

I extended my smart system over the last year and a half with smart switches and plugs. There are many out there, just search smart plugs, sockets or switches. I would recommend Meross. This is because they are well made, easy to setup and the app they supply is well laid out. One point on this, I have several devices, and each has its own app for my phone. It’s better to try and stick with one manufacturer or you have a lot of apps, like me. They all work with Alexa or Google Home. Just to explain that. The app on your phone and/or iPad gives you control of your smart switches, plugs and cameras from anywhere you have internet access. But all of them also connect to your home hub via your Amazon Alexa or Google Home. So, you can voice control them at home.

Meross Smart plugs

Smart plugs or sockets enable you to plug anything in (check power rating if you are planning on plugging in a kettle or tumble dryer). Smart switches replace your wall light switch with a device that can still be turned on or off at the wall, but also voice or app operated. A few things to note about that.

1/ Not all smart switches are dimmable.

2/ It is complicated to buy a multi way switch (one that operates two lights up and down stairs)

3/ the wiring in your house needs to be modern (have a neutral wire) so consult an electrician, don’t do it yourself.

I have several smart sockets and switches setup, which means I can turn lights on and off by voice and cut power on various things in the house by voice.

Smart light switch

The smart cameras and doorbell I use are all Netvue. I have not tried others, but I can say the Netvue ones work great. The only downside being that to record movement you need to subscribe to their cloud service. Otherwise without the subscription you just get notice there has been movement and a snapshot. They are currently beta testing human only recognition for movement. Anyone who has tried CCTV cameras and setup movement sensors will know how annoying animals or sunlight triggers can be. The beta looks good so far.

Netvue exterior camera

The Netvue doorbell is very useful. We got it after a particularly persistent visitor rang and rang our doorbell when Mary was in the bath. I thought it must be urgent, but by the time Mary got out the bath and to the door we discovered it was not. With the camera and voice doorbell, I can see who is there and chat to them. If necessary, I could give them a keycode (in an emergency). I would love to be able to afford an electric door lock, to let people in.

Netvue Doorbell

Smart technology is a great blessing, although not perfect. I know I have pushed Amazon Echo. But that is the one I know best. The little I know of Google Home; it is a more limited system. If you are looking into smart tech maybe try buying one of the older Amazon Echo Dot’s to try out. See how you get on. Or get the new better one and then if you don’t like it return it within 30 days for a refund from Amazon.

One last thing. When setting up any smart device, do follow the instructions to the letter. I tried skipping steps and had to reset and try again. You really must do it properly. That’s especially true with setting the device up on your phone or iPad, you must use 2.4ghz not 5ghz. You can set it back after setup.

I hope you get to try smart tech and it benefits you as much as it does me.

Thanks for reading. Please do read my other bogs, like share and comment.

Reviews 1 – Trabasac Lap Tray/Bag

I will be looking at items I have found helpful with my limited mobility. Where I have tried several versions I will explain why I use the one I do. If I tried one and it worked I will tell you why.

Trabasac lap trays.

One thing I use the most is my Trabasac lap tray. I have owned a total of 3 of these. Two of the Trabasac Curves, one wore out as I used it for 6 years. Then recently I changed to a Trabasac Mini.

First to look at the Trabasac range as a whole.

This lap tray come rucksack is a unique design I have found nowhere else. If I did I would buy it, as they are expensive for what they are. The idea is a combination of a rucksack (not a roomy or multi pocket one) and a lap tray that can attach to a wheelchair or car seat via quick release straps. They include straps to use as shoulder straps.

Trabasac Mini

Trabasac Curve

Trabasac Max

Coloured Curve

However, they have too wide a design idea. They can be used as laptop rucksacks for business travellers (especially Reviews

I will be looking at items I have found helpful with my limited mobility. Where I have tried several versions I will explain why I use the one I do. If I tried one and it worked I will tell you why.

Trabasac lap trays.

One thing I use the most is my Trabasac lap tray. I have owned a total of 3 of these. Two of the Trabasac Curves, one wore out as I used it for 6 years. Then recently I changed to a Trabasac Mini.

First to look at the Trabasac range as a whole.

This lap tray come rucksack is a unique design I have found nowhere else. If I did I would buy it, as they are expensive for what they are. The idea is a combination of a rucksack (not a roomy or multi pocket one) and a lap tray that can attach to a wheelchair or car seat via quick release straps. They include straps to use as shoulder straps.

However, they have too wide a design idea. They can be used as laptop rucksacks for business travellers (especially the larger one that I don’t own), wheelchair trays that double as secure bags or play tables for children in cars (they do a coloured trim version for kids and a rather cheap and tacky waterproof cover. The ‘connect’ versions just have a velcro surface to stick things to, such as their so called media holder. This is just a velcro sausage that you shape to hold things.

The features I like and reason I have bought 3 over the years are:

1/ they have a storage area inside, like a bag, I keep my phone and wallet in it.

Storage inside my Trabasac Mini, it can also fit an iPad

2/ they have quick release straps that are in two parts, one connects to the tray and the other to your wheelchair or car seat. Then they have a quick connect to latch in place.

Range of straps that come with it. Note quick connect for tray end and in middle.

3/ they have a beanbag underneath for your lap and a slight ridge around the top work surface (the surface itself is getting poorer quality over the years)

Ridge round worktop

I find the Trabasac Mini big enough for an iPad 9.7”, plus a phone, wallet and some small bits and bobs. The Curve although bigger never fitted more into it, but always felt more bulky.

I find I can eat my lunch off the top of the tray, although a very large plate is a squeeze. I do find that it is not level enough on my lap to trust an open drink. But I tend to have water bottles in a side holder. These I will review later. I should note that the angle of the tray will depend on your seating position.

A plate on a Trabasac Curve

On the whole I would really recommend Trabasac lap trays. I get nothing from them for saying that. Whenever I have been places with other wheelchair users and they have seen my tray, many have asked where I got it. Maybe I should be on commission.

I buy mine from Amazon purely because of the ease of return if things go wrong. In case you don’t know, even after the 30 day easy return window closes on Amazon you just go into help, chose contact and either phone or email about your order.

I will be continuing to review other items in the coming days.

Laugh and the world laughs with you

“I have just had my third breakfast, so I should be OK till lunch at 1:30pm.” I was talking to a supervisor from our care agency, she was there to ‘sign off’ my new carer on using my hoist. I explained to her that I have three breakfasts on Friday mornings, one extra to my usual Winnie the Pooh style, two breakfasts, because of the late care visit. What do you mean, you don’t even have one breakfast? That’s not my fault. I eat a little and often, it’s how I maintain my svelte figure. That is if svelte means slightly overweight, which I’m sure it does. Don’t look it up if you don’t already know it’s meaning.

I like Winnie the Pooh, he may be full of fluff, but I think I am too, at least I must be judging by how much is in my belly button every day. I like his comments, my favourite being when Rabbit built a really high, but short wall as a defence against heffalumps and Winnie the Pooh said “But they could just go around it.” And Rabbit says, “Around it, around it, no one gave me the specifications.” AA Milne was no doubt thinking of the Maginot Line, the WWII French defence against Germany that they went around. There are books on Winnie the Pooh wisdom, I wouldn’t go that far, I just find them fun with some bits of insight.

Winnie the Pooh does have a lot of good habits, he’s a relaxed and laid-back bear, doesn’t worry too much about how he looks. Sticks his head in honey pots. OK, so not all his habits are good. He also chats to his slightly depressed friend Eeyore, rather than ignoring him. He gets flattened by his bouncy friend Tigger too. Oops another problem. Insecurity doesn’t bother him, look at his friend Piglet. But best of all he has two breakfasts. First breakfast and second breakfast, brunchfast a meal between breakfast and lunch. I just improve on it with a third breakfast on Fridays.

For some reason the idea of this amused the care supervisor and she decided that being part of my care team would be fun. I do seem to amuse people who visit me, often I amuse them unintentionally, but it is fun being part of my care team we have a lot of laughs. My carers are chosen because they are good company as well as good carers. It’s a prerequisite when I chose a carer, they need a sense of humour, who else would put up with me. I’ve said before that humour is the way to cope with embarrassing situations and I would recommend that method to anyone struggling at receiving care.

I am going to get practical here. If you are about to receive care or newly receiving it there is a big obstacle most of us must overcome: Being naked in front of strangers, or even those we know, maybe especially those we know. Some will find this more of an issue than others. Some will find it more difficult with the same sex than the opposite sex. We are all different. But most of us find the idea of having someone undress us, non sexually, embarrassing. (I suppose some people might find getting undressed for sex embarrassing, but that’s not what I am looking at here.) Then the concept of someone washing us as an adult is so alien to us that we struggle with it anyway. If you manage to cope with that but need someone to wipe your bum or generally sort out your toileting needs, then things get really difficult. So how do we cope with all that?

My suggested coping method is laughter, fun, and humour, that is what I have found helps. If you laugh and joke it will break the ice and overcome your difficulties. Laughter and humour are very powerful tools, don’t dismiss them. They enable us to cope with situations that we think are beyond us. When we laugh or smile our body releases chemicals that help us relax. It also releases tension in you and any in the air. I am not saying laugh and all embarrassment goes, it still takes time to get used to coping with being cared for. But believe me, if you are laughing and joking with your carer you will not notice the embarrassment as much. I should also point out that the professional approach of carers really helps. I think if they were unsure and unprofessional it would be much more difficult. For me the thing that has taken longest to get used to is toileting. Laugh and the world laughs with you, even when they’re wiping your bum; did I quote that right? But even that is easier to cope with if you don’t treat it too seriously.

On a related topic, being cared for makes you feel like a child or a baby at times. Sometimes I will make a joke out of that. It’s a way of coping with that idea and not letting it niggle away at me.

I will end by encouraging you. If you are newly receiving care, it becomes easier over time, especially if you take it less seriously. If you are about to receive care, try out some or all of my suggestions. If you are a carer, paid or unpaid, thank you for all you do, we appreciate your care and support. If you are reading this out of interest, I hope it has been insightful.

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I love to hear feedback from my readers.

Do read my other blogs, I write factual, fiction and poetry.

A room with a view

What a picture, what a photograph. No I shan’t finish the song. As I lie in bed about 90% of my time, shocking I know, then the view from my window is fairly well known to me. It would be better known if I spent more time looking out of it and less time looking at my iPad or PC and sometimes the TV. When I do look out I see a beautiful courtyard garden, created by Mary and filled with flowers.

Spring in our garden

I had a thought the other day. How is it that in just a few weeks, mud, water, heat and light transforms into a mass of greenery and flowers. Not just thin or low growing flowers, but thick stems and large leaves and flowers. Think about it, the change is really incredible. I watch that garden over the weeks and occasionally get to go into it in my wheelchair. Last I went into it, the part by our washing line was so full of plants that I think only a single sock would fit on the line. OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but the area had gone from an empty open space to encroached by raspberry bushes, lilies and sweet peas. All sides overhanging towards the middle. How is that possible in just a few weeks. What an amazing creation we live in, such variety, such complexity, such beauty and it all happens so quickly before our eyes.

The lilies that burst out next to our washing line

A few weeks back a very kind man on Facebook built me a bird table. I now get the added joy of watching birds pop by for brunch, or afternoon tea on the wing. It’s sort of a fly through, but without the intercom or payment window. I think I prefer a cheeseburger myself, but the birds seem to enjoy the mealworms. Mealworms, the name sounds like it should be tasty, but they don’t look it. The other day a pigeon tried to raid the bird table. I have nothing against pigeons, nothing for them either. Fortunately it couldn’t get into the table, try as it might. Whereas blackbirds, that I do like, can come and go at will. Mind you, one family of blackbirds have made a nest in my garage and I am not sure that I appreciate them pooping on the garage contents.

Bird table

What I enjoy most is stormy weather. When the rain hammers down and the wind blows, there is something dramatic about it. Yes, I know, you are out and about in it getting cold and wet, I’m sorry. Actually I used to really enjoy walking in the rain and wind and working in stormy weather. I think it’s because my day job was in an office. Getting out in nature, even raw nature was a treat. Even now I enjoy going out in my wheelchair on a stormy day. I really enjoyed looking out at the snow earlier this year and last. My wheelchair can’t travel in snow, but I can enjoy looking at it. Whereas rain and wind are not an obstacle.

The problem with wheelchairs on a stormy day, especially electric ones, is protection. I have tried so many waterproof covers. None are big enough to cover me and the chair. Not even ones designed for scooters. Because scooters are shaped differently to power wheelchairs. In the end the only way I could protect both was with a two layer approach. I have leggings that I sit into. Like child pushchair leggings (see my blog “Kids stuff.”) that protects me to waist height, sort of. Then I have what is described as a full wheelchair cover. This reaches to my lap. I have a Trabasac tray that latches onto my chair. I hook the top cover under that and that keeps my top half and most of the chair dry. But, the sides of the chair still get wet, especially my side pannier bags, they are waterproof fortunately. Plus water can collect in my rubber arm rests as they are cupped. Also the rear of my chair is only covered part way down. It’s a partial answer and looks more effective than it actually is. Normally when I get out of the chair there is a puddle of water by my feet, wet panniers and water in the armrests. I also find bits of me are wet.

Me covered as much as I can be

Back to my wonderful view. My bed is electric and profiling. That means it goes up and down and can shape, legs and head can raise and lower. So I can sit up and change my height. This gives me a range of views out of my window. At a higher setting I can see the path outside the patio door at the end of my bed. This door is too narrow and inaccessible for me to use in my wheelchair, but it is good for a view. When I was first in this bed I used to be dazzled by the sun. It comes straight in every morning. So a friend fitted a blind for me, now I ask my wife or carer to adjust it so that I can see the garden but don’t get dazzled. It’s a shame to shut out the sun, but helpful to keep your eyesight.

The good thing about our view is that it’s one way, most of the time. We have a private garden with a normally locked gate. So when my Carers get me washed and dressed I always used to get them to leave the curtains and blinds open. Until that one time the gate was left open for two days and we had three delivery men all of whom decided to try our back door, just as I was naked on the bed. It’s Murphy’s law that whenever you are on the toilet, in the bath or undressed that’s when a delivery arrives. Well at least you aren’t lying in front of the window with the delivery guy peering through it knocking.

The other view I have from my bed is a TV on a wall bracket. It doubles as a PC monitor. In case you are wondering why I would have a PC rather than a laptop, it’s because of weight. A laptop is heavy on my lap. The wireless keyboard and mouse I need for a PC aren’t, everything else is on the side. If you are bed bound and like computers, I recommend a PC with wireless keyboard and mouse. Unless you don’t find weight on your lap a problem. If you copy my idea, just use your LCD TV as a monitor, most have more than one HDMI input. You just swap between them to use your PC. Oh, I’m getting like a computer helpline here.

I am going to have a quick aside here, I used to work on a computer helpline part time. One person phoned me up and I gave them the advice you will always get with computers “just shut your PC down, wait ten seconds and start it again.” They said they had shut it down, waited ten seconds and started it, then instantly said everything was back on. The desktop was showing and everything had restarted. This was before SSD hard drives that can be almost instant to restart. I was puzzled for a moment then I realised what they had done and I said “did you switch off the button on your screen, then turn it back on?” They had, so we started again, this time I was more detailed in my instructions.

I find that using my iPad quite a lot, to watch films or write this blog, my vision gets closed in. So it’s helpful to look out through the patio door to the outside. My room with a view really comes into its own. I can enjoy what I see all year round.

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Do read my other blogs, I write factual, fiction and poetry.

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