Some caregiving tips apply to more than ALS
How caring for my husband has helped me in my everyday life
A couple days ago, as I was dishing up our family dinner, I popped a piece of chicken in my mouth and accidentally aspirated, drawing a small piece of chicken or phlegm into my lungs. I tried to cough it up, but wasn’t getting it out. I winced and pounded on my chest with the back of my fist. My face must have been beet red.
“Oh, boy,” my husband, Todd, said with a look of concern. “Are you OK?”
I slumped down to the floor and sat with my knees up and back against the wall, and I kept coughing to clear my windpipe.
“Try leaning to your side,” Todd said.
I did that, and my cough was much more effective when I wasn’t fighting gravity. A few more coughs, and I was OK.
“That always helps me,” Todd went on to say. “Sometimes I aspirate when I’m on my back in bed, and I have my nighttime caregivers turn me onto my side, and it goes away.”
Todd has been living with ALS for the past 13 years, and he’s paralyzed with weak lung function. I could write a book with all the little things we’ve learned over the years to take care of him, and a few of those things have carried over to help me in my everyday life.
After Todd lost his ability to walk and needed to use a power wheelchair, his feet would swell with edema. He also had an old ankle injury from high school wrestling, and one of his feet tended to roll. An occupational therapist applied kinesiology tape to keep that injured ankle from rolling, and the swelling in that foot decreased. She applied KT Tape to the other foot, and it reduced the edema there, too. I’ve since used KT Tape myself when I have a sore wrist or other joint pain. My son and daughter have used it, too.
After Todd first got his wheelchair, we purchased an accessible van so he could still go to church and other family outings. We even traveled a bit when he was still strong enough to tolerate the van ride. He doesn’t get out much anymore, but his van is still useful for me. With the ramp that folds down from the back, I can easily slide trash cans in to transport them to the waste transfer station. It’s like having a truck, but I don’t have to lift anything too high to get it into the vehicle.
Our dog, Comet, gets to use Todd’s van, too. Every few months when I take him to the groomer, or if he needs to go to the vet, I put his dog bed in the back of the van where Todd would normally park. Comet walks up the ramp and lies on his bed, and we’re on our way.
Later that evening after I’d aspirated on the chicken, my daughter was packing her school lunch for the next day, and she popped a chip in her mouth. She swallowed wrong and started coughing. I told her about her dad’s advice, which she tried, too. It worked.
Have you come across any caregiving tips that apply to other situations? Please share in the comments.
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