Living With Polio

Please Be Seated!

Prolonged standing is stressful; some people find it harder to stand in one place than to walk. We need to conserve energy while doing everyday tasks so we have vitality left for the fun stuff. So…..sit down! Sitting while performing activities takes 25% less energy – how easy is that? And the benefits don’t stop there; sitting places less demand on the cardio-vascular system and less stress on the weight-bearing joints. Most important – sitting is safer, especially for those of us with weakness, fatigue, and compromised balance.

You can sit during meal preparation and cleanup, showering, dressing, shaving or styling your hair, working on hobbies – almost any activity can be performed while sitting if you analyze, plan ahead, and use a few simple aids. So where to start?

A shower bench or chair and a hand-held shower head are really essential for energy conservation and safety. Some benches have a backrest, adjustable leg heights, and even armrests for pushing yourself up. Attach the shower head to the wall where you can reach it easily without standing. While you’re at it, make sure that all your bath accessories, such as bath brushes and long-handled sponges, are within easy reach. If your shower is over the bathtub, replace bathtub sliding doors with a shower curtain for easy access to the bench.

And please sit down while you’re getting dressed. As an OT, I’ve been amazed at how many people who are at risk for falling challenge their balance by doing lower-body dressing while standing up. Putting on pants while standing just doesn’t make sense. Sit down even for upper-body dressing.

You can be seated while brushing your teeth, shaving, applying makeup, etc. Just put a mirror on the counter by the bathroom sink.

Meal preparation and kitchen clean-up are probably the most energy-consuming tasks we face; there’s a lot to do and it has to be done so often! Sitting in the kitchen is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. However, sitting in a regular chair may cause your work surface to be too high, which can fatigue your arms. It’s not a good trade-off if you rest your legs but overuse your arms. There are several ways to create a lower work surface to preserve your arms.

Many years ago I purchased a drafting chair (not a regular office chair) at an office supply store. It has a pneumatic height adjustment, a five caster base which is very stable, a footrest and an adjustable backrest. Raise the seat high enough to give you a low work surface but not too high – you want to be able to use your feet to push the chair around. But here is a very important caution: The seat must be raised before you sit on it and you can be in danger of having the chair roll backwards as you sit down. Back the chair up against the bottom corner cupboards before you sit down. Once I’m seated I just roll from sink to refrigerator to stove, prepare food, wash dishes, put things away. Since I have wood floors in my kitchen and dining room I roll between those rooms. Sitting at the dining table in my drafting chair allows me to play games with my grandchildren without stressing my arms. If you have hobbies out in the garage, use a drafting chair for that, too.

A bar stool also saves the arms by seating you at a higher level. Advantage – it’s safer as it won’t roll while you’re getting on. Disadvantage – it doesn’t roll around the kitchen. But if you’re going to stay in one place it’s a great solution.

I sit whenever possible, but getting up been a struggle for many years. My solution was to have several high density foam cushions, 4 inches high and 16 inches square, fabricated at an upholstery shop. You may need different dimensions but you get the idea. For a small extra fee the shop covered the cushions in my choice of fabric and added a zipper and carrying handle. After my knee replacement last year it was impossible to get up from regular chairs and the cushions helped me return to my normal activities. I always keep one in my van – just in case.

© 2008 Grace R. Young
Courtesy of Diane Young and Sharon Lark.

Tags for this article:
Assistive Devices
Health & Wellness
Independent Living