[AD] This piece is sponsored by CareCo Ltd and features affiliate links. More information can be found at the bottom of this post!
Something that comes up a lot in conversation is how I negotiate living independently whilst dealing with long-term chronic fatigue. And whilst that’s a broad topic to tackle all in one go, I thought I’d begin to answer that question by sharing some of the aids and equipment I use in day-to-day life that help me to manage my symptoms.
There are various things out there to assist with practical tasks, and technological advances are increasing by the day, but I wanted to think about how these could be applied to fatigue in particular. You’ll see from the list below that the items I use range massively: some are bigger, more costly mobility aids specifically for disability, whilst others are cheap and cheerful household products.
I’m sure that anybody reading this will already be aware that different things work for different people, and it’s all about finding what works best for you and your lifestyle. And for me, the things that work include the following…
- Shower Stool: The first ‘official’ mobility aid I ever bought was my Shower Stool, and it’s probably the one I used the most. You can get either attachable or free-standing shower stools for your bathroom, to enable you to sit in the shower instead of using up valuable energy whilst remaining standing.
- Turbie Towel*: If holding up a hairdryer wears you out, a ‘Turbie Towel’ can simply be wrapped around wet hair to give it a towel dry and keep it out of your way. It’s an absolutely ravishing look, as any of my old housemates will tell you, but it gets the job done.
- Calm App: Hear me out on this one. There’s a lot of stigma around chronic illness and mindfulness but personally, practicing 5-10 minutes of mindfulness a day was what finally made the concept of pacing and restorative rest finally click in my head, and I haven’t looked back since. An annual subscription to the Calm app is pricey and something I couldn’t quite justify paying, however many of the basic meditation practices are free to use without a subscription.
- Noise-cancelling headphones*: Once I’d finally taken the plunge and purchased noise-cancelling headphones, I was cursing myself for not doing it sooner. The most effective (and unfortunately more premium-priced) ones really cut down the background noise around you, making your surroundings a lot more comfortable for sore, over-worked brains. I’d advise trying on a pair in-store and working out whether they’ll be comfortable to lay down in, but if you’re not able to get out, I have an older version of the current Bose Quiet Comfort ones* which have suited me just fine.
- Pill holders/ dispensers*: When the ominous brain-fog hits, having your medication sorted into the days and times you need to take it in advance can make your day-to-day routine a little less complicated. Personally, I find it quite therapeutic to make some time each week to sit and sort my medication out. Makes me feel like I actually have my life together, y’know?
- Adjustable/ Electric Bed: this was a Scary Big Purchase when I first got ill, but when I was at my worst, having a bed where you could easily self-raise your head or legs to your desired level with a remote control was a blessing. Even when orthostatic intolerance means you can’t be up and about, being able to raise yourself up in bed and distinguish that time from lying down or resting can make such a difference to your mood and wellbeing.
Around The House
- Perching Stool: Kitchens can be one of the trickier rooms to manage fatigue, often with less capacity for you to have a little sit-down mid-task. Because of that, a standalone perching stool that you can leave out, or one that can be folded up and stored as required, can be handy for a little sit down when you exceed your official allocated standing-up time of the day.
- Wifi Kettle*: The Wifi Kettle isn’t cheap (I actually won mine in a competition a few years ago), but in my humble opinion, it’s one of the greatest gadgets of the 21st You connect your phone and download an app, and provided there’s water in the kettle, you can set it to boil from your phone and be alerted when it’s ready, taking away the need to get up and stand waiting to pour the water. And really, what situation is there that can’t be improved with a nice brew?
- Sponge On A Stick*: I’m sure there must be a more official name for this, but mine has become affectionately known as Sponge On A Stick and frankly, I think that hits the nail on the head. If you struggle to bend and reach various places when cleaning, having a tool like this means less physical exertion is needed to get the job done. They’re especially handy for cleaning the bath, one of the tasks I personally find most energy-draining.
- Cleaning wipes*: Antibacterial household wipes are handy to keep in a cupboard, so you can just whack one out and have a quick wipe down as and when you feel up to it: I’ve linked to some on Amazon with my affiliate link, but it’s worth bearing in mind that they’re much cheaper to buy in supermarkets and discount stores, if you’re able to get to them, than online. Having disposable wipes on stand-by means you can just tackle a little area of a given room at a time, making it easier to pace yourself and avoid the clutches of over-exertion death by Mrs Hinch-ing.
Hobbies and Interests
- Book Page Holder*: If you’re a reader but find that sore hands or the exertion required to hold up a novel makes it challenging to read for longer periods, the usual suggestion is to turn to Kindles and eBooks. But, if like me, you’re a die-hard paperback devotee, Book Page Holders can keep your place without having to use your hands and arms. Particularly handy for fellow Book Bloggers too.
- Mobile Phone Stand*: Similar to above, but I actually discovered this tip in a local support group for people with M.E. If you have difficulty holding your phone up to eye level to see the screen or to your ear when talking, specialist phone stands are relatively affordable and accessible.
- Soft Lap Tray: If you work, or write, or spend any significant amount of time on a laptop, as well as a good chunk of your day in bed, Lap Trays and Surface Tables can be useful. I know it’s naughty to work from bed, but when you have a long-term illness, not everybody has that luxury of choice. And if having this kind of tool can make your environment even somewhat more office-like, it may be worth having. The one linked is the one I use personally, from good old Ikea.
- Timer on phone for managing activity: I know we all have a love-hate relationship with pacing, but deep down, we know it’s what’s good for us. If you’re prone to getting carried away in the middle of tasks or hobbies, setting the timer on your phone can be a useful way of keeping track and making a deliberate point of resting before you burn yourself out.
Out And About
Power-chair or wheelchair: If standing or walking is problematic, you don’t need to struggle. I’ve talked more about this issue in this past post, and I do appreciate it’s a huge purchase to make, especially for a power-chair. Those bad boys are not cheap. Many people with fatigue opt for transit wheelchairs, but if you’re looking for the autonomy that a self-propel offers, using a lightweight model with an aluminium frame is essential. The CareCo Aluminium AirGlide wheelchair weighs only 7.9kg, meaning much less exertion is required to get yourself from A to B, in comparison to other models.
- Stickman Comms Cards: Hannah Ensor’s Stickman Communications is a goldmine of resources to help you explain medical conditions and symptoms in a concise and light-hearted, yet effective, way. Having some of these cards and badges, such as the ‘disability not visible’ badge, means you can simply whip one out and show it to who you need to without the cognitive strain of having to explain your needs and medical history in depth to strangers (who often, for unfathomable reasons, feel entitled to this information…).
- Thermal clothing: Not everybody has this symptom, but my condition means that I’m constantly freezing cold, so much so that leaving the house can actually be painful, and my energy resources are depleted in trying to keep me warm. I used to be quite embarrassed about wearing thermal leggings under my jeans or going out with a hot water bottle on my lap, even during summer, but you gotta do what you gotta do. There are lots of different brands, but I personally find HeatHolders to be the most cost-effective.
- Chilly’s Water Bottle*: Having a reusable water bottle isn’t only good for the environment, but can save you a bit of trouble when out and about too. I’m very easily dehydrated, so having a hot or cold drink on stand-by in your bag or wheelchair can save an emergency dash to the shops when the dreaded dry mouth suddenly hits. I was initially surprised and a little reluctant to pay what they cost, but I’ve already had more than my money’s worth out of mine. Much more environmentally friendly too.
- Taxi apps to save a phone call: We’ve all been there- we’re so happy to have made it out the house that we’re run on adrenaline, and then suddenly the fatigue hits all at once and you just… wilt. In that moment, all you need to do is get home to bed safely, but even calling a taxi can feel impossible. See if any of your local taxi ranks offer an app, where you can book on your phone with the push of a button, just using your current location. However, always make sure you double check the location you’ve pinned on the app is right, otherwise you could end up engaged in a lengthy phone call from a confused driver regardless…
So there we have it: an introduction into the range of aids and equipment that helps me to get through the day whilst living with fatigue. This is by no means a comprehensive list, so if you have any top tips or suggestions of your own, I’d absolutely love to hear them!
This piece is kindly sponsored by CareCo Ltd [AD].
Links marked with * are affiliate links: I earn a small commission from any sales made through these links, at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions and recommendations are entirely my own!