Help! I Can't Get Up

Assistive Devices Can Help When Arthritis Interferes With Basic Human Needs

Man fell down stairs.
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Remember the television commercial with the elderly women who fell and couldn't get back up? The phrase she shouted out with angst, "Help I can't get up!", became the butt of a fair share of jokes. People who joked weren't being mean, but they couldn't fathom being in that predicament. It seemed unreal -- especially to people who don't know what it's like to live with physical limitations or disability.

It's the ultimate sinking feeling when it happens! Can there be anything that would be more embarrassing or humiliating? You sit down on the toilet and then can't get back up. Immediately, you feel helpless. You're trapped. You may have joint pain or lost strength due to arthritis. The legs you depend on to carry you through life have failed. It probably should not come as a complete surprise. Likely you have felt the strength diminishing in your feet, ankles, legs, or back. Perhaps you have had slight difficulty rising from the toilet before or rising from a chair. Having difficulty is one thing, but being trapped is another!

Despite the severity of your arthritic condition, denial can trick you into thinking you could never be caught in such a predicament. It seems like one of those situations that only happens to other people. Not true!

  • One of our readers wrote, "I have gotten stuck on the toilet more times than I can recall. This was particularly embarrassing when it was 3 o'clock in the morning and there was no one awake to listen to me cry. My mom finally had a grab bar installed on the wall directly across from the toilet. This has helped me enormously. Otherwise, I might still be sitting there."

    While specially designed assistive devices, such as raised toilet seats, grab bars, and power lift chairs can solve the problem in your home, what about when you go out? In public places, handicapped restrooms are available. Don't walk past the handicapped restroom as if it's not for you. If you need it, use it.

    Tuck your pride away.

    • Another of our readers recalled, "I was in a public restroom once, and yelled for my best friend to help me. There we were, her pulling me up off the toilet, and of course, the stall door is open because we both don't fit in there. As we laughed hysterically, the look on the other women's faces was priceless! One woman grabbed her little girl and actually ran out of there. I guess they thought we were crazy. Since then, I have started using the handicapped toilets in public restrooms."

    Foresight and preparedness are quite possibly the only way to avoid being trapped and unable to get up. Be wise and don't ignore your needs. Purchase and utilize assistive equipment. Have a back up plan if you will be in unfamiliar territory, If you will be traveling somewhere that may not have a handicapped toilet, you may need to pack your portable raised toilet seat. You may need to take an extra 4 inch cushion to raise yourself up on regular furniture. Don't take anything for granted. Be mindful of your needs and prepare.

    More food for thought for those who live alone and have physical limitations -- consider a medical alert system for your home. There are many options. Here is a Consumer Reports article on medical alert systems.

    If you think you are too young for a medical alert system -- it's not about age, it's about need and safety.

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