How can someone with paralysis transition back to activities of daily living?

man smiling in wheel chair

Paralysis is the inability to control voluntary movements. It can be a life-altering condition, with a significant impact on your movement, sensation and ability to perform daily routines. However, it doesn’t have to define your future. With dedication, support and the right tools, people with paralysis can regain their independence and live fulfilling lives. Paralysis can happen due to a number of causes including:

Rehabilitation: Building strength and skills

Rehabilitation is the cornerstone of helping you regain independence after paralysis. Your healthcare team, including doctors, physical therapists, speech therapists, and occupational therapists, will develop a personalized plan tailored to your specific needs and goals. Things you can expect during rehabilitation include:

  • Physical therapy — Physical therapy focuses on helping you rebuild your strength, improve coordination and regain control over movement. Your physical therapist will guide you through exercises to improve your muscle function, balance and mobility.
  • Occupational therapy — Occupational therapy can teach you how to adapt daily activities to your abilities. Your occupational therapist may recommend assistive devices like grabbers or adaptive utensils, or help you find techniques for dressing, bathing and transferring with greater ease.
  • Pain management — Chronic pain can be a challenge. Your doctor can create a pain management plan to help you manage discomfort and help ensure that you can actively participate in therapies. 
  • Speech therapy — If paralysis affects your ability to speak or swallow, speech therapy may be added to your treatment plan. Speech therapy can help you regain communication skills and learn safe swallowing practices. 

Creating an accessible space at home

Your home environment should be a safe and supportive environment that helps foster independence. Some beneficial adjustments include:

  • Installing grab bars in bathrooms
  • Widening doorways to accommodate a wheelchair or walker
  • Lowering countertops for easier access
  • Exploring voice-activated assistants for lights, thermostats and appliances

Your physical or occupational therapists can assess your needs and recommend assistive devices to boost safety and simplify daily tasks within your home. These assistive devices may include:

  • Ramps
  • Shower chairs 
  • Specialized furniture 

Prioritizing mental and emotional well-being

Adjusting to life after paralysis can be emotionally challenging. Some strategies to help you prioritize your mental health include:

  • Seek counseling — Don’t hesitate to talk to a therapist or a counselor. They can help you address any anxieties and negative emotional hurdles and help you develop healthy coping mechanisms to promote a healthy, positive outlook. 
  • Join support groups — Connecting with others who are going through similar experiences can be incredibly helpful. Sharing stories, offering support and learning from each other can provide you with a sense of community and inspire motivation. Ability KC offers many group therapy sessions as part of an individual’s therapy plan.

Setting goals and celebrating progress

The road to regaining your independence is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s important to stay motivated even if you experience setbacks. Here’s how you can stay motivated:

  • Start small and celebrate big — Break down your daily tasks into smaller, achievable goals. Celebrate each accomplishment, no matter how small. Accomplishing small wins can help build your confidence and keep you motivated. 
  • Focus on ability — It can be easy to only dwell on the abilities you’ve lost. Shift your mindset to focus on what you can do. A more positive attitude can empower you to find solutions and overcome challenges. 
  • Be patient and persistent — Recovery takes time and dedication. Don’t get discouraged when you experience setbacks. Every challenge can be an opportunity to learn and grow. Embrace your journey, celebrate your progress and stay committed to achieving your goals. 

Redefining how you do more with instrumental activities of daily living

Beyond basic self-care, daily life includes more complex tasks. These more complex tasks are called instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). Some of these IADLs may now require adaptations like assistive technologies to continue the transition back to activities of daily living.

Driving IADL adaptations can include:

  • Adaptive driving equipment — You can explore adaptive driving equipment like hand controls, steering wheel knobs and pedal extensions. These are adaptations to help you safely operate a vehicle.
  • Driver rehabilitation program — A driver rehabilitation program can help you learn adaptive driving techniques and regain confidence behind the wheel. These programs can provide assessments, training and vehicle modifications tailored to your needs.
  • Accessible vehicles — Accessible vans equipped with wheelchair ramps or lifts, hand controls, and other modifications can provide a convenient transportation option.

Laundry IADL adaptations can include:

  • Accessible laundry equipment — Front-loading washers and dryers placed at an accommodating height can make laundry tasks easier.
  • Assistive devices — Tools like long-handled reachers, grabbers and sock aids can help with reaching, grasping and handling laundry.
  • Organizational systems — Using organizational systems like labeled bins or baskets for sorting different types of clothes or laundry can help streamline the process.

Grocery shopping IADL adaptations can include:

  • Online shopping — Using online grocery delivery services or curbside pickup can provide you additional ways to shop for groceries.
  • Assistance from caregivers — Having a caregiver go with you to the grocery store can give you help navigating aisles, reaching items and loading groceries into the car.
  • Accessible shopping carts — Some grocery stores offer accessible shopping carts designed for people with mobility impairments. These can feature lower shelves for easier access to items and handrails for support. 

By incorporating the steps to transition back to activities of daily living in addition to adaptations to IADLs, you can make a smoother transition and regain independence. Finding the right combination of adaptive strategies, technologies, rehabilitation and support can further your independence and help you lead fulfilling lives. 

Reclaim your potential with Ability KC

The road to regaining independence after paralysis can be intimidating, but you don’t have to travel it alone. At Ability KC, we have a 75-plus-year legacy of helping to empower people with the tools and skills they need to regain their independence. Our team of passionate, highly qualified professionals can provide you with personalized treatment plans, access to assistive technologies and unwavering support throughout your journey. Together, we can work to overcome challenges and help you reach your full potential on your path toward a more independent and fulfilling life.

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.