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Accommodations and Strategies for Optimum Brain Power
going to Safeway with the bright fluorescent lights and thousands of
colored boxes of cereal is not what I call “having a good time” -- not
even with the addition of Starbucks!
As a BI person
with vestibular, vision and, oh yes, cognitive problems, just the size of
the door to Safeway is overwhelming. But there is help--we can learn new
ways to do the tasks we used to breeze through, or maybe even eliminate
some of them.
The first two
years I couldn’t even go into a store and find a box of cereal without
getting on total overload -- so I found a helpful service that for $12.00
would shop for me and bring the groceries to my kitchen. I found another
service that, for a fee, gave me a caseworker to help with physical tasks
including cleaning and organizing my home, and putting the groceries in
the cabinets. Other BI friends have also found an agency or had friends
and relatives that have helped.
You may think
that that kind of help is over the top--but I was also recovering from two
unsuccessful cervical disc surgeries. Fortunately for me, I was still
mobile-- slow, but mobile. Many times, the BI person also suffers from
physically debilitating conditions. Whether your problems are physical,
cognitive or both, using accommodations should not make anyone feel like a
section of the website will be focusing on
Accommodations. Every person with BI is
unique. Some accommodations work for one survivor, while for another the
same strategy would worsen their condition. Always check with your doctors
when you are making changes to your routine and activities. I hope some of
the accommodations will help. The sharings on this
page are ideas from many BI survivors who have found ways to make their
days a little easier.
P.S.: Many of
you have already found strategies that you could share. Please email me at
firstname.lastname@example.org so I can pass them on.
Debra Jarcho for sending in this article.
Simple Steps to Organize Each Day
Start off each day in an organized way, and you'll get more done than you
can imagine. Here are 5 simple steps.
A TO DO LIST. Make a list of the things you have to do tomorrow, the
evening before. Prioritize and organize each item in the sequence that it
should be accomplished. Consolidate similar tasks together. When you wake
up in the morning, you'll have a clear-cut guide detailing everything that
must be done.
CAREFUL OF GETTING DIVERTED. Very often, a schedule gets thrown off
track due to distraction. If you find that you constantly get off track,
get a watch with a timer and set it so it goes off every 30 minutes. Every
time it sounds, be sure you're working on what you originally said you
would. If you're not, stop what you're doing and get back on schedule.
Most distractions are not emergency situations.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE. If you have an appointment during the day, always
call to confirm before you leave your home or office. This will ensure
that the person you're meeting did not forget about the appointment. Also,
if there is going to be a long waiting time, perhaps you can do something
else first, before you leave.
OFF ITEMS AS YOU COMPLETE THEM. Every time you finish something, cross
it off your To Do List. This will give you a sense of accomplishment
throughout the day.
- DO A
FINAL CHECK. At the end of the day, take a look at your list. How many
items were you able to accomplish? Are there only 1-2 things left undone,
or many? If there were just a few undone, simply move them to tomorrow's
To Do List. If there were many undone, and you worked diligently on
everything all day, then you probably had too many things on your list to
begin with. Re-think how much you can possibly do in a given day.
Remember, you only have 24 hours, and you should be using a third of those
hours to sleep!
Maria Gracia - Get Organized Now!
Want to get organized? Get your FREE Get Organized Now! Idea-Pak, filled
with tips and ideas to help you organize your home, your office and your
life, at the Get Organized Now! Web site
Get help! Family, friends,
partners and public or private agencies can help with the daily chores
at home. After two surgeries related to my brain injury accident, I had
a local service in the Portland area, Helping Hands, come in to help
with laundry and heavy cleaning.
Pick one thing that would make your life easier and concentrate on that.
When it is finished and working you can pick something new. Each small
success helps you feel less tired and more hopeful.
Give up the image of being a perfect housekeeper and cook,
with ironed laundry and everything in its place!
SHOPPING FOR FOOD AND OTHER
Avoid large grocery stores, which leave many BI people confused, dizzy
and exhausted! Shop in small stores if you can. You may pay a few
pennies more, but it will really cut your exhaustion scale.
you need supplies from a large store, there are several options for this
chore. Some, like Safeway, offer online ordering and will deliver.
Another store in my area is Grocery Bag. You may have other
options such as friends and family or a grocery service.
Friends and family members can divvy it up between them.
Use special door-to-door public
transportation services available in most cities to people with
Generally, you need to get an
application from the public bus company and have your doctor sign it and
send it in. Some services are also available to seniors.
you qualify, you need to schedule your ride times in advance.
Expect that you may have to
wait for your return ride.
Take a snack or water with you. Sometimes there are a number of riders
taken home before you are.
or call TriMet
to find out about the services they offer.
VANCOUVER: C-Tran provides the C-VAN ParaTransit service. Call
for an application. There is rider
SALEM: call Wheels at 503-763-0953 for an application to use
Additional info is online at
IF YOU CAN DRIVE:
Consider whether you should get a handicapped
card for your car. If you have balance problems, forget where you
parked, or have trouble carrying things, this can be a godsend even when
your legs work fine. Call the DMV and they will send you an application.
Your doctor needs to sign it and it in to DMV. When you get your card,
park in handicap zone -- but DON’T FORGET TO PUT THE CARD ON MIRROR when
you park. There is a BIG FINE!
Be honest about your abilities, in general
and on a daily basis. If you are easily distracted or confused, stay off
major streets with a lot of cross-traffic. If you have trouble at higher
speeds, stay off freeways. If you have trouble with lights and signs, take
public transportation downtown instead of driving. There may be times when
you have to drive in difficult conditions, but get off the road or move to
side streets as soon as possible. It is safer and less exhausting to go
slowly than to pretend you are fine.
Don’t drive at rush hour times. I try to make
my doctors’ appointments between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. This really
helps--especially for people with difficult sleep patterns. This schedule
not only avoids traffic, but lets me sleep longer if I’ve been up all
night or take a nap in the late afternoon.
If you are having a “bad brain day,” don’t
This is the most difficult thing for me since
my injury --trying to understand a form which needs to be filled out can
totally overload my brain.
By now, if you are reading this, you may be
pretty frustrated and feel defeated.
Give up trying to do alone what you used to
do entirely by yourself. You may be able to take more control over your
financial and other paperwork later--but accept help now.
Find a patient, left-brained family member or
friend to help you get organized and break tasks down into very small
What paperwork you may have:
Real estate or
Start a system. The best I could do for the
first two years was to put all the mail in a bag on the door. Keep it all
in one place even if you can’t figure out what to do with it yet.
Call an agency that has volunteers or can
help you for a small fee
income automatically deposited.
someone to set up online banking with automatic payments for your regular
bills every month. This will take care of things like rent, mortgage, car
payments, utilities, insurance, etc. You NEVER have to worry again about
remembering to pay and mail these bills on time.
PACKING FOR TRAVELING:
Put your important identification in a purse or leather/fabric pocket that
hangs around your neck. In this put your license, passport if needed,
doctor’s card and money. This should always be with you. When you need
identification, it is always there.
Have a carry on bag or purse (small) where you have your medication, small
address book with doctors and important numbers and a small bag of
essentials-like toothbrush, comb, toiletries. Never trust that your suitcase
will end up in the same city and the same day that you do. If you have a
cell phone, take it.
Pack one small suitcase that rolls I usually check it in unless I need
another small one for legal papers.
decisions-Have a friend help you if possible:
Put all the clothes and things you want to wear on top of suitcase.
Put half of the things back in the closet.
Put all the clothes that are left in the suitcase along with other
essentials (hairdryer, shaver, gifts, etc.).
Weed out some more clothes if there isn’t enough room. Only take things you
really like to wear.
Before: Close suitcase and put it next to door with everything that that
must go with you -- the carry-on bag with your medication and other
essentials, your purse, cane, coat, etc.
the door goes with you.
TRAVELING BY PLANE:
Use a travel
agent to help you order tickets and flag them that you are handicapped.
take you to counter – you may request a wheelchair (assistance) there, or
(it goes faster and easier to check in curbside).
When you make
your flight reservations, tell them you need airport assistance. They will
have a wheelchair and/or an escort meet you at the arrival gate and take
you to your next flight, to a cab stand, or to people awaiting your
arrival. You can also ask for a wheelchair if one is not waiting for you.
(Even though my legs work fine, I am often dizzy and confused after a long
flight. Wandering around trying to read the flight boards and find my way
to the gate for a connecting flight was truly terrifying for me until I
found out about this service.)
If you are
going to a hotel, tell them that you need assistance to have your bags
taken to the room.
If you are
exhausted and hungry, see of you can order room service. You can pick
something inexpensive, and will cost the same as having to find a place to
number of your room on something you carry with you--you can also take a
card at the front desk to help you get back if you lose your way when you
If you can,
have a friend go with you or meet you at your destination-someone who
understands your disability, and who has great “adventure skills” and a
sense of humor.
Remember: You can ask a lot of people for directions and help
-- none of them will know that you already asked
10 other people before them!