Things to do when face down for a LONG time?
January 18, 2010 5:22 PM   Subscribe

My mother is scheduled for her second surgery for a macular hole in her eye. Recovery includes up to two weeks keeping her face down - which means lying on her bed with her face in a frame off the side of the bed 24 hours a day, with only brief breaks to use the bathroom. She's dreading it even more this time around after being miserable the last time. I live far away, and would like to get her something to help the time pass or make her more comfortable. Last time I got her a body pillow. My dad will be there to get her meals, etc., but having something to do other than listen to the radio or CDs would make a difference. I'm hoping you can come up with some creative ideas.
posted by Sukey Says to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You know her tastes best, but I really, really recommend audio books. (Check out When she was confined to bed in the hospital, my mom also appreciated having me and other families read to her. And we listened together to Garrison Keilor and that was fun as well -- but you could pick any entertaining humorist who appeals to your mom.
posted by bearwife at 5:25 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Books on tape? Of course, they're not really on tape, but when I had an eye issue and couldn't do or see anything, my son downloaded books from our local library to my mobile phone. It made a huge difference.
posted by b33j at 5:27 PM on January 18, 2010

Won't she be able to see out of her other eye? If the face frame has no hole to see out of, maybe she can use the style that's on massage tables, or have the frame modified. (Check with the doc first, of course) It would greatly expand her options.
posted by yohko at 5:30 PM on January 18, 2010

Since she's already in the right position, could you find a massage therapist that makes house calls? That might make her feel better.

Nthing the books on tape/Audio book idea. A good book can make the time really fly.

Can she see out of the other eye, or will she be blind the whole time? What are her hobbies and interests normally? A little more information would help us come up with other ideas.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:32 PM on January 18, 2010

Best answer: What about learning another language? There are many podcasts and language lessons just for conversation - no reading/writing necessary. Could be a great way to pass one or two hours a day!
posted by barnone at 5:33 PM on January 18, 2010

Response by poster: She will be able to see out of the other eye, but because she had surgery on that eye before with imperfect results and because her dominant eye is the one now being repaired, she won't be able to read or look at a monitor or tv very much. She does like to read so audio books are an option, but she wasn't crazy about them last time. Her other sedentary interests include knitting, computer solitaire, talking/writing to friends, baking.
posted by Sukey Says at 5:40 PM on January 18, 2010

Yeah, I read the question assuming she would still have partial vision so my first thought was some type of handheld video game. One where spatial perception was not an issue, like those little blackjack/poker games.

I like the books on tape idea a lot.

When I am confined to a bed I love to watch my favorite movies. Ones I've seen a million times and probably wouldn't need to actually watch because I know them so well. Maybe you could buy a few of her favorites on dvd.
posted by a.steele at 5:44 PM on January 18, 2010

if she knits, i would get her some super chunky luxury yarn (think cashmere or alpaca). an experienced knitter won't need to see very well to knit something simple, but having something soft and fuzzy to hold, as well as something to do with her hands, might help.
can she talk to people on a headset or speakerphone?
posted by genmonster at 5:44 PM on January 18, 2010

How about some old-time radio shows to listen to? A bit more like TV than an audio book, perhaps.

Google and you'll turn up quite a few sites with free mp3s.
posted by divka at 5:51 PM on January 18, 2010

Response by poster: Yes, she'll be able to talk and I'm sure friends will call, so a headset or speakerphone is a good idea. And while she could probably knit blind, I'm not so sure she can do it lying facedown - I don't know if her arms could hang off the side of the bed comfortably.

Thanks for the ideas so far.
posted by Sukey Says at 5:54 PM on January 18, 2010

Best answer: I had a similar recovery for eye surgery last summer, and the doctor prescribed me Valium. It helped immensely. I slept a lot. I also arranged my laptop on the floor so I could watch it without much difficulty. It was right in front of my face and the screen's small enough that I could watch without a lot of eye movement. I loaded it up with "comfort TV", like a couple seasons of Buffy or something that I've seen a million times, kept me entertained, and wasn't essential to look at anyway since I was pretty familiar with it.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 5:55 PM on January 18, 2010

Maybe you could also send a couple of gourmet baskets of cheese and crackers and so forth so that she can easily invite friends over to entertain her and she can entertain them by having a gourmet basket on hand that your dad can easily put out on plates.

Also maybe a new baking cookbook that your dad/friends/someone can flip through and read recipes to her for her to think about making when she's better.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:00 PM on January 18, 2010

Is this a good time for her to tape record some family stories? StoryCorps style perhaps?
posted by shothotbot at 6:03 PM on January 18, 2010

Best answer: This American Life. StoryCorps stories are great for an older generation - full of emotion and often quite evocative of people, place, sights, scents, and different times.

Guided meditation. One example.

Maybe you can find podcasts or audiobooks relating to her other hobbies (or a friend to come over to read a bit each day).
- Cooking - try Julia Child's autobiography, My Life in France
- Knitting Memoir, e.g. Nora Murphy or Knitting Lessons
- Cast-on, some kind of knitting podcast. Here's another.
- baking podcast

You could also get her a microphone and recorder, or set up the computer, to record her talking. There are fairly cheap transcriptionists out there - your father could email the soundfile and have it transcribed into letters to friends or old family members.

Or she could tell family stories and record bits of family information that way too. You could ask her one question a day - about your birth, your childhood, her childhood, meeting her husband, ideas of where she'd like to go on vacation, or the funniest story from her childhood, or her favourite dress/pet/recipe, etc. Something simple so it takes about 30 minutes to explain.

The key might be breaking up the day. Not that she needs to set a schedule, but an option to rotate through a few options once she's awake and ready to engage a bit.
- one hour, listen to news
- 20 mins, phone call
- one hour, podcast on good theme,
- 30 mins, tell a story
- lunch/break/nap
- 20 mins, write a letter
- one hour, listen to book

Don't forget the other senses too. Scent can be quite powerful. So can taste - maybe she can have one new candy or food each day. Maybe you can look into a leg/foot/arm masseuse, or reflexology. It can feel AMAZING to be touched like that, especially if she's otherwise immobile. But everyone's different, and she might not like it, so talk to her first. Good luck.
posted by barnone at 6:13 PM on January 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

You could download some knitting podcasts.
posted by ljesse at 6:55 PM on January 18, 2010

like everyone's saying - audiobooks - whenever I'm not feeling well they make it sooo much better
you can download a lot of the classics for free from librivox
can you have a laptop set up for her where she can see/reach it? she could then choose/download/play her own books
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:57 PM on January 18, 2010

BBC dramatizations of classic books? There are some great ones out there--June Whitfield as Miss Marple, Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter Wimsey, etc.

And BBC has put out some great original series on CD, too: "Ladies of Letters" with Prunella Scales and Patricia Routledge, and "Inspector Steyne" by Lynne Truss are two I've enjoyed.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:22 PM on January 18, 2010

Yeah, when I had to spend nine days in the hospital on the "don't move" plan post-accident, and later six days staying upright the entire time for scleral buckle recovery, the only things I wanted were the BBC World Service, sleep, and serious pain medication. I don't know how I'd've done two weeks without, say, an iPod full of podcasts on shuffle so I didn't have to fuck with it while I was conscious.

How much movement are they allowing her in terms of "physical exercises to do while lying face down?" Check with her doctor-- would they permit a massage therapist to visit and give her a gentle massage? If that's something she would like, I'd consider it money well-spent.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 7:27 PM on January 18, 2010

if she likes solitaire, then what about setting up a laptop as close as possible so she can play some other simple games? i can waste a lot of time playing bejeweled, mahjong tiles, breakout, tetris etc. all are addicting.
posted by buka at 7:30 PM on January 18, 2010

a lot of TV shows are actually fine to just listen to, perhaps with an occasional peek at the screen to see what a new character looks like. Could you set up a laptop with a really addictive show? One show that relies more on words than on visual impact is the West Wing, which would take 110 hours to "watch". Grey's Anatomy isn't bad either-- lots of noise and chatter. You can rent those on DVD, but it might be easier on her if you download them (legally or illegally).

If she can use her hands a little bit, then I would buy a rubik's cube and transform it into a blind rubik's cube with the addition of various material, such as fabric like velvet or terrycloth. That will let her keep her mind sharp!
posted by acidic at 7:56 PM on January 18, 2010

I dunno what she should do but if I was her partner, I'd take the opportunity to perform some chin puppetry lipsyncing in front of my captive audience.
posted by chairface at 8:37 PM on January 18, 2010

I don't know if her arms could hang off the side of the bed comfortably.

Get a second, narrow bed or table that she can switch to on the bathroom breaks. Maybe a massage table?

If there is a particular type of monitor, or a larger monitor, that will be easier for her to view, get her that along with a stand that will let it tip to a good viewing angle.

She might like a trackball mouse for playing solitaire, she can probably use it without her arm dangling if there is a platform for it near her ear. If she has limited arm movement due to her position it will be much easier to use.
posted by yohko at 9:31 PM on January 18, 2010

Does it have to be a bed the whole time? Maybe some kind of narrower bed, up off the floor on legs, so her hands could dangle and touch below it, might be fun for an hour or so a day- she could knit or do a jigsaw puzzle on a platform under the bed, or something. How about looking into renting a narrow massage table that she could knit under for a couple hours a day?
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:09 PM on January 18, 2010

Also, a laptop webcam and videochat under the face part would pass the time way better! I vidchat all the time when I'm puttering around my apartment- I don't stay in front of the webcam, I use it more like an interactive speakerphone and wander around, do stuff, chat out loud, come back to say hi, etc. That way you or other friends can be on the line with her gabbing but not sitting there staring at the screen all day.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:11 PM on January 18, 2010

Get her a speakerphone, position it near her mouth, and use a free audioconferencing service to set up conference calls at specific times with a bunch of friends on specific topics. Kind of like an audio "social".
posted by supremefiction at 10:48 PM on January 18, 2010

Get her a hamster and for a certain interval daily put the cage where she can watch the hamster play.
posted by supremefiction at 10:50 PM on January 18, 2010

This may or may not be an intensely stupid idea, but it's the first thing that came to me -- behind-the-back knot-tying! While lying facedown, can she clasp her hands together behind her back (nothing fancy, just fingers touching)? Get her some smooth, 3-ply cotton or other soft rope, about 1/2" diameter*. Cut a few pieces 2-3' long and bind the ends with electrical tape so they don't unravel. Obtain a copy of Hervey Garrett Smith's 'The Marlinspike Sailor', which has the clearest directions and pretty big pictures. (And cannot be used to kill a horse, like the Ashley book, which is really the bible of knot-tying.) Either she can study it a bit now, or, if she can peek at it (or have her hands guided by a helper?) it can be a recovery-only thing. Behind-the-back knot-tying is just difficult enough to keep you thinking, but still relatively easy, and might soothe the 'must work with hands!' bug from knitting.

Once she gets good, have races for tying different knots or something :)

*actually, thinking about some of the knots possible, get some rather small, smooth cord as well. Any marine supplier will have gobs of stuff to choose from. For that matter, your local hardware store probably will too.
posted by kalimac at 11:35 PM on January 18, 2010

Best answer: Here is a site that rents vitrectomy recovery equipment. I have no idea how much it is, but maybe insurance would help cover it. There is also something called an "economy package" that allows you to sit up while face down and neat prism glasses that allow you to see straight ahead while facing down.

How about an assortment of her favorite foods to try each day, like a different flavored coffee each day. Also, maybe some stand-up comedy on DVD. It doesn't really need to be seen and might help lighten the mood. Wish her the best!
posted by defreckled at 4:44 AM on January 19, 2010

Also, you could rig up a system of mirrors so she can see people when they are sitting in a particular chair speaking to her. Or a vista out the window or something.

As far as the audiobooks idea, this would be the time to tackle something very long that you might not otherwise listen to, so you look forward to the next installment. Something like Leaves of Grass, the New Testament, Moby Dick, de gustibus.
posted by supremefiction at 5:18 AM on January 19, 2010

Record books for the blind. Let the time serve others, get some perspective on life's challenges.
posted by eccnineten at 6:27 AM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When my mom was having her retinas re-attached two separate times and had similar recovery situations, I called her almost every night about the time my dad went to bed. We had a general chitchat, here's how my day went, here's what the kids did, here's some bit of trivia conversation.

She was in the same place of having to hold her head a certain way for the healing time. She wasn't required to have a frame, just to use pillows or her own stubbornness to hold her head at the required angle.

Calling her at about the same time every night ended up being one of the best things I could do for her. After our chats, she found it easier to go to bed. If she was up later, she could sleep later and not have as much boredom until dad got home. We're both night owls, so sometimes we'd listen to Craig Ferguson together and laugh.

I offered my mom audiobooks and an mp3 player, but she wasn't interested. If you're mom is, is a wonderful source.

I hope your mom is better soon. I know it's scary. Our moms are tough ladies!
posted by lilywing13 at 1:37 AM on January 20, 2010

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