How to shower with a busted hand?
February 20, 2011 8:22 PM   Subscribe

Hack my hygiene! Yesterday I fell, hard, and broke 3 fingers on my left hand. (It's now wrapped in a stiff splint, with only my index finger and thumb operative, waiting to see the doc this week). I also have large abrasions above and below my left eye. How the heck am I supposed to shower, wash my hair, &c. without use of both hands? Complications inside.

The splint is not supposed to get wet under any circumstances. I know I'm supposed to "bag it" what's the best way to do that?
The bathtub is a freestanding clawfoot with curtains all the way around, so...nothing to lean on or grab hold of. I'm a little wobbly from the fall and the Vicodin. A bath somehow seems less plausible than a shower, given all the lowering and hoisting and so on. So, give me your hygiene hacks!

How did YOU keep yourself clean and sweet when YOU broke your arm/leg/hand/face?
posted by That's Numberwang! to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Give yourself sponge baths and ask a nice friend to wash your hair in the sink for you? It seems like once your balance, etc. is improved you'll have an easier time figuring out a better way.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 8:27 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

welcome to my world. I had rotator cuff surgery 10 days ago. My right arm is in a sling that isn't coming off for the next 4 weeks (OK, I'll take it off, 'cuz it drives me nuts). I can't raise that arm from my side, sling or no sling, without ripping out internal stitches, AND there are arthroscopic wounds on the shoulder that can't get too wet.

Put a garbage bag over the hand, seal it with a rubber band. If the drugs are really necessary, have someone in the bathroom to keep ya steady, disability is not proud.

I've been able to wash my hair with one hand, brush teeth with the wrong hand, and perform necessary hygiene on the loo, although none of it is graceful, you'll figure it out! Hell, I made and ate soup today with my left hand!

Hang in there, in a day or two you'll be ambidextrous!
posted by tomswift at 8:31 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is when you find out who your real friends are. Sit in the tub on a plastic chair or milk crate and have your friend pour water over your head and wash your hair. Put your injured hand in a small trash bag secured with a rubber band or tape and hold it up and out of the way. Use your good hand to wash any areas that you feel funny about having anyone touch. Take it all really slow.

If you can't get anyone to help you, hire someone to go buy or rent a bath stool and a handheld showerhead on a long hose and put it up for you.

Then you can sit and point the water at all your parts needing to be washed. And yes, keep that bagged hand out of the way. Go slow, take your time, especially when exiting the tub. I also used a long handled scrub brush to wash the feet.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 8:35 PM on February 20, 2011

Hey, try putting a chair you don't mind getting wet next to the bath. Transfer to and from the chair. If you could get a chair to sit *in* the bath, even better I'd say. Is your shower over the bath?

I have a plastic bag with a drawstring on each end that is made for going over casts etc. I got it at the pharmacy. Before that I used a plastic bag with a knot tied in it, and the knot tucked inside the bag. If the 'seal' was no good I'd clingwrap the join. I had also tried draping a dry washcloth over the join, so it would soak up stray water sprays from the shower that may land on the join.

Somedays it was all too hard and I would use babywipes. At risk of exacerbating anything, just sponge it up until you see the doctor. You will be fine, you aren't in the ripest stink of Summer. Keep your teeth clean and you feel 50% clean. If the first week is awful, go to a hairdresser to get your hairwashed. Tackle the rest when you are steadier, and know that your hand is properly splinted.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 8:36 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your balance issues mean you must always remain seated in these wet and slippery environments. You're a bipedal ape, yes? This assumes two hands, so you should keep the injured left hand outside the tub. Now, you have the free right hand to explore for ticks, any sudden swelling of the cerebellum, and the washing of your unmentionable bits.

Choose a side when you get injured, and never attempt to shower alone. Shock is a weird drug, it's latency kills far more often than most of us grasp.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:36 PM on February 20, 2011

Plastic bag with a rubber band or two does the trick. To be more safe, extend your arm out or above your head where it won't get sprayed on. If balance is an issue, turn on the shower for a few seconds and turn it off. When the water is off, use this time time to soap up and all and you won't need to worry about getting your fingers wet. You can also use cups of water and splash those on yourself. More controlled mechanism.

For the showering process itself, do like a old folk's home: get a chair or step ladder.
posted by jmd82 at 8:38 PM on February 20, 2011

What you're looking for is called a shower sleeve. You can pick one up at any pharmacy. It will probably work better than duct tape + trash bags.
posted by ellenaim at 8:44 PM on February 20, 2011

I'm three weeks into a broken middle finger with an unwieldy splint that has to stay dry. The finger stopped hurting after a few days, so that was good as I was able to get off the pain meds. To "bag it" I first tried a small baggie, plastic wrap, and a washcloth. Eh. Then I went on vacation and by happenstance discovered that cheap plastic shower caps work like a dream. Wrap the fingers up and tuck any extra material between the fingers. Then shower away.
posted by beanie at 8:47 PM on February 20, 2011

I've had this happen a few fact, for the past week I have had limited use of my left hand due to a lovely flesh wound. Anyway, you'll just clumsily manage for awhile. You'll get better at using the hand you do have.

If you want to create a lather with soap, pour it onto your forearm and rub with your available hand. Gather suds from your arm and apply where needed. You can also bring a cup with you into the shower, pour the soap/shampoo into it and let the water from the shower head create a soapy lather for you that you can then pour onto your body/head.
posted by DeltaForce at 9:03 PM on February 20, 2011

Put splinted hand in plastic bag.

Sit on chair/milkcrate as advised above.

Fill jug / large bike bottle with water. Pour water on hair with good hand. Refill jug.

Squirt shampoo on head with good hand. Put shampoo down. Later with good hand.

Rinse hair with jug.
posted by zippy at 9:30 PM on February 20, 2011

posted by zippy at 9:31 PM on February 20, 2011

Stretchable cast covers freed me from six weeks of sponge-baths when my arm was pinned up. The trick is to let gravity do most of the work: if you can keep your arm over your head, almost anything will work. (If your shoulder is injured so that you can't do this, you'll still need to keep some rubber bands handy, as they don't make a perfect seal, but they're still much easier to use one-handed than garbage bags.)
posted by marakesh at 9:40 PM on February 20, 2011

I've broken wrist, thumb, and ankle 2 times. I used garbage bags and tape and had a folding chair at first so I didn't have to stand on one leg. After a couple months in a firberglass leg cast I just stood on one leg and hung on to the shower curtain rod and held my leg out of the way as best I could. That thing reeked.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:46 PM on February 20, 2011

I had a splint on my (left, dominant) hand after having a cyst removed - from the base of my fingers to just about halfway up my forearm, for four weeks. (Our shower is also one with a curtain surround all the way around, so I was in sort of the same boat as you. On the other hand, I didn't really need that much medication so I wasn't as woozy. So I'll just go with what I did.)

To bag it, I used a bread bag and a very sturdy rubberband, and tried to keep it as much out of the way of the waterflow as possible. Washing my hair was a pain, but I sort of mashed the shampoo into my hair with the bag and relied on my right hand to do most of the work.
posted by Lucinda at 9:47 PM on February 20, 2011

Agreed - find out who your friends are. Someone should be willing to at least help you tape yourself up for the shower - broken bones are a pretty good excuse.

If you feel particularly icky in terms of a shampoo, you can probably go to a local salon and have them wash your hair once or twice during the week. I would expect it to have some associated cost - I do not know what it would be. And you can probably go to the most convenient salon, not whatever expensive place you might usually go to. I suspect that after the first couple of weeks, you'll have showering worked out well enough that you won't need help anymore.
posted by maryr at 9:52 PM on February 20, 2011

Oh, and the pitcher idea to help rinse your hair is also spot on.
posted by maryr at 9:53 PM on February 20, 2011

Make sure you don't get so overzealous about sealing the bag that you cut off circulation. It'd be safer to put a few turns of sticky tape over the join, overlapping well on both sides, rather than try to get the bag to cinch tightly around your wrist. If you must do the second, at least use a transparent bag and do a nailbed capillary refill test after a minute or two (and occasionally afterward).

The chair and assistant aren't really necessary if you can kneel in the tub, run water out the tap and use a cup to rinse. I had to do that for a few weeks when I had a cast and it worked out fine.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:53 PM on February 20, 2011

Garbage bags + tape over your splint will do the job in terms of keeping the splint dry. It got me through many an injury that required a plaster cast back in the days before waterproof casts. (Side note: If your doctor decides you need a cast, make sure you get a waterproof one. They make them and they are awesome. And if you do get a cast, go buy some canned air with the little red straws for itching.)

I wouldn't rule out baths, as standing in a shower is pretty treacherous when you're woozy and without balance. At least with a bath you can get in before you fill it up and everything's wet, then sit in it until you feel ready to get up. Make sure you have some sort of grippy bath mat inside the tub; even if you have one now might be a good time to replace it. Also have a good rug outside the tub that has a grippy bottom so it doesn't fly out from under you when you step out.

Until you get off the Vicodin and feel comfortable showering, you probably want to have somebody around in case you fall. Find a willing friend that will come over and watch TV or read a book while you shower.

If you're sensitive about getting soap in your eyes you can hold a washcloth over your eyes with your splinted hand while you wash shampoo out of your hair. A loofah or bath sponge + liquid body soap are also important investments: you can hold/balance the sponge with your bagged hand while you pour soap on it and then go from there. Make sure you get bottles you can open easily with one hand.
posted by lilac girl at 10:32 PM on February 20, 2011

I love you guys. Seriously. It's not just the vicodin talking.

Thanks for all the great ideas. And thank goodness I have a husband to help me out.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 10:38 PM on February 20, 2011

My small piece of advice, as obvious as it may seem, is to take everything veeerrrrry slooowwwwlllly. I had a severely separated shoulder which made me not be able to reach for anything for weeks, and I discovered that my instincts are much stronger than my conscious ability to avoid pain. I'd reach for something (the shampoo, for instance) simply out of habit and daggers of hot pain would remind me not to.

The point is, once I forced myself to simply slow everything down and be conscious of every movement, I stopped hurting myself accidentally. All the normal things you do in the shower/tub, slow them down by a factor of several. It'll really help.
posted by ORthey at 10:40 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

My mom had carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists at the same time. In addition to the wonderful advice offered above... if you are not accustomed to *ahem* wiping with the hand you have free, flushable wet wipes (made by Charmin and Cottonelle) helped her out a lot.

a humble nudibranch: " If you can't get anyone to help you, hire someone to go buy or rent a bath stool and a handheld showerhead on a long hose and put it up for you."

You don't HAVE to buy a bath stool - some of them are expensive. When I sprained my ankle badly at 20, my mom bought an anti-skid bathmat and a regular metal outdoor (waterproof/resistant) folding chair. She helped me lean back into it and pulled me up out of it and it never budged. (Warm it up with water from the handheld showerhead first.)
posted by IndigoRain at 1:28 AM on February 21, 2011

You can usually RENT bath stools from (well-intentioned but somewhat creepy) medical supply places. For a pittance.

And just to add to the above: I bet it would cost $5-10 to get your hair washed at a salon. Possibly worth it.
posted by kestrel251 at 8:44 AM on February 21, 2011

I had a severely broken hand a few years ago and realized it was easier to just get a shampoo at the salon twice a week. If you go to a Haircuttery or something similar, it won't cost more than 6-7 bucks. They see this frequently.
posted by melodykramer at 10:23 AM on February 21, 2011

You could also try using a dry shampoo. Nice and easy spray over your head to keep you looking fresh in between days when you need a friend to help.
posted by whitneyarner at 12:24 PM on February 21, 2011

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