Care package post shoulder surgery
September 19, 2017 8:25 AM   Subscribe

A good friend, who is normally a very active person, is about to get her shoulder operated on and will essentially be one-armed for the next few months. A group of her friends, including me, are getting together to send her a care package to help her make it through this time.

What I'd like from the hive-mind are some good ideas about what to put in it. Have you gone through something like this? What helped or would have helped you?
posted by overhauser to Grab Bag (15 answers total)
Is it her dominant arm?

When I had surgery on my (non-dominant) shoulder a few years ago, the hardest part for me was finding a comfortable position for sleeping, so something that might help with that (I never found anything, alas) would be a good choice.
posted by Lucinda at 9:05 AM on September 19

I just broke my arm and I'm still going through this. A pair of kitchen tongs was the best thing I purchased, hands down. Before they showed up, if I dropped something on the floor, that thing was a goner. I couldn't even effectively fasten my own stabilizer thing without them.

The other best things to me as a woman were stretchy cotton strapless dresses, which i could pull on up over my waist. Patagonia's Kamala dresses are great (no bra though), and Uniqlo had some maxi dresses that had built in bras that are perfect for when I have to leave the house. Oh and relatedly, sandals/Toms that can be slipped on with zero hand involvement. If it's cooler, a gigantic gigantic hooded sweatshirt that involves little dexterity to put on is the only jacket type thing I've been able to wear all month.

Your friend won't be able to use a knife or easily wash dishes (sans dishwasher), so a freezer full of Trader Joe's meals as well as boxes of cereal are what I've been eating for the last month.

If there's anyone in the same city as your friend, stopping over to help with stupid little life things is amazing. I am constantly discovering everyday things I cannot do: put my hair up, take out the trash, break down Amazon boxes, tie my shoes, put something on the top shelf, etc. I am keeping a list of them for when someone happens to come by.

Other misc thoughts: gift cards/etc for digital entertainment (I usually spent much more time outdoors/out at live entertainment) but maybe not Kindle books cuz holding my Kindle was tiring. Offers to catch up via Skype or phone (texting got tiring and people didn't seem to understand that.) The biggest sized bottle of Advil you can find. Lyft credit for getting to/from appointments.

Not a gift but a nice tip: the built in dictation in newer(?) Macs was wonderful, otherwise typing was a one handed slog.

if you care for intensely detailed clothing thoughts, here's my own stressed out previously. I didn't buy the zipper puller - went with tongs instead - but that would be an easy thing to give your friend. I put a variety of the clothing suggestions to good use, but no specific gift package type ideas beyond the dresses I mention above.

On preview: I like the sleeping-related suggestion. I didn't buy anything, but I pondered a body pillow for the first few weeks (to keep from turning over in sleep) and I just learned from PT the other day that putting a towel or very thin pillow under my affected arm was much more comfortable.
posted by soleiluna at 9:12 AM on September 19 [1 favorite]

Pump tops that can be screwed into existing (shampoo, soap, etc.) bottles - that's what my mom found most helpful after her shoulder surgery.
posted by okayokayigive at 9:16 AM on September 19 [1 favorite]

A one-handed belt.
posted by ShooBoo at 9:22 AM on September 19 [1 favorite]

If the surgery is going to be outpatient and if medically permitted she may want to don a tube top before and keep it on during the surgery. That will obviate any modesty issues right after the surgery and it won't be necessary to put on any kind of top with sleeves and buttons to go home.
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:49 AM on September 19 [1 favorite]

I found bars of soap far easier to 'make sudsy' than liquid soap during my one-handedness (it involved some strange hand motions to make the bar spin and spin in my hands...). This is probably not universal.

Easy-fasten/easy open bags. Getting into my purse sucked.

This is dependent on her bra habits, but: a bra that has a smooth band so it can be fastened at the front and spun around without giving her a rash. Alternatively, a gift card to a place like Old Navy which has both comfortable clothes and plausible bras.

Easy-open bottles for pills (for prescription pills, make sure to ask the pharmacist for easy-open bottles). I found many types of childproof bottles impossible.

Soft foods (yogurt) or packaged food (granola bars, fig newtons, etc.). Easy to eat, easy to clean.

Paper towels. My go-to for dealing with solid food that needed to be chucked was "put container upside down on paper towel. Lift. Gather and chuck paper towel."
posted by flibbertigibbet at 10:00 AM on September 19

I had this, and I found that Silhouettes stretch dresses with sleeves and a shelf bra were the way to go, the arm need support to keep from swelling, and it should be covered to keep the arm brace she has to wear, clean for six weeks or so. She will have a continuous cold water circulation cuff for her shoulder and it is necessary to keep her skin covered from that as well. I had a tight stretch top with a shelf bra that I wore for the first four days after surgery. Somethingsupportive, like a ted hose for the hurt arm is good. Sleeping on a couch, with the injured side to the back of the couch was great. I just had to get good pillows for the couch arm. Anything to support the shoulder. The neck starts to hurt from the accommodations for the injury.
posted by Oyéah at 10:06 AM on September 19

I broke my wrist badly last year and my shoulder a few years ago, and here's a few things I appreciated while I was going nuts - her surgery and her needs will obviously vary:
- a firm pillow for elevating when needed
- food like fresh vegetables and salads that I could not remotely make for myself
- a means to cover my cast while showering (in my case, a bin bag, but there are commercial options)
- vest tops I could wear for checkups
- an adjustable cotton sling (mostly for visibility while I was out in public - I was encouraged to move as normal as much as possible, I just didn't want to be thumped in a crowd)
- a really loose hoodie I could wear at home when cold, without distorting myself to get into it - I cut the arm off another to make it work for this too
- standard luxuries - a scented candle, a good rich lotion for around my cast (actually the Lush lemon cuticle butter)
- proper hair washing (could you send her to a salon for a blowout, if nobody can help locally?)
- Stardew Valley, to keep me amused while listening to audiobooks
- my Audible subscription, since my mind was climbing the walls
- a wireless keyboard/touchpad so I could use a computer in whatever odd position worked for me - initially my phone was my primary device since it was one-handed, though

I wasn't allowed to do anything more active than walking, which drove me crazy. Tolerance from friends and family willing to just tell me stories and keep in touch were the best.
posted by carbide at 10:12 AM on September 19

A single handed cutting board. When I had broken my arm, that was one of the hardest things: spreading butter on a slice of bread. The slice kept sliding off the plate or board, and off the table. This simple device looks like a great fix.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:42 AM on September 19

Gift card to a salon for a shampoo (and scalp massage).
posted by porpoise at 10:44 AM on September 19 [1 favorite]

Dislocated and broke my shoulder in May! I want to second those who suggested giving services, rather than items. There wasn't too much in the way of physical goods that would have really helped me, but having someone come over and clean/do dishes, etc., was a lifesaver. [Though I will say that disposable plates/cups/cutlery make life easier.]

So yeah, the services of a house cleaner or a salon (shampooing your hair is quite a challenge with one hand!) would be really valuable. Or just offering for one of you to come by once a week to help her clean and straighten up would be nice, too.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 10:54 AM on September 19

In addition to the kitchen tongs, get a "Nifty Nabber." That's the brand name, and hardware stores have them. It's what they use to get stuff off high shelves.

I strongly recommend a fishing/photography/cargo vest! In addition to the ability to keep phone, tissues, what-have-you at hand, it could eliminate the need for a bra. Travelsmith has one that is not too "expeditionary" looking.

I also recommend a ruana or cape -- no sleeves to mess with.
posted by jgirl at 11:00 AM on September 19

a shawl or wrap with pockets! easier than a sweater or hoodie, less unwieldy than wrapping up in a throw or snuggie, and pockets. POCKETS. pockets will be like gold.

i shattered a clavicle and found the only way i could sleep was in a recliner, so if your friend does not have a comfortable chair, that might be something to consider acquiring. i lived in that recliner for weeks.
posted by halation at 12:54 PM on September 19

A wine bottle or beer opener you can do with one hand. I can remember sitting on the floor trying to hold a bottle between my feet . . .

A kitchen garbage can with a lid that opens with your foot.
posted by ITravelMontana at 7:58 PM on September 19

Thanks everyone! While all of the answers were good, I marked the ones that we ended up buying as the best answers.
posted by overhauser at 3:53 PM on September 23

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