Washing Under Your Unaffected Arm

Here was my challenge: when bathing, how to wash under my “good” arm considering I cannot use my affected arm and hand?



Post-stroke 101, welcome to my world. That is exactly how I felt on January 20, 1995, the day I was released from the rehab hospital after suffering a life-altering stroke. I had suddenly, and without perceptible warning, become a stranger in the strange land that my body had become in an instant three weeks before. Friday I had gone to work. Sunday, two minutes after the New Year, I was on my way to the hospital with an obvious diagnosis — stroke.

That first day home, I became immediately — and frustratingly — aware that there were many things that no one had told me about living life one-handed in a two-handed world. Granted, if you haven’t lived it, it’s nearly impossible to fully comprehend the challenges one faces on a daily basis. So, providing a survivor who has the use of only one hand workable solutions for all the challenges we are likely to encounter, before the fact, is nearly impossible. Then, of course, there are the more personal issues one may not be comfortable asking about. I’m a bit on the shy side and had difficulty asking and then discussing with my occupational therapist how to put a bra on. Okay, that turned out to be a fairly easy one — put it on over your head.

What I’m leading up to here as my first one-handed tip is at once simple and complicated, the sort of question one may not think or wish to put to an OT. Here was my challenge: when bathing, how to wash under my “good” arm considering I cannot use my affected arm and hand?

This is how I solved the problem, and I hope it allows one less embarrassing question to be asked by some shy survivor.

TWO SOLUTIONS

My first solution is to get a small, clean spray bottle. They are easy to find in the cosmetics, hair or travel accessory sections at drugstores and grocery stores. Rinse the bottle and fill it with anti-bacterial liquid soap. The soap needs to be less “creamy” and more the consistency of water. I use Hibiclens® , but there are others. When I’m in the shower, I hold the bottle in my good hand, reaching over the top of the bottle, so my thumb is in position to operate the trigger; I raise my arm slightly, aim the nozzle under my arm and spray. I let the liquid remain a couple of minutes and then rinse thoroughly.

Here is an alternate approach: Take a washcloth into the shower with you. Get it all wet and soapy. Hold it in with your functional hand. Raise your arm slightly and, while keeping a firm grip on the end of the washcloth, fling the loose end under your arm and capture it there by quickly lowering your arm. This may take some practice, but once captured, gently pull the washcloth out from under your arm. Repeat several times and rinse thoroughly.

There you have it. A bit personal and, I hope, helpful.

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To wash under her unaffected arm, Rosanna uses a spray bottle filled with liquid soap, holding it on top and using her thumb to operate the trigger.

For more tips on bathing visit our Tips for Daily Living Library at StrokeAssociation.org/tips  and check out survivor Tia Thompson’s video tips for getting in and out of the shower. You can submit your own video, audio or text file to the tips library while you’re there!

This information is provided as a resource to our readers. These tips, products or resources have not been reviewed or endorsed by the American Stroke Association.

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