by Tara Bard, Contributing Writer
My grandmother is about to turn 80 and suffers from spinal stenosis, a degenerative disease marked by the narrowing of the spine in one or more areas. Because of this, my elderly grandmother walks with a cane and also uses a wheelchair. She is subject to frequent back pain.
When we decided to travel from Philadelphia, Pa., to West Palm Beach, Fla., to visit my mother, it was the first time either of us had brought a wheelchair on our travels. We had to be a bit more mindful of pain management and communication issues. As a chronic back-pain sufferer myself, I understand how some days are harder than others, and how a back-pain sufferer can feel simultaneously mentally awake and physically exhausted after a day of travel.
Here are some things I learned to make future travels easier.
Make Special Arrangements and Arrive Early
The easiest way to help others prepare for a spinal stenosis patient is to make arrangements ahead of time. This includes notifying the airline.
My grandmother and I traveled to the airport via hired car. When we made the arrangements, we let the company know that it would take some more time because my grandmother is elderly and suffering from back pain.
Many people with spinal stenosis take prescribed pain medication. As someone who also suffers with back pain, I understand how important it is to have access to the right medication at the first sign of pain. Fortunately, my grandmother packed her prescriptions in an accessible location and followed the TSA guidelines (medication should be in its labeled container and then placed in a clear plastic bag).
Wheelchair or Cane? Bring Both
Like many with spinal stenosis and other back injuries, my grandmother can do limited walking with a cane. Her doctor recommends minimal, manageable mobility. When we traveled, my grandmother primarily remained in her wheelchair. However, we kept her cane accessible as well.
This turned out to be very useful, particularly when it came to bathroom trips and navigating down the aisle of the airplane.
Learn the Procedures
My grandmother and I are both experienced travelers, but neither of us had ever traveled with a wheelchair before. We had to educate ourselves about the proper procedures for traveling with a wheelchair. To prepare, I looked up the following information online:
Additionally, I had to ask for more information in person, especially when it came time to board and disembark the plane.
Even experienced professionals sometimes are not sure about how to treat a person who is in a wheelchair or struggling to walk. As my grandmother's caretaker, I found that I had to be particularly clear and assertive at the airport. Instead of asking for the nearest elevator, I had to say, "We are going to Terminal B and my grandmother is in a wheelchair. What is the best way for us to get there?" I found that most staff wanted to be helpful, but were afraid of offending us by assuming that my grandmother and I couldn't manage on our own.
I learned that it helped to specifically explain what my grandmother felt comfortable doing before asking for help. When we were ready to board our flight, I told the helpful flight attendant, "My grandmother can walk down the aisle using her cane, but we will need help stowing our luggage."
When traveling with a spinal stenosis patient, careful preparation and specific communication greatly minimizes stress.
This content was originally published on Yahoo Contributor Network.
by Tara Bard, Contributing Writer
Are you coping with chronic migraines? This 'invisible condition' is especially difficult for most people who also have to work or go to school regularly. I'm nearly 32 and have dealt with chronic migraines since age 16.
At this time, I'm a full-time freelancer. I work part-time on-site for a local client and furnish the rest of my work to editors online. Previously, I worked in office and retail environments both full and part-time and learned methods for coping with chronic migraines. Whether behind a desk in an office or making lattes as a barista, these tips have proven most effective for me.
Planning Work Schedule
In any job, planning your work schedule is the best way to deal with keeping a job while you have chronic migraines. Even as a freelancer, I am conscious of my own hours. I make sure to get up at least an hour before I have to actually start working. This gives me time to deal with a potential migraine by taking medication and drinking coffee before it's time to start working. If I have to head to the office, I avoid tardiness by waking up early enough to deal with a potential migraine.
When allowed to set my own work schedule (or when I worked at a coffee shop that asked for my shift preference), I always select the evenings because I generally develop migraines in the morning.
Availability of Medication at Work
Being able to take migraine medication at work is integral to being able to work through a migraine. Over the years, I've been on various types of medications. Some medications (as well as the migraines) make me act with a lack of clarity. As an editor and proofreader, this can prove problematic because I need to be attentive and able to catch small errors and track many details.
I cope with this by tackling high-concentration and detail-oriented tasks first or ahead of deadline. This way, I don't have to worry about my capabilities if I develop a migraine during the rest of the day.
Depending on your work environment, you may need to notify your supervisor or manager about your need to take medication during work hours.
A comfortable workspace is key to avoiding migraines and dealing with ones that inevitably occur. In the past, I've felt bad about asking managers to provide workspaces clear of fluorescent lighting and other triggers, but at home I've created my ideal set-up. It includes:
Commuting with Migraines
When I worked nearly an hour away from home at a full-time office job, commuting with migraines was the most difficult part of working with my condition. This resulted in unsafe commutes - I shouldn't have been driving under the influence of migraines and powerful medication, and the early morning sun glare only worsened the condition.
When I work off-site for a client now, my commute is minimal, making it much safer. When I work at home, I have no commute at all and simply wait until I can get rid of a migraine before I start working.
Part of my office commute involved traveling by train. The bright lights and train tracks were particularly difficult, and I was always afraid my migraine would cause me to vomit on the train. Although more expensive, I took to commuting by car when I had a migraine. This way, I could pull over if I had to and I had as much control as possible over my environment.
Know When to Quit
Working with chronic migraines isn't easy. You need to know when to quit - whether that involves going home for the day or seeking FMLA benefits. If you truly can't handle work conditions, it may be time to find a job with a more accommodating schedule or environment. This ultimately proved best for me.
More than anything, I felt like people thought I was using chronic migraines as excuses for getting out of work, leaving early, or not showing up at all. More than a decade ago, my college roommate simply didn't understand what I was feeling or why I would miss class for migraines until she experienced her first migraine. After that, I received more sympathy from her. Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen with bosses and managers, so I've learned to document my visits to the doctor's office and overall just remain prepared.
Migraines…headaches you were born to have - and the best cure may be a cup of coffee or two
Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Migraine Headaches
The Family Medical Leave Act & Migraine Patients
Smoking More Than Five Cigarettes A Day May Provoke Migraine Attacks
Migraines: Myth & Reality
This article was originally published on the Yahoo Contributor Network.
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