To perform household tasks can be a big challenge for people with a spinal cord injury (SCI): cooking, doing the dishes and laundry, but also opening packages with only limited arm/hand function. A tetraplegic person with a complete lesion at the level C1-C4 is fully dependent on assisting people. People with a lesion level of C6-C8 can perform certain activities independently, like preparing simple meals or doing easy household tasks. People with a paraplegia are also able to carry out more difficult and more demanding tasks, e.g. hoovering, cleaning the bathroom, swiping the floor, and putting clean sheets on the beds. However, this requires a lot of time and energy. Furthermore, it is important that the household tools are easily accessible.
Here are a few potential assistive devices and aids:
- anti-slipping pad for bowl and cutting board
- adapted handles, e.g. for knifes and potato peelers
- cutting board or serving tray with balance bag, e.g. for moving hot pots and pans
- sweepers with long rod
- cordless hoover or hoovering robot
- gripping tongs
- serving trolley
The housing environment should be suitable for wheelchairs:
- Sufficient space to move around.
- Accessible kitchen sink and cooker (if possible).
- Fridge, freezer, oven, and steamer should easily be accessible without the risk of getting burned.
- Table or kitchen boards should be installed at the ideal height to make it easier to prepare meals.
- The buttons of the extractor hood should be easily accessible (touchscreen if applicable).
- Kitchen furnishings: lighter items (e.g. herbs) can be stored higher up than heavy items (e.g. pots). Drawers are generally more efficient than cupboards, because objects of choice don't have to be retrieved from the back.
- The handles of the cupboards should be individually adapted with regard to size, depth and form so that grasping them is also possible in case of limited hand function due to the paralysis.
- The opening direction of doors - e.g. of the cupboard or fridge - should be individually adapted.
- The door of the washing machine should open to the front (front loader) and not to the top (top loader). If the base of the machine is too high, the tray for the washing detergent might not be accessible.
- Washing lines should be height adjustable or you should have a separate drying rack.
- Keep in mind that you might burn non-sensitive body parts when touching non-isolated drains or pipes.