Desert island tips for the chronically stranded

Tips for the bedbound by Sue Firth

Breakfast in bed

A very useful bed tray is the type with an attached bean bag, thus aiding stability. The one from Lakeland Plastics for 15 has a non-slip mat and a channel around the tray - handy if you knock a drink over.

Washing your hair

If you are stuck in bed and your hair is an absolute mess, what can you do about it? The solution is an inflatable hair wash tray, nicknamed the `raft' in our house! It is a blow up plastic wash basin with a stopper and a drain tube, which you run into a bucket. You can have your hair washed while you are lying flat. You will need a plastic sheet on the bed to catch a small amount of water but it all works remarkably easily. It costs 26.37 from the Boots' Active and Independent Living Catalogue but you could ask your occupational therapist or Social Services bathing service for one.

Drinking problem?

Another useful item if you spend most of your life lying down is a two handled drinking cup with a spouted lid - available from any chemist but again the Boots' catalogue has a half pint one for around 9. For cold drinks a child's drinking flask with a stopper that pulls up into a straw is helpful. Try Woolworths or any of the catalogues selling mail-order kitchen equipment (e.g. Lakeland Plastics).

Sitting up

If you can sit up a bit but not a lot, a wedge can be a great help. Using a wedge under a pillow means that you can keep a straight line from the top of your head to your waist and thus avoid many neck problems. Boots has a solid foam wedge at 25 but I got mine for about 3 from

a market stall which cuts foam shapes. Something else useful, if you can use your arms, is a rope ladder bed hoist 6.60 Boots catalogue). This consists of strong nylon rope and white plastic rungs. It fastens to the legs of the bed and lies over the top enabling you to pull yourself up into a sitting position.

Open Sesame!

The best aid that I have ever found is an automatic door opener. This is available through your occupational therapy department (see below). It's easy to fit and consists of a buzzer and speaker grille by the front door, connected to a lightweight plastic phone by the bed/sofa etc. This way, you can speak to the visitor and then press a button which releases the door catch if you want to let them in.

New!!! Zoe Williams' A-Z of ME Tips

(particularly suitable for people with severe ME) is now available from our London office for 1 (stamps acceptable) or see website

25% ME Group

The 25% ME Group is for the severely affected who are bedbound, or largely housebound. It provides two newsletters a year plus a contact list of people in a similar situation. The group offers services and activities specific to the needs of the severely affected in order to break the isolation and to encourage a positive outlook. For more information please send an SAE to Simon Lawrence at 52 Downfield Street, Tollcross, Glasgow, G32 8RT.

Contact numbers

Boots Active and Independent Living Catalogue (available free from any store) Freephone 0800 000 777 Customer care freephone 0800 371 221

Lakeland Plastics 01539 488100 (manned 24 hrs)

Occupational Therapy departments at your local hospital. Ask your GP or Social Services for a referral.

InterAction No. 31 October 1999 p26

ACTION FOR M.E. 3rd Floor, Canningford House, 38 Victoria Street, BRISTOL, BS1 6BY