Friday, 16 May 2014

Daily Living Skills

For the past 10 months I have been receiving regular sessions of daily living skills in and around my kitchen. I had my final session and review yesterday, so thought I would share all of the skills I've learned over the duration of the previous 10 months and how they have improved my everyday life for the better.

After the 6 week Living With Sight Loss enablement course that I attended in the summer of last year, run by Henshaws at my local community centre, I was referred to Lisa Young - who ran the enablement course - and she arranged regular daily living skills sessions at my home to help build independence, particularly around the kitchen where I lacked the most confidence.

Previous to my sessions, I was always spilling my drinks when attempting to pour them, found appliances such as the microwave, oven and kettle quite intimidating and did not have the skills to safely make snacks or small meals for myself, always depending on other people to help.

We first began the sessions by learning to pour liquids using a liquid level indicator. This was started by differentiating between different bottles by touch, getting used to the various shapes, sizes, necks and placements of the lid on bottles made of plastic and glass and cartons made of plastic and cardboard. We practiced pouring with cold water first, with Lisa filling the bottles with varying amounts so that I could get used to their weights and adjust to ways of pouring. The liquid level indicator is a fantastic tool to have and has helped my confidence with pouring liquids tremendously, as it beeps as soon as water touches the metal prongs signalling that you are nearing the top of the cup.

Following a few sessions of pouring cold water from different bottles, we then progressed onto hot water with me using the kettle for the first time. I got used to the shape and weight of my kettle first, and then learned how to plug it in, identify the handle and switch, and then boil the water. I put into practice what I had learned in the previous sessions when pouring, and then advanced onto making my own cup of tea and hot chocolate drink.

After mastering pouring liquids and using the kettle, Lisa moved me onto my next appliance - the toaster - where I would be working up to learning how to spread evenly. We started with the basics first, with me getting used to the feel of the toaster while unplugged. I learned how to identify the slots on the top of the toaster to insert the bread, the button to press down to activate the toaster, the buttons for defrosting and cancelling, and how to get the toast out safely afterwards (waiting for it to cool slightly, and running my hand up the cold side of the toaster and hovering above to find the bread - rather than directly touching the hot metal at the top of the toaster).

I proceeded to learn how to spread evenly. I toasted some bread once more for the next step, now feeling a lot more confident with using the toaster, and Lisa explained to me how to spread onto the toast evenly. By placing the corner of the toast between the L-shape of the thumb and forefinger, I had a grip on the toast so that it would not move unexpectedly, and learned to spread from the centre of the toast to the corner resting between my thumb and finger. The toast is then rotated so that another corner is between the thumb and forefinger and spread again from the centre to the corner. This is repeated until all 4 corners have been spread from the centre. A way to identify whether the whole of the toast has been covered is from the sound it makes - there won't be as much of a dry scraping sound when the toast it completely covered with spread.

I was now able to make my own hot drink and toast with a spread of my choice! We practiced both of these skills for a few more sessions before moving onto chopping and peeling fruits and vegetables safely. We started with peeling first using a peeler tool on the large surface area of a potato. It was easy to identify when the skin of the potato had been stripped away because of the different feel of the vegetable underneath - smooth and moist. After a full session of peeling a potato and carrot and feeling confident enough to move on, we then looked at how to chop fruits and vegetables as safely as possible.

Starting with a soft banana and a blunt knife, I got used to the downward motion of slicing for the first session focused on chopping. We continued this into the next session, and moved onto a sharper knife when I felt more comfortable. I eventually started to chop other fruits and vegetables such as a tomato, cucumber, and celery and moved onto vegetables with a harder surface like a carrot and potato. I was now able to chop and peel my own fruits and vegetables - though I feel a lot more comfortable with supervision from Lisa or my mum when doing this so as not to have an accident.

After a few sessions focused on chopping and peeling, Lisa then moved me onto my next appliance - the microwave. Lisa guided my hand around the inside microwave oven so that I could get a feel of where to place the plate or bowl. I then familiarised myself with the feel of the buttons outside the microwave, and Lisa placed bump ons onto the 'start' button, 'cancel' button and number 5 which is in the middle of the keypad so that I am able to find the other number buttons situated around it. Using a microwave pan I made scrambled eggs by stopping at 30 second intervals and breaking apart the cooked egg. This could then be served on toast, incorporating a previous skill I had learned.

In my final few sessions with Lisa, we rounded everything off with tackling the oven and hob. I got used to the oven first of all, learning how to open the grill door by pulling it downwards and proceeding to pull out the handled tray, and the oven door underneath at the right-hand side. I familiarised myself with the shelves and learned how to ignite the spark for the oven to work. Later in the session, I was introduced to the hob. The dials were marked up with bump-ons so that I have a tactile way of knowing which direction to turn them on, then move to low heat, high heat and off and I memorised the sequence of the dials for which dial lights which corresponding hob. Lisa invited me to feel the pans in my kitchen, and we then practiced filling with cold water first before moving onto boiling. At the end of the session, I boiled my first egg!

I now have the basic kitchen skills to pour drinks and prepare food safely. I still need supervision when chopping, slicing and using the hob, but now have more independence and freedom in my own kitchen for the first time. I'd like to say a big thank you to Lisa Young for the wonderful sessions over the past 10 months, for being so patient with me and for giving the confidence to start preparing my own food and drinks!

You can find out more about the Living With Sight Loss enablement course, Independent Living Skills and Kitchen Skills sessions at the Henshaws website by clicking on the bolded links.