Since my spinal cord injury in 1988, one of my passions in life has been helping other spinal cord injured people learn to use urinary catheters with limited hand dexterity and mobility. The first thing I tell individuals who are newly injured is that you may be able to learn how to how to self-cath. Don’t feel discouraged if you can’t get the hang of it immediately. However, even with limited hand dexterity, it may still be possible for you to self-cath. Just know that it can take time and patience, as well as plenty of practice.
Finding the right catheter for your needs is an important part of that process. I’d love to share my input on some of the intermittent catheter products which may work for you, based on my personal experience of living as a quadriplegic who self-caths every day.
Intermittent straight catheters are the original catheter technology. These may be a good option for those who are unable to obtain closed system catheters or hydrophilic/pre-lubricated catheters through their insurance. The good news is that straight uncoated catheters are rather inexpensive. However, they don’t come with an attached collection bag. For people in wheelchairs who can’t easily transfer from their chair to a toilet may prefer to use catheter extension tubes.
As a quadriplegic with limited hand dexterity, I’d say the biggest hurdle is finding an easy way to open the sterile lubricating jelly packets. While some people can tear them open fairly easily, others have a hard time with it. The best option may be to carry a small pair of trimming scissors with you (if you are able to manipulate them) to cut the catheter lubricant packet open.
180 Medical offers a few different options of lubricating jelly packets. Why not try out a few free samples at 180 Medical to figure out which one is easiest to open for you?
Some people prefer to use a tube of lubricating jelly with their catheters because the flip-top caps are easy to open. However, if you’re interested in advanced products like closed systems and you have Medicare, you may want to learn more about current Medicare guidelines. Using a tube is not considered sterile.
Depending on your insurance coverage, you may be eligible for a more advanced intermittent catheter. Hydrophilic catheters have a special coating activated by water, so they don’t need additional lubricating jelly.
Some brands are ready to use right out of the package. Others may include a sterile water packet that you pop to let the catheter saturate for a short period of time (usually no more than 30 seconds) in order to activate the hydrophilic coating.
It’s important to note that these can be very slippery. This can make them more difficult to hold or grip. However, most brands include specialized grippers or handling sleeves.
TIP: Some people with dexterity issues may have a hard time popping the water packet. I find that I can pop it by placing it in between my two palms. Next, I push them together to squeeze it open. Other people may prefer to lay the package on the table and put pressure on the packet to pop it.
Closed System Catheters
After some trial and error, I find that I personally prefer closed system catheters. Since they are an all-in-one package, these are the most convenient option for me as a quadriplegic with limited hand dexterity.
Additionally, closed system catheters are great travel catheters. They’re great for being on the go. I find they’re especially helpful when I’m in a public restroom. Because closed system catheters offer a virtually touchless cathing experience, this can reduce the risk of contamination from hands, which sometimes leads to infection.
180 Medical carries a wide variety of all of the major catheter brands, so it’s hard to mention just a few. However, one of the popular catheter options for men and women with limited hand dexterity is the MTG EZ-Gripper®. It features an EZ-Advancer® valve, which keeps the catheter from retracting into the bag. The package also has finger-sized holes to make it easy to open and hold.
Another popular catheter for limited hand dexterity is the Coloplast Self-Cath Closed System Kit. This latex-free catheter works to reduce the occurrence of urinary tract infections and trauma to the urethra.
I personally use a closed system catheter called the Rusch MMG H2O® Hydrophilic Closed System Catheter.
Catheter Assistance Devices
Catheterization devices may be an accessory to consider using as well. These devices may offer you better control when self-cathing on your own. For example, you may want to look into the quadriplegic catheter inserter, which is specifically for quadriplegics. It is a spring-loaded clamp that fits around the catheter to help you grasp it.
Another option you may want to try is the MTG Eagle™ Board. You can learn more about that device in a blog feature by fellow quadriplegic and blogger, Mason Ellis.
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