Home » 5 Services for normal people that help manage life with chronic illness/disability

5 Services for normal people that help manage life with chronic illness/disability

I’d like to think that despite my pain, I’m pretty much independent. But, I wouldn’t be if I couldn’t outsource some of the more taxing responsibilities of adulthood. For a long time, I judged myself pretty hard for using these services. I just wanted to be able to live an adult life like everyone else. Turns out, able-bodied adults need backup too. And their need for options has made my life 1000x easier.

I am including referral links/codes in this post. I don’t make money, but do get a discount in return if you purchase through them. You are not obligated to use my code if you want to try one of these services! Google and get the best discount you can find 🙂



Independent provider, $30/hr ($120/mo)

According to the New York Times, we’d all be happier if we ate more takeout and had a maid. Even so, I wanted to be able to keep up with the housework without someone else having to help me. It wasn’t a good idea. Even my doctor encouraged me to have someone help me with chores so that I could spend my energy on other activities, like dance or work. These days, I pay a young woman to come clean my apartment for a couple of hours every 2 weeks, I do my part and (try) to keep the apartment pretty tidy and she does the deep cleaning and the vacuuming. My apartment is then mostly reflective of the fact that it is inhabited by a grownup and not a frat boy. And I didn’t have to waste all my energy trying to maintain it.

I’ve used a few home cleaning services (two that tried to be Uber for house cleaners went out of business), but the person I use now isn’t affiliated with any of them. She gets more $ per hour and I pay less – so we both win. Neighborhood facebook groups are a great way to find referrals for this type of service.

Meal Delivery Service

Freshly (referral link), 6 meals/week plan, $59.99/week (referral is for $40 off)
Daily Harvest, $6.99/cup (get $25 off with code RE-DT46R3D )

This has been a game changer for me. I often have zero energy left at the end of the day, so making dinner or even making a batch of something for multiple meals can be too much. These services still allow (and even require) that I do cook some meals, but they take the pressure off so that I can cook when the time is right for me. And so that I can have more variety than the handful of gluten-free options in the freezer aisle. It also beats takeout on both nutritional value and price (even a McDonald’s delivery is nearly $20 once you pay the up-charge on the food, the fees and the tip.

I started with Daily Harvest – a smoothie delivery – because they also had grain bowls. Plus, a quick trip through the blender is less work than even microwaving a meal. They even have soups, although I’m not a super fan of the chilled soups- they feel like an all veggie smoothie and I can’t bring myself to drink them. I used to have a weekly box, but these days, I just order 24 smoothie boxes whenever I get low.

For the past few months, however, I’ve been getting Freshly meals. I get a box of 6 meals every week on Friday or Saturday and they are most of my lunches and a few dinners for the week. I pretty much love everything I’ve gotten (except for the peppercorn steak and I should have known better than to think microwaved steak was going to be good. The best part is their meals are certified gluten-free, so I can order with confidence. They do warn you that they can’t guarantee safety from other allergens because they are used in the facility. I’m comfortable with the risk because it is less than the risk when I order takeout.

Grocery Delivery

Amazon Prime, $119/year for free deliveries over $35
Instacart (referral link), $99/year for free deliveries over $35 or $7.99 delivery

When Instacart launched in Chicago, I was in love. I’d used Peapod in the past, and when I have a regular work from home day, it’s great…but being around at the right time for delivery is tough with my job. Instacart and Amazon can go to the store (or warehouse) and bring me what I need the same day, and often within a couple hours. This type of service saves me so much hassle. If the weather is bad, I don’t have to brave the cold. If I need laundry detergent and La Croix, someone else lugs it up 3 flights of stairs.

Prime Now gets me access to Whole Foods and a local independent grocery chain as well as Amazon goods, but Instacart can go just about anywhere else. They shop Mariano’s (Kroger’s Chicago stores), Costco, and Aldi. There is even a specialty cheese market and an Asian grocer on the list. I use Prime Now more often because I already have a prime membership for a bunch of other reasons so it tends to be what I use the most.

Laundry Service

Rinse, $112/month for 2 pickups, $79/year + per pound pricing or $7 delivery fee + per pound pricing

I hate laundry. It’s by far the worst chore. And I’ll admit, I’ve gone shopping for clothes to put off laundry day. It’s been even harder since moving into my current place. Laundry is down 3 flights of stairs across a courtyard and down another flight. It makes laundry an even more physical task than usual. I’d used laundry services after surgeries before or taken laundry to a laundromat for wash & fold service when I got behind, but regular pickups seemed extravagant.

Well, it’s made my life so much better (except for some reason they like to either not fold underwear or fold 3 pairs together). I have a particular way I fold kitchen towels (I roll them) and I fold my underwear in an apparently over the top manner, so I always have a wee bit of re-folding to do, but it is so worth the saved energy to only have to do that small amount of work to do my laundry each week.

Blowout Bar

Drybar, 2 blowout membership $80/mo for 2 blowouts with any additional at $40/ea or $45 per blowout

This is by far the most luxe service on the list, but I’m not mad about it. After my second spinal cord stimulator implant, I found out from my stylist (it was the first time I was loyal to someone) that you can go to a salon for just a shampoo or for for just a wash and style (it was the late aughts and blowouts weren’t as big of a thing then). It was a magic discovery for those times I couldn’t shower and just a wash was acceptable if I was sitting at home resting.

I discovered Drybar a few years ago when blowout bar hype was everywhere and used it for special occasions where I needed my hair to not look like I lost a battle to a curling iron. Then, I had an outpatient, 4-week epidural infusion that I had to work through. I couldn’t shower, make large movements or stand for long. Styling my own hair was out. I got a membership and went in weekly. Unless you paid close attention, my appearance was completely normal. I owe Drybar for helping me keep my secret. I still go when I need to look professional and have zero energy or just need the pampering. Because those days when I can’t bear needing to wash, dry and style my hair are inevitably the ones that I need to look the best.

Honorable Mentions

Sephora services – Sephora has free mini makeovers for all and free facials if you spend $75. They are retiring their full-face free with purchase makeovers at the end of the year, but if you want to look event ready and don’t have something like Priv in your area, you can always pop in to a Sephora and leave looking flawless. (My Sephora also offers dry styling from Drybar on weekends)

Headspace – The pain management series, workday mini breaks and sleep stories all make this app one that I use to help manage my body’s response to constant pain.

Gym membership – maintaining functional movement is paramount for staying ahead of the muscle loss and bad movement patterns that come with chronic pain. I belong to Equinox because I get a corporate discount and it is across the street from my office. While exercise is important for everyone, staying active is even more important for those of us whose bodies work differently. We need to diligently work on keeping our strength and range of motion so our bodies don’t harm themselves from the ways we compensate as we move.

Basically, this is an able man’s world. But thank goodness humans have gotten so busy that services like these exist because people like me can benefit from them without needing to explain that we need help – they’re just services that exist to make everyone’s day easier.

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