There are numerous mobility aids available these days. In most cases it is advisable to get advice from a Physiotherapist or Occupational Therapist about the most suitable aid for you. There are also many mobility equipment outlets where products can be purchased. Equipment may also be loaned from the hospital so it is advisable to ask the experts first. You can also hire equipment privately.
Walking sticks: There are a wide variety of walking sticks, from the traditional cane type to aluminium sticks with special formed plastic grips. The length of a walking stick is critical and advice should be sought from a Physiotherapist or other expert. Walking sticks should always have a rubber tip on the end to grip the ground. The traditional C handle is still very popular.
Walking frames: Walkers and Mobilisers: there are a wide range of frames and walkers available these days. Physiotherapists assess a person's mobility as well as their degree of safety and balance. In many cases the right type of mobility aid will not only increase general mobility but also enhance safety. "Tray mobiles" are very useful in assisting people transport articles around the house.
Wheelchairs: There are a wide range of types and brands of wheelchairs on the market but individual models can have a huge range of modifications and adaptions to suit the individual needs. Physiotherapists can not only recommend appropriate models, but can assist in training the user and carer.
Electric Wheelchairs and Scooters: Although electric wheelchairs and scooters are expensive items, they have contributed significantly to the quality of life for many people especially the elderly. In some cases, funding may be available for scooters through the Lottery Grants Board.
Equipment in the Bathroom
Problems of getting in and out of a shower or bath, or on and off a toilet seat are common for people with with a degree of disability. Shower modifications can be made by installing the right type of rails and handles; providing safety seats, or in some cases, "wet floor" showers can be installed. These have a special non-slip vinyl as a base and have no shower tray to step over.
Occupational Therapists can recommend special Ministry of Health funding for essential modifications like wet floor showers for those who meet the criteria, especially when there are safety factors involved. It's can also recommend bath boards, bath seats, devices to assist in and out of baths as well as tap modifications.
In general it is always advisable to ask about possible funding assistance for modifications before planning any alterations. A variety of handles and rails can be installed to improve safety and mobility within the bathroom.
Toilets often present problems for older people. Elevated toilet frames are the most common toilet aid, but others include raised toilet seats, seats for assisting transfers etc. Portable urinals and commode chairs are available from Occupational Therapists's, District Nurses or may be purchased privately. These are especially useful for those who have difficulty getting to the toilet on time.
Specialised advice and assistance for continence issues is available from the Incontinence Nurse service, and there are many products on the market now to help with continence problems.
If people are experiencing problems with bathing, showering or dressing, it is possible they may qualify for assistance with these tasks. The local needs assessor should be contacted. Anyone can refer as long as the person has given consent.
There are however a number of products available that can help, these range from long range brushes and sponges for showering, to specialised aids for dressing.
Occupational Therapists are available to give advice on the best practise and the best product for individual needs. the most common aids are:
- Specialised, wide grip toothbrushes for dental care.
- Extensions applied to everyday devices to allow for reach, e.g. for combs and hairbrushes.
Equipment in the Kitchen
Nowadays there are innumerable devices to assist people in the kitchen. Specialised advice can be sought from OT's, specialised consultants or from specialised health organisations such as the Arthritis Society and Foundation for the Blind.
The most important consideration is safety. Safety factors should guide you to:
- Having all the necessary items near at hand, without having to stand on chairs etc. to reach.
- Not lifting heavy and hot items from an oven when your grip is not as strong as previously.
- Not having loose mats, uneven floor surfaces or protruding items of furniture, that are likely to trip you up.
Equipment in the Bedroom
The most common device is an Adams Pole - a sturdy metal pole anchored to the bedside, that assists people to get in and out of bed. Other equipment such as a free standing monkey bar can help in sitting up, shifting weight, exercising or transferring to a wheelchair if the person has good upper limb strength. There are a variety of methods of assisting with mobility, comfort and safety in the bedroom; Occupational Therapist's or local District Nurses could advise on the following:
- Height of beds
- Specialised bed covers, sheepskins
- Blankets, duvets etc
- Blanket supports and cradles
- Pressure relief products
Equipment that Helps Life At Home
Reachers: the most common reacher is the "helping hand". These well known devices assist people pick up objects when it is too difficult to bend down. They are available from Occupational Therapists for loan or purchase, or check out our page "Disability/Mobility Aids" in your local area. See below for links.
Chair Raisers: Raising standard lounge chairs by several centimetres can dramatically assist people with disabilities or frailties to get in and out of chairs. Special blocks of wood are the most common raiser although metal raisers and plastic raisers are available.
Spring Assisted Lifting Chairs: Portable spring driven seats can be placed on existing chairs.
Specialised Chairs: Occupational Therapists's can advise on specialised chairs for individual needs.Electric recliner chairs enable people to either sit down or get up by having an electrically driven elevated seat. As a general rule of thumb, the best type of chair is a supportive upright one where the position of the hips are level or higher than the knees.
Clothing and Dressing: Specialised, but comfortable clothing is available for people with limited mobility or limited ability to dress.
OT's can advise on various styles, but some of the more common features are:
- Wraparound styles that make dressing and undressing easier.
- Use of Velcro fastening systems to avoid buttons and zips ( providing Velcro is fastened after clothing is removed and before laundry, to prevent snagging on other fabrics).
A number of dressing aids are available - the main ones are:
- Long handled shoe horns
- Devices to remove shoes from feet
- Two dowels with cup hooks to pull up socks
- "Stocking gutters" to pull on stockings or pantyhose
- Dressing sticks with hooks for pulling clothes on
Lottery Funding For Equipment
Some funding may be available from the Disabilities Sub Committee of the Lottery Grants Board. Items such as scooters, disability aids and in some cases vehicles and vehicle modifications can be funded.
As a rule of thumb, the Lottery Board can fund equipment to enable people to "get out and about", especially outdoors. The applications need to show that such aids would help achieve Independence and allow people to participate in the community more fully.
There is a heavy demand for grants and as there are limited funds, only 35-40% of applications are approved. As well as the application a letter of support is also required.
Communication aids can be funded where it can be shown that better interactive communication could enhance quality of life. Depending on the disability such aids as faxes, computers etc can be considered.
Intending applicants should first discuss their needs with an Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist, who would advise on funding applications.
Enquiries for applications can be made here - Lottery Disability Grants.