Do you remember the bundle buggy?
A cart sitting on four wheels with a handle at the top. Used for shopping trips, usually pulled by an older person.
The bundle buggy received a facelift several years ago. It's now called a "trolley dolly" or a foldable shopping cart, or perhaps a "rolling bag cart." No longer just a metal frame, the outside is wrapped in funky colours of fabric. And the person pulling it? It could be male or female, often quite young, a city dweller who travels by public transit or perhaps an Uber. Yes, the bundle buggy definitely had an upgrade.
Except in my mind, it's still a bundle buggy, still for old ladies, and I refuse to use one...for now. It's a thing with me.
I'll probably be the same way about a walker.
Assistive devices have been around since the first caveman picked up a stick to help him manoeuvre uneven ground. Recent technology has improved them to such a degree that you may not be aware of what's available. They all maintain the same goal--to assist with independence, comfort, and safety as your needs change.
As our population ages and technology improves, this industry explodes with new options.
Mobility--Canes, Walkers, Wheelchairs
I'm not a big fan of canes, for many reasons.
- Someone who gets a walker or wheelchair is normally assessed by a qualified occupational therapist (unless it's passed down from Great Aunt Harriet, which is not a good idea.) However, a cane can be picked up at any drug store (or passed down from Great Aunt Harriet) and is not necessarily what is needed, the right height or safe.
- I have seen many canes with an absent or worn down rubber grip on the bottom. This renders it slippery and unsafe.
- If someone is not properly assessed for a cane, they don't know if that's the device they need. Many people who wobble on an unsteady gait and need a walker are still using their cane long after they should.
- I have also seen canes used as weapons in the hands of someone with dementia.
If you are going to get a cane, get a professional assessment and check in regularly to understand if your needs have changed.
Walkers and wheelchairs also need professional occupational therapist assessments. If you live in Ontario, this can be done through the government agency LHIN (formerly CCAC. ) A warning, though--this route can take a long time. A private OT can speed the process up tremendously.
Ontario also has a program to which you can apply for funding. Called ADP (assistive devices program) this pays a percentage of the cost. An OT would fill out the paperwork.
Wherever you live, check what financial help is available for assistive devices. Any defraying of cost can be significant.
Walkers provide stability and those with seats supply a place to rest. They can also be attached with a basket or satchel to hold items.
Wheelchairs are for those who can't walk, or can only walk with help. Transport wheelchairs fold and can be put in the trunk of a car or easily stored away. However, they aren't comfortable to sit in except for a short time.
All parts of the body need to be measured for a wheelchair to fit correctly. Height, weight and other special needs will be considered by the OT as they assess the right kind of wheelchair. If the person is at all able to self-propel, a lighter chair with this kind of capability is available.
I shared my feelings on canes, so here is my non-professional input about wheelchairs. I think all wheelchairs for elders should have the capability to tilt. This means that through a simple mechanism in the back, the whole chair tips back, giving the person the ability to rest in their chair. Tilting also changes position, which is valuable for skin integrity when people can't shift around themselves. Even if it isn't needed at the time of purchase, funding is only available every five years, and the chances of needs changing before that time are great. Get a tilt chair. (Sermon over.)
Bathrooms--grab bars, seats, shower chairs, special tubs, hand-held hoses
Shower chairs are padded, waterproof chairs on locking wheels. Someone with limited mobility can be wheeled in the chair into an accessible shower and cleaned with a hand-held sprayer. Drying, even dressing can be accomplished on the same chair.
We've all seen the pictures of step-in tubs where you sit down and close the door. The tub fills with water and you enjoy a safe, whirlpool experience. Although an expensive option, this is a comfortable alternative for some.
This area is exploding with opportunities. Alexa sits on your counter, and not only plays your favourite music and trivia games with you but calls for help if you fall. Hearing aids are smaller and more efficient, and I've even heard about a tiny tracker that attaches to your device (or anything) and can find it for you if lost, through an app on your phone. Do you have any idea how many hearing aids would benefit from this? A bracelet alerts others when a wanderer attempts to leave the building. The possibilities are endless.
The challenge is to view all these as aides, devices to keep you as independent as possible, and not the trappings of aging. If that's an issue for you, I hear you. Let's support each other as we move into independent elderhood.
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CarePartner Wednesday--Anxious To Powerful With Assistive Devices