Tools for Improving Mobility
People with mobility, circulatory, respiratory, or neurological disabilities use many kinds of devices for mobility. Mobility is important in maintaining independence and preventing falls and other injuries. Convenience for caregivers includes purchasing aids at most medical supply stores, some pharmacies, retail stores, (Target, Walmart, Amazon, and others), and online purchases. Free or minimal delivery costs or the ability to pick up what is needed from store’s curbside can simplify the demands on caregivers.
Durable Medical Equipment (DME) and Adaptive Equipment
Durable medical equipment (DME) is a type of assistive technology (AD) that is designed, made, or adapted to assist a person perform a particular task. These include wheelchairs, walkers, shower chairs, hospital beds, canes, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, shower chairs, nebulizers, and portable ramps.
When care receivers need assistive devices, ask the physician about consulting with a physical therapist or occupational therapist.
Gait belts may be used to aid in the safe movement of someone transferring from a bed, chair, table, etc. Their purpose is to put less strain on the spine of the patient as well as the caregiver. When moving a person from one position to another, the belt can help the caregiver more safely lift or shift directions of the person being transferred.
Canes and Walkers
If you feel you need a cane or walker, make sure you get the device that is best for you. When deciding between a cane or walker, discuss the following points with your healthcare provider so that they can recommend the safest choice for you: which cane or walker should I use? scroll down to see chart comparing canes and walkers.
Borrowing from another person who no longer needs a cane or walker may not be the right choice. A cane or walker may need to be sized so it fits correctly. Get help learning how to use a cane or walker the right way to prevent further injury. Read more about what to discuss with a healthcare provider about how to choose and use canes and walkers, including safety tips.
Canes are simple but effective walking aids. Designs include folding canes, adjustable canes, double-grip canes and single, three- and four-pronged canes. Every person is different and whenever possible, the person who will be using a cane benefits from testing a few canes to know what is best for them. For example, a cane with four “feet” stands on its own to enable the user to reach for something at home or while out shopping.
Walkers provide more stability and should be tested to make sure they are sturdy, lightweight, at a sufficient height for the individual and that they can be moved or rolled easily. Foldable walkers and those that double as a seat are also convenient. Many people like to attach a basket or pouch on the front to store things.
Wheelchairs and scooters
Wheelchairs or a scooter may become necessary when someone can no longer walk safely.
Wheelchairs can be either manual or electric. When choosing a wheelchair, consider:
- Weight since a caregiver may need to be able to lift it into and out of a vehicle.
- Removable footrests and/or a collapsible wheelchair for loading into a car for added convenience.
- Accessories such as rim covers, gloves, seat covers, cushions, security pouches, and carry packs.
Manual wheelchairs require the person to use some arm strength or leg strength and skill to move the chair—unless there is someone to push. A lowered wheelchair, called a “hemi-height” wheelchair, allows a person’s heels to touch the floor and is recommended when a person uses their feet to move the chair.
Electric or “power” wheelchairs are useful for individuals who can move around on their own but lack the strength to wheel themselves. Electric wheelchairs require the ability to make decisions and maneuver the chair. They are often not recommended for someone with impaired judgment. Cost of electric wheelchairs has to be considered.
Three-wheeled scooters may be an option for individuals who are able to get in and out of a chair. Scooters are popular among individuals with multiple sclerosis or those who can walk very short distances, have good trunk strength and control, and can get around by themselves.
Having a professional, such as an occupational therapist or physical therapist, provide input on the best fit for a wheelchair or scooter is best. Purchasing a chair or scooter through a local dealer or supplier will ensure that you have a convenient place to take your product if it needs to be replaced or repaired.
Finding Durable Medical Equipment and other Assistive Technology.
Use caution when purchasing or ordering assistive devices. Talk with rehab center staff, physical therapists, or your local Center for Independent Living for help finding suppliers in the North Central Texas region. Contact REACH of Fort Worth, Dallas, Denton & Plano Resource Centers on Independent Living.
Learn how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that people using wheelchairs, mobility aids, and other power-driven mobility devices maintain safe access in the community.
- Family Caregiver Alliance in cooperation with California’s Caregiver Resource Centers and reviewed by Dory Sabata, OTD, OTR/L and Joan Augustyn, OTD, OTR/L.
- Texas Health and Human Services Durable Medical Equipment
- Seniorliving.org Durable Medical Equipment
- Medicare coverage durable medical equipment
- US Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health, What are some types of assistive devices and how are they used?
We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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