Maintaining Mobility With Physical Disabilities

Maintaining Mobility With Physical Disabilities

Using equipment and devices to undertake day-to-day tasks may become a fundamental part of your routine if you have certain medical conditions or disabilities. Whether it is washing, bathing, using the toilet or simply getting from A to B, a degree of mobility is required.

If yours is compromised, it is valuable to be aware of the many products which may be of assistance. Obviously disability is a vast subject with very specific implications for each individual and condition. Here we’ll focus on equipment which might help common outcomes of disability like impaired strength, balance and coordination.

The term ‘mobility’ is quite a generic term in itself, and can refer to many different aspects of someone’s physical abilities. For example, the ‘mobility’ of someone’s hands can be imparied by a disease like arthritis for example. The ‘mobility’ of their shoulders, arms or other localised area of the body might be affected by a stroke, for instance.

One’s ‘mobility’ in terms of propelling oneself from one point to another is another area in which the right equipment can have a major impact. Some people even find it quite revelatory as they try to maintain or regain mobility.

Kitchen mobility aids

If you have a condition or disability which affects your balance or manual dexterity, there are numerous tasks in the kitchen which may be tricky. Those requiring precise motor control with the hands and fingers, like slicing vegetables, is one such example.

Arthritis is one common disease which often impacts the hands. It may cause pain, impact dexterity and make gripping narrow items like knives and forks difficult. In a kitchen environment, either in the preparation of food or eating it, this leads to inevitable problems.

Equipment which holds food firmly in place as it is cut, is popular with Essential Aids customers. One example is the ‘Food Preparation Board’ which has upturned spikes, designed to grip food in a stable position. It is a great tool for those with reduced grip strength or stability in the hands or fingers and who find difficulty in holding food in place in a safe manner.

The board itself has rubber feet on the underside, preventing it from slipping on a worktop or table.

Another innovative device for safely holding food as it is sliced, is the ‘Preparation Grip’. For those with Arthritic hands or a tremor, it often comes into its own. It not only provides a ‘clamp’ with which to grip items of food to prevent them moving around, and also keeps the fingers away from sharp blades, by means of ‘slots’.

As worthtop tends to be hard and does not create much friction with bowls, plates and wooden chopping boards, they may slip around in use. Non-slip mats are a great solution to this problem, delivering high-friction surfaces and reducing slips and slides. Essential Aids supplies a range of Dycem mats in various sizes for just the purpose.

Another general issue which a lack of mobility in the hands may cause, is in gripping cutlery and other relatively narrow kitchen utensils. Sometimes it is the narrowness of these implements which causes much of the discomfort. They may dig into the hands, or you may find they are simply difficult to keep stable, partly because of their low weight.

One solution is to increase the width of the handles. You can buy special cutlery with ‘built-up’ grips, or choose to adapt your own. The increased size tends not only to be easier on the hands, but the weight keeps them more stable.

If you go for the first option, Essential Aids has a broad range of just potentially helpful items in the ‘Adapted Cutlery’ category. Many of the knives, forks and spoons here have handles which are larger and heavier than standard.

The ‘Good Grips Cutlery Range’ is one such example. It features broad, ribbed handles which are easy to hold and control, even if they get wet. It also features a flexible ‘neck’ which is used to set the head of spoons or forks at an angle. For people with certain conditions, this makes it easier to direct into the mouth.

Another option is cutlery with contoured handles. These, sometimes in combination with having oversized grips, have handles with an ergonomic contour, designed to fit the shape of the user’s hand. This sympathetic moulding makes it considerably more comfortable to hold.

One of the most popular brands for this kind of product Essential Aids, is the ‘Caring Cutlery’. For people with Arthritis or suffering another condition impacting dexterity in the hands, these knives and forks can make a big difference at mealtimes. The contours of the handles make excellent use of the forefinger, making the cutlery easy to control.

The range features a knife with a serrated blade, which tends to require slightly less cutting power than a standard blade. Others have a ‘rocker’ style knife blade. This has a curved blade which cuts by means of a rocking motion, reducing the amount of strength required to use it effectively.

As mentioned above, another option is to adapt some standard cutlery by building up the handles to make the handles more substantial. One option is to use pieces of specifically designed foam tubing, which fits snugly onto standard knives and forks.

Essential Aids supplies the ‘Ultralite Handles’ which do exactly this job.

Disability Aids to help get from A to B

Whether it’s in the kitchen, in other areas of the home, garden or trips to the shops, compromised mobility can leave someone facing day to day problems. If your balance, coordination, strength, stamina or dexterity is reduced, the previously simple process of walking from A to B may be a challenge.

Walking sticks are probably the first thing most people turn to if they find themselves in this situation, just to gain a bit of mobile support. Traditional wooden sticks are still popular, but lightweight aluminium versions are also common.

With wooden sticks needing to be cut down to the correct length, aluminium models usually adjust in length by means of a pin-clip. In each case, handles are available which spread weight evenly, making them more comfortable for people with Arthritic hands.

The same handles are available on many tripod and tetrapod walking sticks. These have either three or four legs, offering considerably more stability than a standard stick. They also have the benefit of standing up on their own, without needing to lean against something. This may be an important benefit for people who have difficulty bending down to pick up a walking stick which has fallen to the floor.

In the kitchen, another aid which can enhance mobility, is the trolley. Essential Aids supplies a range of high quality items in this category, all featuring shelves, allowing you to transport plates and other things around the kitchen. The trolleys also perform the function of assisting the user with balance in the process.

Some popular models are almost like a cross between a rollator walker and a kitchen trolley. The ‘Walker Trolley’ for example has large wheels and a full braking mechanism, similar to those found on rollators.

If you are unfamiliar with rollators, this is the name used for the robust wheeled walking frames you regularly see on the streets of the UK. Disability aids like this provide a mobile support frame, providing considerably more assistance than walking sticks.

Three-wheeled and four-wheeled models are popular. The three wheelers are more maneuverable and those with four offer the most stability. Four wheelers usually feature a seat in between the handlebards, which can be a nice feature if you are likely to need a rest mid-walk.

Disability aids like this help many people retain or regain their mobility and can be life-enhancing pieces of equipment. Essential Aids supplies a huge range of rollators, all with subtly different features.

The most popular tend to be the aluminium models because of their relatively low weight and ease of control. Steel rollators are great for heavier individuals requiring more strength from the support frame. Extra-wide versions are also available, but it is important to think carefully about the space available in the environment in which the equipment will need to operate.

There is a growing variation in the nature of the designs available, with products like the ‘Aidapt Ultra Lightweight Folding Rollator’ and the ‘X Fold Rollator’ leading the way. The frames of these rollators have innovative geometry and a stylish appearance. The X Fold model was the one used by Captain Tom Moore during his fundraising campaign during the Coronavirus crisis.

Of course, traditional walking frames are still popular, with their super light-weight and maneuverability big selling points. Made from aluminium, they are not prone to corrosion. Versions are available with ordinary ferruled feet or with wheels on the front legs.

Standard frames and ‘hospital’ walking frames are popular, as are the ultra narrow versions at Essential Aids. These are particularly good if you know you’re going to be using the frame in narrow corridors or doorways.

Disability aids designed to help one’s mobility range from simple walking sticks to complex pieces of bespoke equipment. If you are considering buying something, it is always advisable to consult an occupational therapist first. They will be able to offer advice tailored to your individual needs.

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Sally Madeley-Carr, OT

Sally Madeley-Carr, OT

Sally qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 1996 and is a well-respected professional in the field of rehabilitation equipment and living aids. She has worked in private practice and within the NHS, developing a broad experience with adults and children. Click here for Sally's registration with the Health and Care Professions Council. The HCPC regulates health, physchological and social work professionals in the UK.

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