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Lift Chairs, Scooters, Other Mechanical Assistance
As the population of the world continues to age, awareness is growing of the need for accessibility as well as safety for daily living. Not only the elderly but disabled individuals of all ages are finding the desire for greater mobility demands solutions to a wide range of obstacles to comfort and convenience. Some of the solutions that have found favour include the following:
There are many models of electric (battery) powered mobility scooters, including those resembling chairs and those with handlebars for steering. These are categorised in several ways:
- Number of wheels (3 or 4)
- Weight Capacity (250 lbs. is standard, but some go as high as 350 lbs.)
- Turning radius
- Degree of incline the scooter can handle
- Battery life
- Weight of Scooter
- Ease of transport (if it can be disassembled to be stored inside a trunk, folded up like a baby stroller, or must be wheeled up a ramp into a van or carried on an external lift.)
Scooters range in price from less than $600 to more than $3500, depending on the above factors. Most are covered by insurance, including Medicare, if prescribed by and justified by the physician.
For those who are still fairly mobile, a Rollator is an option. This is an enhanced walker, usually with hand brakes and larger wheels, as well as a seat which can be flipped up to reveal a storage basket. A Rollator can cost between $90 and $400, depending on the extra features and the weight capacity. Heavy-duty, wide seat models can safely hold a 300-lb person.
Some folks need assistance standing up from an easy chair. There are two kinds of assists that will help them. First, a portable lift using a hydraulic system can be positioned on a chair, and the person’s body weight lowers the seat and rises again when he begins to stand up. Second, chairs (usually recliners) with a motorized lift beneath the frame provide both safety and comfort in a full-sized upholstered piece of furniture. The portable lifts are priced from $120 to $150, while full-sized chairs begin at about $500 and go over $1000 for deluxe models.
Elevated Toilet Seats
These can be either a plastic attachment that is shaped like a very thick version of the standard seat, or a framework with seat that surrounds the toilet and provides handles as well. Toilets themselves can be purchased that are “ADA Compliant” and are elevated about 3″ higher than normal toilets.
Handles for Automobiles
The Car Caddy Helping Hand attaches to the door frame of any automobile. The handle enables a passenger or the driver to easily transfer in and out of the car, providing a safe grip while standing or sitting down. Priced from $15 to $36.
Swivel Seat Cushion
This foam padded cushion has a swivel base that allows the passenger to turn 360 degrees to enter or exit a car. It can be used on any secure seat surface such as a dining room chair as well. Prices range from $14 to $30.
Also called Reach Extenders, these long pincer-tipped tools have a pistol grip which can open and close the tip onto an item being grabbed. A range of sizes, materials (including magnetic tips) and designs are available, including some that are hinged for folding. Priced from less than $10.
Seats for Bath/Shower
One of the most popular and easy to find items for increased safety and convenience, a shower or tub seat fits within the confines of the tub and has rubber tipped legs. Some are simple molded plastic, like a stool. Others are designed like a chair, with a back rest. Still others are intended to help transfer a patient from a wheelchair and extend over the side of the tub. These range from about $30 to $200 depending on size and features.
Lever-style Door Handles
Designed as an ADA-compliant accessibility feature for home building and renovation, these door handles don’t work by turning or twisting the hand. The user leans on the handle with an arm, or the weight of the hand, to easily open the door. Used both on interior doors and exterior doors, they may have key locks or combination locks, are made from a variety of materials and styles, and cost from under $25 to well over $200 for high-end designs.
There are many more items being designed and produced to assist the disabled, the elderly and the safety-conscious user. Ranging from bathroom grab bars to portable ramps for wheelchairs, from utensils with easy-grip handles to trapeze bars to lift one from a bed, there is a huge market for such designs, matched by a limitless imagination on the part of innovators. As has been said often, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.”