Equipment. I feel like saying “don’t get me started!” The truth is there is a piece of equipment to make almost every job easier. Yes, it’s true. If you are a caretaker, make your life easier by becoming a student of what’s out there.
My most memorable piece of equipment was a 400 lb. electric wheelchair owned by a quadriplegic friend (and client) of mine. It was in the price range of an expensive car and was customized to her needs with joystick, recline features, etc… One of my tasks, in addition to nursing, was to wrap this wheelchair so it could go in the cargo hold of a plane when we traveled. Several egg crate mattresses for padding, rolls of duct tape, and warning signs plastered all over it – that was just the beginning. We also had a smaller regular wheelchair, and a hoyer lift to disassemble and carry along. I remember sitting in the window seat watching the baggage handlers try to get the big chair into the cargo hold, and trying not to let my client see. Keeping track of, and guarding, all that equipment was… an interesting challenge.
There are other, much more common pieces of equipment, that I’m often surprised that clients don’t think about until I suggest them. Are you helping someone who needs to use the bathroom often, and can’t move very fast? Portable commodes are a favorite piece of equipment. Time in the bathroom can also be made a lot safer and easier by toilet seat risers, shower benches, and grab bars, grab bars and more grab bars. You probably can’t have too many of those. (Toilet seat risers are tricky. I thought I was getting the right thing, but no. I have two and neither one is being used… a story that won’t get told here.)
Keeping my people mobile as much as possible is important to me. A simple pair of hiking sticks is what Mom uses outside. Those extra points of balance are all she needs. Inside she has a shiny, red walker which she uses to transport small items (and her coffee cup) because it has an attached basket and a seat, and brakes to keep it from moving when she doesn’t want it to. Walkers and wheelchairs have come a long way in design and there’s one out there for every level of mobility.
Occupational therapists are so helpful when it comes to equipment for the things that need to be done every day. There are gadgets to help pull on socks, extend your reach, open jars, and button and zip garments. For people with low vision or blindness there are a lot of useful tools as well. There are special plates and flatware for food, clocks that speak the time and identifiers that can be placed on surfaces like the microwave control panel.
Do you have a medical equipment store that you can visit? It’s a good practice to go there and look – at everything. You might not need it now but knowing what is available will make you feel very smart.
The world of equipment is large and varied. There is something for all ages and all situations. Some of it is mysterious (computers and smartphones) and even a bit controversial, like our Alexa (she’s always listening…). My husband loves this internet lady and asks her all kinds of questions. She plays any kind of music he wants and reads to him. And that brings up the equipment needed for safety too. Life alert buttons that are worn on the body can be lifesavers. And how about special locks for limiting access to doors and drawers? These can be useful for children and for elderly with dementia.
You get the idea? If you have a caretaking problem, take it to an internet search, a catalog, a medical supply store or a professional who can point you to equipment that will help. We need all the help equipment can give us.