Recent blogs have been looking at more philosophical and ethical aspects of independent living, so it seems like a good idea to get practical, for a change! Actually, the overwhelming majority of what we do at Independent Living is involved with providing information about the nuts and bolts of mobility, independence, and managing the essentials of daily living.
A dip into our enquiry postbag will give you a flavour. Information on wheelchair powerpacks is a perennial favourite. If you haven't come across these, they convert a manual chair into a powered one, with an electric motor fitted to the rear of the chair, or one in each propelling wheel hub. Whether the user is self propelling, or a carer pushing someone else in the chair, the principle is the same: you get help from the motor when the going gets tough. Given that a quarter of the population is reckoned to be obese, it is perhaps not surprising that enquiries for bariatric powerpacks are on the increase.
Sensory impairment is very prevalent, particularly with an ageing population. Most people find their vision and hearing becoming less acute as they get older, and a significant number of younger people are also affected, whether through disease, birth complications or accident. We are often asked for aids to help manage daily living, and encouragingly, there are now many ingenious devices, from talking tins, watches and weighing machines to telephone diallers and electronic magnifiers. The recent explosion of smart phone use and development of apps has also benefited people with sensory impairments, who can now download a free app to scan documents and read the text aloud, while users with poor hearing have bluetooth neck loops for much improved volume and clarity from mobile phones.
Many of the people visiting Independent Living are care professionals, such as occupational therapists (OTs), nurses and physiotherapists. The people they care for often have very limited or no mobility, so products to help with moving them from one place to another safely and with dignity, are frequently requested. Again, technology is making a great contribution here, with latest generation hoists and transfer aids providing greater comfort and safety for both user and client, than ever before. Prevention of pressure sores is another essential consideration for care professionals, so mattresses and cushions that have been designed to distribute weight more widely, stop overheating and stretching of fragile skin, are much in demand. Systems to move the patient regularly ensure that no one area is damaged by constant pressure, and save carer time, as well. Some 20% of hospital patients have pressure damage, and it is estimated that the NHS spends £2 billion a year on caring for these injuries, so prevention is well worthwhile, never mind the human cost and suffering.
Just occasionally, we get an enquiry that stumps us: we weren't able to track down bariatric parallel bars for a physiotherapy gym, for example. But with more than two decades' experience of assistive technology and adapted products, we usually know exactly where to look for whatever it is that our visitors need!