Mobility aids to help you live safely at home
As we get older, moving around can become more difficult and sometimes painful. A trip to the shop or a simple walk into the kitchen can even be dangerous; leading to slips, trips, and falls. As an “Outstanding”-rated care provider, we know a thing or two about support in the home. Obviously, nothing beats having a compassionate carer by your side, but there is also plenty of equipment you can buy or get for free to help you get about like you used to.
Mobility aids are a fantastic solution for those who do not have the strength or confidence to move themselves due to a disability, illness, or fragility from age. In this article we look at the variety of mobility support options available privately and through the NHS, we highlight the features, and advise on how you can acquire one.
What do mobility aids help with?
Mobility aids such as walking stick, walking frames, wheelchairs, and mobility scooters can help with a huge range of daily activities. They can make these activities easier, safer, less painful and give the user confidence. Activities such as:
- Walking in the home
- Traversing stairs
- Getting about town
- Reaching and picking things up
- Standing up and sitting down
- Standing still
- Accessing buildings and public transport
We’ve all come across walking sticks at some point in our lives; whether we’ve needed one after an injury, used a walking pole to climb up a steep hill, or grabbed a cane to show off our Fred Astaire routine. Walking sticks are often the first mobility aid used by those whose physical ability is slowly decreasing.
Walking sticks can help with standing up, sitting down, standing still, and, of course, walking. Generally, you would just use one walking stick. If you needed two, it would be wiser to use a walking frame.
Where to get a walking stick
Walking sticks are available in many online retailers and high street mobility shops. You may be able to borrow a walking stick from the NHS. Speak with your GP or physiotherapist who will assess you first.
Which walking stick to get
Walking sticks should be the right height (or adjustable) and have a handle at the top and a foot at the bottom. However, there are a huge variety of walking sticks. As with all mobility aids, it is important to know which walking stick to choose. Make sure:
- The stick is the right height for you (or an adjustable one): walking sticks should be the same length as the floor to the user’s wrist when their arm is by their side
- If it needs to stand up by itself, it should have more than one foot
- It has the correct handed handle (either left-handed or right-handed)
- Choose a stick made from the right material: this all depends on whether you prioritise strength, durability, quality feel, comfort, lightweight, style, adjustability, or low cost. You can’t have them all!
Walking frames (Zimmer frames, walkers, or rollators)
Walking frames give a greater level of support than a walking stick. They are generally used for the same activities but for those who need a little more support.
Walking frames are usually lightweight metal frames with four feet and a bar for support at waist height. They can vary greatly depending on the level of support needed. At their most basic, they will be a simple frame with four rubber feet, but there are frames available with wheels on all four feet, handles, a seat (for use when stationary), brakes, and even storage.
Where to get a walking frame
Like getting a walking stick, you may be eligible to borrow on of these from the NHS. Speak to your GP or physiotherapist. They are very affordable and can be bought online and from mobility shops with prices ranging from £20 to £200.
Which walking frame to get
The frame to choose depends greatly on the needs and wants of the user. Make sure to consider:
- The height of the frame (or an adjustable one): the handles should reach just above the wrist joint when your arms are by your side
- Feet or wheels depending on if it is for indoor or outdoor use and the strength of the user
- The weight of the frame
- The level of support needed: do you need a seat?
- Does it need to be folded to fit it in a boot of a car
Wheelchairs allow the user to move around whilst remaining seated. They are suitable for disabled people, those who are recovering from an injury or illness, and elderly people who are need extra support. Nearly all public buildings and public transport are now accessible by wheelchair making them very useful for getting out and about. Wheelchairs are usually open at the front allowing you to use them like a chair and sit comfortably at a table or desk.
There are two main types of wheelchair: powered wheelchairs, and manual wheelchairs (which can have some power assistance). Below is a comparison:
- Wheels: Generally, there are two large wheels that each have a rush rim attached and two small wheels. The wheels will be smaller if there is no need for the user to power the movement themselves
- Operation: The two large wheels are turned by the user or the handles on the back of the seat can be pushed by someone else.
- Portability: Lighter, smaller, and often foldable
- Cost: £200 – £3,000
- Additional features:
- Powerhubs can be installed on the main wheels.
- Front wheel attachments for trail/uneven ground
- Different types of cushions depending on the use and users’ needs
- Bespoke made to user
- Wheels: Often four wheels, depending on the make and model
- Operation: Powered by an electric battery, controlled by the chair user via a joystick hand control or an additional control can be fitted for use by the person with the chair user
- Portability: depends on makes, models, and uses
- Cost: £1,000 – £25,000
- Additional features:
- Elevation to standing
- Recline to lying
- Bespoke made to user
- Headrests and other ergonomic features
How to get a wheelchair on the NHS?
If you think that you or your loved one needs a wheelchair, visit your GP who will refer you to your local NHS wheelchair service. You cannot get an NHS wheelchair without this consultation.
The local wheelchair service will then assess you and determine the level of support the NHS can provide you with – this could be a manual or power assisted chair depending on your needs. They may provide you with a wheelchair and will maintain them for you. It will be a limited and basic range.
You may be able borrow wheelchairs from the NHS if you have suffered an injury, have had an operation, or have a condition that will improve over time. You may also be able to borrow wheelchairs from your local British Red Cross. If you are out and about, many town centres have a ShopMobility centre where you can temporarily hire mobility aids for a small fee or for free!
Buying a wheelchair
The Wheelchair Service may provide you with a voucher to purchase your own wheelchair if something more specific is required or preferred. When buying a wheelchair, any good mobility retailer will be able to assist you in your purchase. They can cost between £150 to £2,000 depending on the level of your needs and the quality and features of the chair.
Things to consider with buying a wheelchair
- Do you want a manual or electric wheelchair?
- Do you have the strength to operate a manual chair or will someone else push it?
- Is it for use indoors, outdoors, or both?
- Does it need to fold up into a car boot?
- Are there maintenance costs?
- How long are you going to spend in it? This will determine how comfortable you may want it.
It is important to note, when shopping in mobility retailers, to be careful purchasing from sales agents working on commission. They will want to sell you the most expensive chair, as opposed to the best chair for you.
If you need to travel longer distances more comfortably, then a mobility scooter may be preferable. They are easier to manure than a wheelchair (as your steer by turning the front wheel), they can be easier to mount and dismount, you are sat higher up, they have more power, and can go faster. Many are even legal to drive on the road!
However, mobility scooters are much larger and heavier than wheelchairs. Where a wheelchair can navigate indoors and outdoors with ease, a mobility scooter is purely designed to get you from A to B.
Are mobility scooters allowed in public transport, shops, and hospitals?
Yes. Generally, you can ride a mobility scooter inside most public buildings with ramp or lift access. They will expect you to drive them at walking pace once inside. As mobility scooters are larger than wheelchairs, some smaller shops may not have the space for you to navigate them in a scooter.
How to get a mobility scooter
It is very rare to get a mobility scooter from the NHS, so you will have to buy one privately. They can range from £400 to over several thousands for the more advanced end.
There are charities that can help pay for a scooter and purchase schemes available such as Motability which can use your Personal Independence Payment (PIP) (previously known as DLA). There are also charities related to your condition that may be able to help or provide advice and support.
Before you look to buy a mobility scooter, consider the following:
- How often will you need a scooter? Would it be cheaper to hire one?
- Is it for a main means of transport or for mobility use at a destination or in the home?
- Does is need to fit in a car?
- Where it will be stored
- What are the maintenance costs?
- Depending on your condition you may need specialist controls
We can help
Mobility aids and home adaptions can make getting around much easier, but no amount of equipment can replace the compassion and care that a trained carer provides. As a care provider we know that the best way to stay safe and happy in your own home is with the help of a professional carer.
At Trinity Homecare, we’re a multi-award-winning, “Outstanding”-rated home care provider that have been supporting the elderly and disabled adults in their own home for over 25 years. Call our team of friendly experts on 0207 183 4884 or enquire online.