Family Caregiver – Part 3 – Patient Aids – What You’ll Need and Where to Get It

Dealing with the patient’s stiffness, speech problems, instability and inability to stand or walk, difficulty feeding himself, incontinence, etc. is hard enough even when you have help. The items listed here are things I have used for my husband who has Parkinson’s Disease. Being elderly is a consideration. If your patient has other conditions – diabetes, heart problems, your list may be considerably longer or different.

You may purchase items you need from medical supply stores found on the internet or through the Yellow Pages of your phone book. Most people appreciate saving money where they can. Shopping yard sales, flea markets, or estate sales can lead you to used wheelchairs and other reusable supplies. I have purchased 3 used wheelchairs over time, in various condition – some paint chipped, missing a small part, or hardly used. Prices ranged from $15.00 to $40.00. One wheelchair stays in the car, one on the porch to get him to and from the car, and one in his basement workshop.

Other items you might find helpful:

*Fold down table, the kind you can pull up to a sofa for snacking, works well with the wheelchair. I especially like it because it is easily moved where needed, it tilts so he is able to read the paper at a better angle, and it’s washable. Occasionally he’ll eat a meal on this table.

*Bedside table on wheels, like used in the hospital. I bought several of these tables when our County Nursing Home did remodeling a few years ago. At the time my husband was not sick, but these tables are handy to have around the house for other uses. And I sure use them now – alongside the bed, at the dinner table, and one in the living room to hold his magazines, tissues and water bottle.

*Toilet/potty chair, tub chair, walkers, exercise equipment. It was tough finding a potty chair with a split toilet seat for a male patient, but I finally found one at an estate auction, for $10.00.

*Hand rails and grab bars. I’ve purchased some at yard sales and at a home building center. Some I made myself from 1 1/2″ dowels (actually an old tent pole)and brackets bought at a flea market.

*Eating utensils, bibs, bed pads, urinals, etc. I found a urinal at a sportsman/camping supply store called a Little John. It is shaped differently than the ones found at medical supply. It is red so it is found easily in a hurry, and it has a long neck that makes it easier to get between the legs while sitting. I have several kept at various spots around the house.

*Mobility aids like a gait belt for transferring, a Skid Seat to help once the transfer is made, and mechanical patient lift, manual or hydraulic, for when patient is beyond a gait belt. We have a hydraulic patient lift supplied by Medicare, used to help get Husband into and out of bed when needed. We’re not using it much right now, but it’s good to know it’s there if needed. We’ve also used it for getting him up off the floor after a fall. I also purchased a used one, a little rickety, at an estate auction that I actually use for moving heavy things around the workshop.

*Motorized scooter. The patient must be physically able to handle the controls. Medicare may pay for the scooter, but not always. Sometimes you can find a used scooter at an estate sale. Be careful when purchasing a scooter or any item at auction. Everything is sold “as is”. Unless you can check it out to see if the batteries are good and it runs properly, I would avoid buying unless you can get it for next to nothing. Batteries can run $40-50 each and more, some scooters have two batteries. If the gearing is worn out it may cost too much to have it repaired. My husband’s scooter just had that happen, the gears wore out. A quote for repair was more than $1900. Almost the price of a new scooter. We were able to find assistance to obtain a new scooter.

*Used Hospital beds are to be treated the same as the scooter mentioned above. Buy used with caution. Buying used equipment is always a calculated risk. If you have a problem with the equipment, who do you take it to for repair? Sometimes it’s better to pay full price and buy new from a reputable dealer.

When obtaining these items, that is, the smaller household items, don’t hesitate to get more than one, maybe several of each item,…you’ll need them. Plan to have multiples – for the car; the house, in different rooms in the house; the basement, etc. If you are unable to get out to shop these “bargain hunter” sales, put the word out to friends or relatives to be on the watch for items. It may seem heartless to take advantage of another’s hard ship when they are selling items their loved one used while they were being cared for at home. Most sellers are glad to see the items go to someone else that can use them.

Your county Department of Public Welfare may be able to assist to obtain new equipment such as a wheelchair if the patient qualifies. They will only provide one wheelchair, so if you need additional chairs you may have to purchase used ones as I mention above. They may be able to help with other mobility assisting equipment – hand grab bars in the bathrooms, stair glide to get up and down stairs, even house remodeling to accommodate the handicapped patient, the idea being to keep the patient in his home as long as possible. They may also be able to provide caregiver assistance to help care for the patient. Having assistance when you need it can help prevent caregiver burnout and depression.

Medicare may help pay for equipment if their requirements are met. Combining both Medicare and County Assistance can go a long way to making a difficult situation livable.

Lastly, remember to take care of the caregiver. If that’s you, allow yourself time to breathe. I should talk. I feel guilty any time I feel the need to get away, so usually I don’t. “My time” is while he sleeps late or goes to bed early. I can’t go out and leave him alone. I try to have time on the computer or to read. Whatever I can do, and still be within hearing distance of his call.