My Nan is 83 and pretty amazing. Several decades ago, she was diagnosed as having rheumatoid arthritis. If you’ve never heard of this, it’s an autoimmune disease, where your bodies own immune system attacks your tissues instead of germs and viruses which cause severe inflammation. My Nan has very swollen and misshapen joints and over the years I’ve watched her become more and more crippled by it. In the past ten years or so, she has become almost completely disabled by it, not able to walk more than two or three steps using a stick or leaning on someone or something.
Despite this and being in terrible pain all the time, she lives on her own and is incredibly independent. A lot of this is down to sheer will and determination to keep going, but her various aids and equipment are an absolute godsend.
She scoots about downstairs in a normal wheelchair, using her feet to propel her. She can only do this around the house – there isn’t enough strength or movement in her arms to use them, and her feet can only take so much pressure. To get up and down the stairs, she has a stairlift and can manage the few steps to get to the bathroom and her bedroom with a push along frame. She has a bath lift to get in and out of the bath and grab rails all around the house.
The main things that have allowed her to keep her independence are her car and mobility scooters. Two or three times a week she jumps (well, not literally – hobbles!) in her car, which is an automatic and drives to town. There, she always hires a mobility scooter, which the company brings out to her and she can freely zip around the shops, having a mooch, picking up some bits and pieces and nine times out of ten picking up treats for her four great-grandsons. She usually goes to her brother’s sheltered apartment just outside of the centre to check on him – yes, even with all of her own health issues, she still looks after her younger brother! When we lived in Birmingham, we would quite often meet her in town for a coffee and lunch. When she’s been poorly or the weather has been too bad and she hasn’t been able to get out, I know she’s felt really trapped in the house.
Without her car and scooter, she would be pretty much housebound. Me and my eldest brother live hundreds of miles away now, my youngest brother has a busy job. My parents both work full-time, and although they do the bulk of her supermarket shopping and help her to medical appointments, they can’t be there during the week. Her being able to pop out and pick up a few bits or go to the bank by herself means she is able to keep her dignity, something which is easy to lose when you’re so disabled sometimes. I also know it keeps the loneliness at bay – she can go and have a coffee or visit my great-uncle.
Fenetic Wellbeing has a range of mobility scooters and has produced this handy infographic for people who are considering purchasing a mobility scooter. There are different types of scooter depending on the needs of the user and this explains the pros/cons of each type.