Some of us are old enough (or young enough?) to remember a cartoon called Inspector Gadget. He’d shout “Go Go Gadget Arms/Legs” and they would turn into the perfect gadget for the moment, although more often than not he would get it wrong and the comedy would begin.
For us carers, the right gadget at the right time can make a huge difference. Once we have the right solution in place we wonder why we didn’t get this sorted sooner. I’ve been chatting to our community of unpaid carers to get their tips for gadgets, adaptations and equipment that help them and the people they are caring for.
How do I know what might help?
Our local Occupational Therapist (OT) is always a good place to start. They will make an assessment, make recommendations and may be able to provide free or on loan equipment.
Ask your social services team, GP or other health care professional for a referral. If we or the person we are caring for are working, there might also be specialist support available from our employer.
Chatting to others with a similar condition or situation can help us get creative with our solutions too - not all helpful things have been designed especially for people with disabilities, or health conditions, some everyday objects can be put to creative use.
"A visit from an OT was life changing, a Wendylett sheet and a bar at the side of the bed meant my husband could turn at night (and I got a full nights sleep). We kicked ourselves for not making contact with the OT sooner."
Where can I buy things?
Carers told me they bought things from Amazon, Ebay, condition specific charity websites (like Parkinson’s UK Living Aids). Others found a nearby mobility shop where they could see things and get advice. NRS Healthcare was also recommended.
What about technology?
Some of us may already have an Amazon Alexa or Google Hub and may not be using it to its full potential. Our smart phones can be life changing with the right app. Or perhaps we are not tech fans and imagine these things to be something for the “techies”. This might be a way that someone else could help - getting things set up to be simple to use.
Here’s what a couple of other carers say:
"Mobile phone - log seizures, appointments, meds, social media (for my social life), email and text is my main form of communication."
"Amazon Alexa - alerts, communication and drop-in for peace of mind check-in. Together with Netzhome sensors these can give the carer just a little more freedom in your day."
"Echo Dot / Alexa - Routines are easy and useful. I’ve made routines to set sleep-timers for audio books while dimming lights and an “I need help” routine to send me alerts and reassure my wife while she waits for my response."
We'd love to hear how others are using technology to help them in their caring - I’m sure there's a lot to learn.
This could get expensive!
Lots of helpful gadgets can be fairly inexpensive and we might just need to remind ourselves of the difference these things would make. Parents local to me who are caring for children with multiple, life long needs have set up a “Wishlist”. Community, friends and family can then buy things that will help or fund-raise for larger items.
SCOPE have some advice on buying and selling second hand equipment. Local Facebook selling groups and Free-cycle might be a good place to start too.
If you want to do some research before buying take a look at Research Institute for Disabled Customers (RIDC). They have lots of advice on choosing the right thing to help us. Their website includes a database of cars that have enough room in the boot for a wheelchair. Some of our community have been panel members and had free products to test out too.
Our carer recommended list
Smart Phone, tablet/ipad, Alexa/EchoDot, baby monitors, stick on battery operated motion lights, Wifi home sensors and other equipment (eg Netzhome, smart plugs paired with fans, lights and sensors.
Soup machine, OXO good grips veg chopper, hand held blender, Nutribullet, electric tin opener.
Dycem non slip mats, 2 handed cups, metal straws, cushioned lap tray, squirt bottles, travel cups with screw top lids, Jelly drops (to encourage people to stay hydrated).
Mobility and independence
Radar key, mobility scooter, Wendylett sheet, lever handle to attached to car door (Car Cane), travel blackout curtains.
Ceiling fans, fiddle toys and squishy, stretchy or soft things (both young and old enjoy the sensory experience), electric hot water bottle.
Thank you to the great Mobilise Community of carers for all the advice and inspiration. Please do add your ideas in the comments or join in the conversation in our Facebook Group.