Mobility Devices and Medical Supplies: A Healthcare Provider Prospective

Updated on February 20, 2011

By Jeff Roth, President,

As the baby boomer generation continues to get older, these individuals will see an increasing need for adaptive equipment and mobility supplies to aid in their daily lives. While this may involve something minor such as purchasing a long handled shoehorn or a simple scrub brush to assist in the shower, a more heavy duty device such as a mobility scooter or stair lift may become a necessity depending on the severity of one’s limitations.

As a professional in the health care realm, there’s a good chance a client or a loved one in the baby boomer age group will seek your advice on the topic of mobility devices in the future. While it may seem like a fairly straightforward task to research the proper model, the reality is there are so many options available both in store and online that it can become overwhelming. Purchasing an ill-fitting device can actually worsen one’s condition and be a true safety hazard. While this may not be a major issue with the lower priced items, buying an improperly fit lift chair or mobility scooter could lead to a hit not only to one’s body but also their checkbook. Below is a list of 5 common mistakes to avoid from a physical therapist perspective when a loved one or client is ready to make this purchase.

Not Doing the Proper Homework – To give a real life example, one of the most common mobility supplies purchased worldwide is a cane. Purchasing a cane can be complicated because not only can you buy a cane made from wood, steel and aluminum but canes come in both fixed and adjustable lengths. In addition, canes come in standard single leg models, multileg models called quad canes as well as hemi canes for those dealing with effects from a stroke. Each disability has its own needs and this should be researched before offering advice. Suggesting a standard cane for one individual may be placing them at risk while a quad cane may be unnecessary for another person.

Being a Penny Pincher– Everyone loves a bargain. As shoppers we have a tendency to purchase items on sale or we believe to be of value even if that item may not be the best in class. When it comes to mobility devices, the basic rule of thumb is that you get what you pay for. For example, a new lower end lift chair recliner might cost ~$400 which may seem like a great deal. Problem is, this model will not have a full recline function nor will it offer the same comfort of a higher priced selection that the user will need. Because this chair will become the major area of sitting for the buyer, skimping for price over function probably isn’t the best decision.

Waiting Too Long– A common issue that arises is the embarrassment that sometimes accompanies using a mobility device. Many people view using a walker or wheelchair as being crippled or having a negative stigma associated with them. Because of this, people tend to wait too long to ultimately make their purchase and cost themselves the help that could have prevented further decline in their status. Its best to overcome this mental hurdle and purchase the needed supply at the proper time to lessen any further physical decline.

Not Taking Proper Measurements – The most common problem that arises after purchase is that it simply doesn’t fit right. While at times this can arise from miscommunication and purchasing error, usually it results from simply not taking proper body measurements before ordering. The number of individuals who are just plain lazy and don’t perform simple measurements is astonishing and causes issues down the road with improper fit. Taking an extra 5 minutes to take the requested body measurements will save pain and discomfort from occurring due to ill-fitting equipment.

Failing to Consult with a Professional – With certain higher end devices such as power wheelchairs and stair lifts, purchasing these blindly without professional consultation would not be recommended. Spending a large amount of money on a custom fit product without really knowing if it is appropriate would be irresponsible. Consulting with a physical therapist or other rehabilitation professional should be a starting point if someone you know is looking to make a significant mobility device purchase. Doing so might save not only money but also piece of mind in the long run.

Jeff Roth MPT is a licensed physical therapist and owner of Roth Therapy Services LLC, a home health care specialty group in Pittsburgh, PA. In addition to his practice, Jeff has created the website The site includes advice on making smart purchases on mobility equipment as well as reviews on products such as power lift chairs, bathtub lifts, wheelchair lifts for home and more. Jeff can be contacted directly at [email protected] with any questions or inquiries..

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