The lip of my shower is only 3″ high – it might as well be 3 feet when it is time to transfer. I can use gravity to slide back and forth between chair and shower seat, but gravity also keeps my feet planted on the floor. It’s even tougher getting into bed, when I need to drag my dead weight leg up onto the mattress.
Use scissors to cut shelf liner into a narrow strip that will become a strap for leg lifting.
These are problems, but nothing a trip to a hardware store and a pair of scissors can’t solve. (Or you can order from Amazon, using the link at the end of this article.)
This liner, the rubberized type, is light weight, strong, and won’t slip, either off my leg or out of my hands.
One roll can provide 3 or 4 straps. I keep one by the bed and another in the bathroom.
How I lift my leg with a cut strip of shelf liner.
The others are spares, because they will wear out after a year or so. I also use it to finish getting into bed. I simply loop it around my leg, just above the knee, and then pull my leg into bed.
When your legs are weak or paralyzed and you try to stand or walk, gravity is your enemy. But when you are using a wheelchair or scooter, gravity can become your friend. One of the ways I have maintained my independence despite being unable to stand or walk is by using gravity. I have a wheelchair with an elevating seat. In addition, I have a hospital bed that elevates (the Invacare “full electric” model).
Warning! Rant ahead: Despite the fact that an elevating seat can make it possible for an otherwise immobilized person to independently transfer into and out of bed, on and off the toilet, and on and off a shower seat, Medicare continues to say that an elevating seat or elevating hospital bed is a “convenience” item and they will not pay for it. Fortunately, many manufacturers recognize the need for elevating seats and include them as standard equipment. You will need to find a mobility supplier who knows how to work with you to get what you need.
With an elevating seat, gravity does most of the work of getting you into the bed.
Once you have an elevating seat, you need to make sure that each place that you want to transfer to is of a height that is about half way between the lowest and highest positions of your scooter or wheelchair seat. For example, if you have a wheelchair that is 20 inches high at its lowest seat position and 26 inches high at its highest position, you would be wanting a bed, toilet seat, and shower seat that are about 23 inches high. This would allow you to slide from your elevated chair to the bed and then slide from the bed onto the lowered chair when you are ready. (See the diagrams I provided with this article.)
Lowering the chair seat lets you slide out of bed more easily.
The other item of equipment you will need is a transfer board. I strongly recommend the “UltraSlick” board. You can buy the 30 inch version over Amazon, or your own mobility supplier may have it in different sizes if that is not convenient. Important: if you are trying to slide on the board when you are not dressed, be sure to wedge a towel part way under so that you can have it between you and the board. Bare skin, especially wet bare skin, on an UltraSlick board will probably stick like glue and you may need help getting free.
When a body is weak, you can often find help by returning to basic physics. I have found that leverage, gravity and momentum are all incredibly useful tools when trying to get a job done. Today I will show two simple examples of leverage.
The handle on my vise is too short and very hard for me to grasp.
I occasionally need to tighten a vise when I’m making a gripping hook or other tool. The little handle that comes with the vise is only 4 inches long and very difficult for me to get a good grip on since my fingers don’t bend.
Adding a length of pvc pipe gives me four times the strength I had before.
But when I add a 16 inch long piece of PVC pipe, I can apply four times as much pressure, not to mention that the pipe is much easier to grasp.
Another example: I have taken up sewing (a lot more about that later) and from time to time find it necessary to change attachments on the machine. The manufacturer provided a special screwdriver for that purpose, however it has a handle just one half inch in diameter. Again this is almost impossible for me to grip and twist.
Securing this tiny screwdriver with a visegrip lets me use it on my sewing machine.
The solution? A small visegrip. When it is attached to the screwdriver I have a 2 inch wide handle giving me four times the turning power as before, plus a shape that I can hold in my palm.
In a future post, I will show how I use gravity and momentum to solve problems around the house.