Mobility is important, almost indescribably so.
Sometimes caregivers have to step in to provide the transportation for people who face mobility problems, whether they are full-time users of wheelchairs, get around with walkers, use a cane, or merely are a bit stiff and grateful for a hand now and then getting into and out of a vehicle.
"Getting out of the [vehicle] seat can be quite difficult. Turning the body to get the legs out, then leaning on the door handle for balance, and getting away from the car” into a wheelchair or walker or onto the support of a cane is difficult, says Chief Executive John Schall of Caregivers Action Network, a nonprofit organization for caregivers.
The good news is that a number of simple and relatively inexpensive items can help. Caregivers and users can move them from vehicle to vehicle, and no modifications to the vehicles are needed.
Because the accessories don't require vehicle modifications, they don't mark the user as impaired, avoiding potential prejudice and negative attitudes that some have about people who are disabled or challenged.
Here are several devices easily found on the internet and in stores that can be moved among vehicles. Consult with a doctor, occupational therapist or physical therapist to make sure they won't do more harm than good in your situation.
We'll also look at more extensive vehicle modifications and some custom-made accessible vehicles.
Freelance writer James R. Healey was auto writer and columnist for USA Today.
Car features to make caregiving easier
If you’re looking for a new vehicle that sometimes will be used to transport a loved one with mobility problems to doctors’ appointments or physical therapy, here are some features to consider:
• Keyless entry so the driver isn't fumbling with door locks and can pay more attention to the passenger
• Electric locks, windows and child-safety doors that allow the driver to control opening and closing and so a patient with dementia doesn't open a door unexpectedly
• Easy-to-access cargo space for walkers or wheelchairs and groceries. Vehicles with hands-free lift gates can save wear and tear on a caregiver's back.
• Higher seats to make it easier to get into and out of the car
• Adequate leg room — and space between the seat and door frame — to make swinging legs into the car easier. This is especially true if you want to transport your loved one in the back seat.
• Reclining front and back seats so users can lie back a little while swinging their legs in
• Electric seats to help a driver move the seat forward to provide more back-seat room
• Heated or cooled seats, depending on your climate. Remote start, which can allow a car to warm or cool before you start the trip, also is an option.
• Hands-free navigation assistance for directions to new doctors or alternative routes when you’re stuck in traffic
• Apps and Bluetooth connectivity so you can have music that’s soothing to the passenger on the trips.
• Electronic parking assistance if you need to parallel park or deal with parking garages.As of May 2018, all new vehicles sold in the U.S. must have backup cameras, so make sure to take advantage of that feature to keep from backing over equipment you forgot to stow away.
— Amy Goyer, AARP