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Maintaining Independence

Prudence was born with dislocated hips that were not fixed properly, so she has had limited mobility since she was young, and now uses crutches and a walking frame to move around. She is a spirited lady who uses services such as those provided by TAD to help her to be as independent as possible.

Prudence is about to buy a new car. In her 80’s, prudence has osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, but is still able to drive. However, her therapist has suggested it may be time to replace her 1963 Morris Minor van with an automatic, which will be easier for her to drive. “But I think they’re just embarrassed when I turn up in it,” she says.

Prudence was born with dislocated hips that were not fixed properly, so she has had limited mobility since she was young, and now uses crutches and a walking frame to move around. She is a spirited lady who uses services such as those provided by TAD to help her to be as independent as possible.

She says she first found out about TAD in the 1980’s through her occupational therapist. The initial project completed for her was a seat on wheels that enabled her to work in her garden sitting down. Since then she has approached TAD directly for help as needed.

Recently Prudence asked for assistance with her tray mobile, which she finds the most convenient thing to use as a walking frame and simultaneously carry things around. She needs to put most of her weight on her arms, and she was finding it very uncomfortable resting them on the tray mobile’s metal frame.

Volunteer Jim Lemon made gutter splints for the frame using aluminium tubing cut in half, lined with two layers of foam and covered with sheepskin for comfort. He clamped these to the arms of the frame, and then made vertical hand grips and clamped these at the right distance from the splints for a perfect fit.

Another, more tricky problem was that Prudence needed to adjust the height of the tray mobile to vary the pressure on her shoulders. However, she did not have the strength in her thumb to push in the button that allows the adjustment mechanism to slide up and down.

Jim came up with a simple but ingenious solution: a lever made from a bar of mild steel which he heated and bent to create a hook that goes around the frame at one end. Above the bent section is a bolt which fits into the button hole and enables the button to be depressed using the entire weight of Prudence’s hand rather than just her thumb.

Finally, Jim attached a brightly colored cord so the lever can hang off the tray mobile for easy access. The lever also works on a customized hospital chair that has the same adjusting buttons.

A third project involved Prudence’s crutches, which she has had for many years and suit her perfectly in terms of design and size. However, the mounting brackets for the arm band had become very worn, and some of the rivets were loose.

Jim made a new fitting for the arm band by carving a piece of scrap metal to fit and riveting this on securely. He tightened the other rivets and also bolted the spring buttons at the bottom, where the original holes had become elongated.

The tray mobile and crutch projects required Jim to make one visit to take measurements for the devices, and then another to fit them on site, as Prudence cannot manage even briefly without her mobility aids.

Prudence says TAD’s help has enabled her to be much more independent. “Who else do you ask to do these things?” she asked. “I couldn’t get these jobs done to fit me anywhere else. My needs could not be better serviced than they have been by TAD. Thank you.”

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TAD acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures and to elders past, present and emerging.