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The Converted Armchair

As you get older, one small change can throw out your whole daily routine.

This was the case for Karl who has a genetic disease called Charcot Marie Tooth Disease, similar to Muscular Dystrophy, which causes muscle weakness and foot drop, making it difficult to walk. Karl sat in a powered lounge chair to watch television. The chair had a remote control which tilted the chair at an angle that would lift Karl forward and hold him into an almost standing position to help him transfer to his walker and then wheelchair.

When the chair needed replacing, he and his wife Robyn realised that the original model had been discontinued. The replacement had much shorter arms, so when Karl reached the full tilted position he couldn’t put his hands on the chair’s arms to steady himself and push forward towards the walker.

TAD volunteer Jim Barrett came out to look at the chair. “The arms were about six inches too short for Karl to lean his hands on,” explains Jim. “I made a metal extension for them and made them at right angles for a bit of extra support. Luckily the chair’s cover was attached with hook and loop fasteners so it detached easily and there was spare material at the back which stretched over.”

“Jim was amazing,” says Karl. “He came out and measured everything up. When he came back he had already made the extension so all he had left to do was fit it to the chair. He did a great job and it looks brand new.”

Karl, a former panel beater, came to Australia from Germany over 50 years ago. He and wife Robyn are keen gardeners and they used to spend a lot of time on bush walks in search of orchids. It was orchids that led them to TAD, as fellow orchid enthusiast Graeme Russell is an office volunteer at TAD and recommended the service.

When Jim was installing the arm extensions he noticed that Karl was having problems using the chair’s control. It was attached by a cable and Karl had to hold it in one hand and press the switch with the other. As he gets older Karl’s hands are becoming more curled and he was having difficulty using both hands to operate the controller. Jim fashioned a cradle for the controller out of sheet metal and bolted it to the outside of the chair. Now Karl just has to use one hand to operate the switch.

“TAD is an amazing service,” says Karl’s wife Robyn. “It seems like a simple thing but it makes the world of difference to people.”

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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.