Featured image forNot all Disabilities are Permanent – Simple Solutions to Make Surgery Easier

Guest post written by a previous PATF borrower

When you have an adult son with an intellectual disability, every day is full of surprises, especially when you factor in changes to the routine like when he needed knee surgery. Here are some lessons we learned along the way. Most importantly we learned how much easier (and safer) recovery can be with a little assistive technology (AT).

Over the summer, my son tore his right meniscus, and needed surgery. The recovery would mean four weeks non-weight bearing on his right leg. For most, this means four weeks of crutches. However, for my son Kyle, crutches would be a safety risk because of his limited balance and stamina. We shared our concerns with his surgeon and he suggested a pre-op physical therapy (PT) session to review home care needs. The physical therapist determined that for Kyle’s safety, a wheelchair, walker and bedside commode were necessary. Each of these were covered by insurance as durable medical equipment (DME). Another simple solution was a bedside adjustable table that fits up to the bed, wheelchair and couch so Kyle could enjoy meals and keep his computer and iPad handy. We chose this inexpensive bedside table we found online.

Once we got him home, we realized what a huge barrier two little steps can be when you are in a wheelchair. It never occurred to us before that these two steps leading up to our front door could keep Kyle from going outside safely to get to school and his PT appointments. In our case, my husband’s construction background came in handy and on a Sunday afternoon, we were able to build a temporary ramp using our other son’s ATV lawn mower ramps attached to plywood. Now Kyle and his wheelchair can safely get in and out of the home. If you don’t have a handyman around, but only have a couple steps to navigate, there are lots of options for temporary ramps.  You could try the Recycled Equipment and Exchange Program (REEP) at the Institute on Disabilities. Home improvement centers may also be able to help. The Home Depot has a good selection of portable ramps online.

Another life-saver has been grocery store delivery. With my husband traveling for work and Kyle unable to be left home alone, trying to shop (while pushing a wheelchair) for food and medications was not happening. I found out that our local grocery store delivers within two hours for a very minimal fee. I was able to get the groceries and medications delivered without ever leaving the house!

And finally, if you aren’t already using one, a temporary Persons with Disabilities Parking Placard can make parking and getting to and from all those PT appointments, and other errands, much more manageable. These placards last six months, and you can find the application on the PennDOT website.

So, consider this: if you or a family member has an upcoming surgery, with a little planning you can get the assistive technology you need to make life a little bit easier. Talk to your surgeon, meet with a physical therapist, research and explore your options. And, with 0% loans for assistive technology costing under $2,000, the PATF Mini-Loan Program was made for these small, sometimes unexpected purchases.