You may find that you need help navigating the world after your injury. There are several mobility and environmental aids that can make moving around easier. You should only use a mobility aid if it is recommended by a physiotherapist or occupational therapist. The therapist will make sure the aid fits you and will show you how to use it properly. Using an ill-fitting aid or using an aid improperly can increase the risk of injury (e.g., due to falls or repetitive strain).
Canes are an excellent aid that offer support if you have a deficit on one side of your body and only require a small amount of help moving. They are meant to help with balance and should be used when a person can mostly walk on their own.
Walkers or rollators
A person uses a walker when they require more stability. A walker has four legs. Rollators are like walkers but have wheels for ease of use. Walkers and rollators are sturdier than canes and allow people with more significant balance problems to continue walking, building up their strength and stability over time. In some cases, a person may need to use a walker or rollator permanently for safety.
In some cases, a person with a brain injury may not be able to walk. This could be temporary or permanent depending on the cause. Some people may find that they can walk short distances or indoors but need a wheelchair to travel longer distances or outdoors. When a person is unable to walk, they use a wheelchair. There are several different kinds of wheelchairs ranging from basic manual models to more advanced motorized chairs. Wheelchairs can provide you with the ability to move around, but it does mean that some places may be inaccessible, and your home environment will need to be adapted.
For some people, walking on uneven ground (typically outside) can still pose a challenge, even if they are able to walk indoors with no trouble. This is where walking poles can come in handy. Also called urban poles, these walking poles can be used for increased activity and for balance by people in rehabilitation. Some sticks even come with special ‘feet’ or ‘grips’ that can be changed depending on the environment and purpose of the walk. Many models are also collapsible for easy storage. If you would like to try using walking poles, you should consult with your doctor first, particularly if you are currently using a walker or cane. You should also be aware that if you have joint pain or are unable to grip the poles that they may not work for you.
Orthotics and proper shoes
When a person experiences mobility issues, there is the possibility that the way they walk, and their posture will change as a result. This can cause additional health problems, including pain. Doctors may recommend orthotics or special shoes that provide more foot and arch support in order to alleviate related pain, correct skeletal positioning/posture, and overall help improve balance .
Some people with brain injury have ‘drop foot’. These people will have difficulty flexing the foot when swinging the leg forward during walking. The toes may drag on the ground and increase the risk of tripping. An ankle-foot orthosis is a device that fits around the ankle and helps to keep the toes from dragging while walking. Alternatively, a functional electrical stimulation device can activate the muscle at the front of the shin during the swing phase of walking to flex the foot. If you think you have drop foot, you should speak to your doctor or physiotherapist about getting an ankle-foot orthosis or functional electrical stimulation.
Stairs can be difficult to use if you are experiencing problems with walking, lifting your legs, and balance. If your home has stairs and you are not able to live entirely on one floor, a stair lift is a safe alternative. These are mechanical chairs that move up and down on a track. They can be installed in your home to make the environment more user-friendly.
If you have a wheelchair, you will need to use ramps to access places, including your home. There are companies that make these modifications and will be able to recommend appropriate ramps for you.
If you are using a walker or in a wheelchair, you may need wider doors to navigate easily. This is an additional renovation you may need to complete.
Using the washroom with mobility issues can be frustrating and unsafe. There are several modifications that can be made to make it easier, including:
- Grab bars
- Higher toilets
- Walk or wheel-in showers
- Shower seats
Your bathroom is just one area that may need some modifications. An occupational therapist will be able to help you identify problem areas in your home and how best to adapt them to suit your mobility needs.
There are renovation grants available if you need to adjust your living environment. Available funds depend on provincial programs.