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Tools to Maximize Independence for Disabled Veterans


For disabled veterans, simple tasks can get in the way of everyday activities. Not being able to put on your shoes, type on a computer or get down your front steps can make the difference between leading a fulfilling, independent life and feeling distraught and helpless.

Know that having an impairment doesn’t mean you have to struggle with your day-to-day life.

Assistive device options

The purpose of assistive aids is to help maintain or improve your functioning and independence. They can enrich your physical, mental or intellectual wellbeing. In short, these tools make it easier for you to do everyday activities, such as getting dressed, moving around or cooking.

Independent living aids

This is a sample of the devices that can help you stay independent in your home. Consider these choices:

In the kitchen:

  • Mechanical reaching tools: Ask someone to help you rearrange your kitchen. Bring heavy items or items you use often closer to your level. For things on high or low shelves or in deep cabinets, use mechanical reachers to get them more easily.
  • Adaptive silverware: If you have trouble holding on to your flatware, adaptive utensils can give you a better grip. These come in different weights and handle shapes. If you have difficulty cutting, rocker knives allow you to cut foods using only one hand.
  • Jar openers: Small rubber discs or special levers and grippers can make opening jars less stressful.

In the bathroom:

  • Grab bars: Grab bars help you keep your balance on slick bathroom floors. Have them installed strategically around your bathroom wherever you need them.
  • Raised toilet seats: Raised toilet seats, which come with or without handrails, can make it easier to get on and off the toilet. You can also purchase a “comfort height” or “right height” toilet. These options are 2 to 4 inches higher than a regular toilet. A bedside commode can be a convenient option for nighttime use.
  • Shower safety options: Shower chairs and handheld shower heads can make bathing safer. Consider no-rinse shampoos and body washes to simplify and shorten your grooming routine.

In the bedroom:

  • Transfer boards: These long, smooth boards can help you move from one position to another more easily, such as from your bed to a wheelchair.
  • Leg lifters and leg loops: These nylon apparatuses help you lift your legs into bed easily.
  • Night lights: Place night lights around your bedroom and bathroom to illuminate a safe path so you don’t trip in the dark.
  • Dressing assistance: If you have trouble reaching down to put on your shoes, a long-handled shoe horn can help you glide your foot into a shoe. Zipper pulls and button hooks can make it simpler to put on shirts, pants and coats.

In the car:

  • Auto handles: These tools attach to the door latch to provide support for getting into and out of a car.
  • Swivel seats: These seats assist you in swiveling in and out of a car seat.

Mobility aids

Mobility aids make getting around easier and safer. These are just a few options:

  • Canes: If you have one weak or injured leg, using a cane can help relieve stress on it. Make sure to use a cane on your non-affected side. If your left leg is injured, hold the cane in your right hand. Canes come in a variety of configurations, including single tip, tripod and quad canes. Tripod and quad canes provide more support and stand on their own, so you can reach them more easily. Canes with rubber tips can help keep you from sliding.
  • Walkers: Walkers offer support and stability for people who have lost strength. Get professionally fitted for a walker to ensure you’re using the correct size. Add walker glides to the tips of your walker to move more easily.
  • Wheelchairs: There are a variety of wheelchairs. Manual wheelchairs tend to be more lightweight and affordable than motorized wheelchairs. However, manual wheelchairs require upper and lower body strength unless you have someone to push you. Lightweight, high-performance wheelchairs can be a good option for veterans who enjoy being active in sports like basketball, tennis and racing.
  • Motorized scooters: Three- and four wheeled scooters can be a good option for people who are able to walk but can’t walk very far.

Other types of aids

Assistive technologies can help you see, learn, communicate, work and participate in leisure time activities. Here are other examples of assistive tools:

  • For hearing: If you have hearing challenges, hearing aids can help you hear better and closed captioning can help you enjoy television. Many churches and public venues offer assistive hearing devices so you can enjoy lectures and performances in the building.
  • For using a computer: Computer assistive technologies allow people with sensory or mobility challenges to use a computer. These tools include screen readers, which read text on a computer screen out loud; screen magnifiers, which make text appear larger; large track balls to help move the mouse; and speech recognition software, which converts speech to text.
  • For reading: Automatic page turners and book holders can help people with certain impairments to enjoy reading.

Financial help for assistive devices

Depending upon your needs, coverage and state, you may be eligible for certain assistive aids at a discounted rate or free of charge. Assistance may be available through the Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicare, Medicaid or your health insurance plan. Check with your healthcare provider or social worker to learn what you qualify for.

The market is full of assistive tools that can help make disabled veterans’ lives easier. Talk with your healthcare provider about assistive technologies or ask for a referral to an occupational or physical therapist. Be sure to tell them the specific tasks you need help with so they can recommend the best options for you. Then you’ll be on your way to a more confident and independent lifestyle.

As an experienced caretaker of her aging mother, Nancy Kupka PhD, RN, writes to share he knowledge to educate and inform others on caregiving. Dr. Kupka is a Manager of Clinical Programs and Quality at Walgreens, where you can find home health products like mobility scooters to help disabled veterans stay mobile.

Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes for loss or damage due to reliance on this material. Walgreens does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned in the article. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk.

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