Last updated on April 23rd, 2023 at 12:04 pm
Spinal cord injuries can limit a person’s mobility. It usually leads to paralysis in the arms and legs, but the equipment and tools are available for people with quadriplegia. An assistive device allows people with spinal cord injury to lead more fulfilling lives by restoring independence and function.
The assistive devices for quadriplegics also reduce their need for reliance on a caregiver. In this blog post, we will explore five adaptive pieces of gear that are essential for individuals with quadriplegia or even someone with spinal cord injury at any level!
The following list I’ve adapted for myself and have used over 40 yrs of my disability. I sustained a spinal cord injury in 1980. I’ve included equipment that works for me, but there are many other adaptive devices out there to consider!
Sometimes when something in a catalog just doesn’t work, you need to work with someone to custom-make adaptive equipment for you!
Every person has different needs, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. This list is not intended o be the only way to modify things. The assistive device should be chosen for the individual and not the other way around. If you are looking for some great examples of assistive devices for people with disabilities, then read on!
What Are Adaptive Equipment For Quadriplegics?
Assistive devices technology is a broad term describing technology to help people with quadriplegia or a traumatic brain injury in their daily living.
A spinal cord injury can limit a person’s mobility. It usually leads to paralysis in the arms and legs, but adaptive equipment is available for people with quadriplegia. This adaptive equipment allows people with disabilities to lead more fulfilling lives by restoring independence and function.
The adaptive equipment for quadriplegics also reduces their need for caregiving from others. In this blog post, we will explore five pieces of gear that are essential for individuals with quadriplegia!
My List Assistive Devices For Quadriplegics
It depends on a good spinal cord injury rehabilitation program to improve and help adapt to your injury level. Nothing beats your own ingenuity to find alternative ways to improve your daily living.
These accessories can also help maintain wrist support, strength, and hand coordination. Some people with quadriplegia even have limited control over upper extremities. The best ideas for recovering from paralysis come from your occupational therapist for some folks.
There are some great examples of adaptive equipment for people with disabilities. The following list I’ve adapted for myself and have used over 40 yrs of my disability. I’ve included assistive devices that work for me, but there are many other adaptive tools out there to consider!
- Adaptive Kitchen Aids
- Power Wheelchairs
- Adaptive Eating Utensils
- Leg-Bag Emptier
- Reacher Quadtool.com
- Universal Cuff
- Ceiling Lift
Adaptive Kitchen Aids
Not everybody with quadriplegia is cut out for the kitchen.
Quadriplegics often try to adapt their life by getting more independence when cooking. Still, assistive devices can take some time and patience. Many people will find it frustrating when they’ve lost function over control.
Adaptive cooking aids can help increase function and make life easier for people who cannot use their hands or arms well enough to cook, bake, or work at a stove. There are many options out there on the market today. Amazon is an excellent source to see what is available.
Kitchen aids can be used by people with any type of disability or injury level, not just those who are quadriplegic or have limited use in their limbs. If you think your loved one might benefit from kitchen assistive devices, then check out these great examples!
Having a secure location to cut and prepare food is essential, whether you’re using a crockpot, preparing for a BBQ, or simply cooking supper. A counter that you can roll beneath is terrific, but a secure lap tray with a cutting board may be just as good if not better. “Even though I can’t get under my counter, I use the lap tray because it is more secure.
You don’t have to have all of those things and do all that complicated stuff to make a decent dinner. I swear by my spatula and BBQ fork from a 99-cent store. I’ve used the spatula for everything, including the knife substitute. “I tried using knives, but they’re adamant without the use of my hands.
Many types of cutlery can make life easier for you if you have limited hand function or dexterity because of paralysis, so consider your needs carefully! Sometimes the efforts are best at doing other tasks.
Power chairs are an essential piece of equipment for people with high levels of quadriplegia. They allow us to access different environments and travel independently. The newfound freedom allowed me to open doors to new possibilities. The wheelchair is often the most expensive purchase someone makes when injured. A wheelchair must satisfactorily perform its function while also being safe enough to use for everyday life. There are several types on the market with complex seating systems.
I’m not going into makes and models as that’s a discussion best between you and your therapist. If you are in a manual wheelchair and are getting older, don’t be afraid to make the switch. You shouldn’t feel trapped by your wheelchair, and it should allow you enough mobility without pain.
Though power wheelchairs have their own issues and sometimes are difficult to get used to in houses, it sure saves on the shoulders. I was so hung up on the appearance of being in a power chair I delayed the switch, luckily not too long. I made the switch after 20 years in a manual wheelchair.
It amazed me at how much easier it was to get around. I am still working on my driving skills but am getting better at it. Using a joystick takes some skill, and new drivers need lots of practice. If you consider the switch, don’t be afraid to do it as long as your therapist is supportive.
Adapted Eating Utensils
This is a device that an over-the-counter solution just did not work. I came up with my fork design to stab my food and not just scoop it across the plate.
These utensils wrist support designs come in mini shapes, including an extra-wide handle to easily fit in the palm of your hand. Other eating utensils use a cuff but put the utensils at a weird angle. You usually need a plate guard to keep food from knocking off the table.
The designer I came up with I’ve been using for the better part of 42 years. It allows me to stab my food and prevents me from scooping food off of the plate. Sometimes, “necessity is the mother of invention.” is true.
Solutions can be as simple as looking at a new way to solve a problem. But you can bet there was a lot of trial and error to get the right fit for my hand. The picture with the fork in my hand I use and carry with me at all times. It is simple and effective, but gets the job done.
The picture shows how simple it is to use. The fork tines are pointing down to stab your food and not have the food slide off the plate with this design because of the angles. I made a design that works better than what’s on many tools available in catalogs. Sometimes one needs to look beyond what’s available.
This adaptive device is another significant game-changer for the high-level quadriplegic, or even someone with cerebral palsy. There is not a vast array of options on the market. Being able to empty your urinal bag without the help of a caregiver increases your independence.
As a catheter user, I must drink a considerable amount of water every day to keep my bladder flushed. Any rehab or urologist will tell you it’s essential to keep your supra tube free of sediment buildup. If you don’t, there’s gonna be trouble due to the potential of autonomic dysreflexia or UTI.
I’ve used battery power leg bag emptiers in the past, but they’ve never lasted very long. I am not sure how I stumbled upon this leg bag emptier, but I am more than pleased by its simple design and effectiveness.
The JB-3 is well-designed and easy to use. Connecting the leg bag is simply because it does not require batteries hooked into your powerchair’s electrical system. I do not have a hand function, but I could get my thumb around the handle and pull to open the bag.
I try to drink up to 90 ounces of water a day. Now that I know I can get my leg bag emptied without any help, I can keep my catheter flush and operate. I send the unit in periodically to have the company clean it, for which they charge a small fee. The unit is a little pricey at the beginning, but it’s hard to put a value on going to the bathroom by yourself. For me, it is worth the cost it’s having to hire someone full-time is more costly.
The quadtool.com is a device that is one of many adaptations for quadriplegics. It’s a tool made up of four different types of tools in one. I literally got choked up when I saw it and used it, as you can imagine. It brings so much independence and confidence to a person with quadriplegia living in an environment where they have different needs from the average person.
This tool is an ingenious design that allows you to pick up items without using a thumb to pinch things or grasp them. They come in various sizes in links in our custom-built to your hand specifications. As you see from the picture, you simply need a wrist extension to operate.
Imagine a high-level quad with some arm movement. With no fingers, I can go to the grocery store and get things off the shelf, participate in gardening activities, or drop my credit card or even a dollar bill of ground and pick it up. I wish I had found this tool when I got hurt 42 years ago. Thanks to a brochure I saw in rehab for a follow-up, I only found it.
Universal cuffs are helpful for people who have limited hand control. You put objects like forks, spoons, pencils, brushes, and toothbrushes in the cuff holder. It is permanently stored well, so even when we cannot grip it with our fingers, it’s still possible for us to eat, draw, or even groom ourselves.
These are easily found online or in rehabilitation catalogs for assisted devices. I’m mindful to include these when traveling is easy to store; it could be put into service when something fails. For example, how do I use this to hold my toothbrush when at home I would use my electric toothbrush?
The universal cuff comes in handy when grasping something impossible to do; you need a solution to fill that need.
Patient Transfer or Ceiling Lift
This may take the prize if I can point to a single transformational piece of must-have equipment. This not only saves you from a lousy transfer in the fall but saves your caregiver their backs trying to lug you from chair to bed.
There was a time early in my injury that I could transfer myself with a sliding board, but it required much assistance. It wasn’t until after surgery that the use of a lift was required. Let’s just say it was an eye-opening experience. One in which I realized then it was gonna is hard to do without.
Hoyer-type lifts are generally not covered by insurance, or that it’s been my experience. So they can be pretty expensive, but I still think it’s worth it in my particular situation. This can expand your opportunities for hiring caregivers because it takes transfers out of the equation.
Starting off with a portable patient lift, I upgraded to a ceiling lift shown in the picture. The ceiling lift moves along the track mounted on the ceiling. I have a track mounted in the ceiling from my bed to the bathroom and back. The lift is operated with a remote, so it’s easy for me to operate it myself when necessary. I still need help with the sling.
A ceiling lift is expensive but expands on who I can hire as a personal assistant.
These are just a few things I think make life better for quadriplegics to live independently and successfully in their homes. These devices certainly allow me much more freedom than not having them would ever be possible if they weren’t available.
I hope this helps you when making your own choices in the equipment. This is not a complete list but just some that I’ve found essential for my personal situation and help me stay independent with dignity and respect.
I hope this article has given you some ideas to help someone with these devices. Many of these devices can be found on the internet or in catalogs for assistive equipment. Some are custom-made to my specific needs.
I hope this article will assist you in making educated selections regarding the equipment that would be suitable for your needs.
Jim was a healthy and active man until a football accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. He has since learned to navigate life as a person with quadriplegia, which has not slowed him down. Jim is proud of his many accomplishments, including traveling to foreign countries and most regions of the United States. He currently lives with his wife and family dog near Austin, Texas. Jim’s latest accomplishment is authoring “The Last Tackle.“