Here are inventions to make life easier for carers. The media and MPs talk of helping carers, but in truth, most carers and their patients are not aware of the benefits and help they are entitled to. For example, most of the unclaimed money is for vulnerable people and often you are entitled to months of backpay – but this info is never volunteered, you have to ask and make a claim. So visit Turn 2 Us to perform an online benefits check, and make sure you claim, if you are entitled to backdated money. Grandparents Plus can also offer help and advice for ‘kinship carers’.
Your community likely also has free help. Many agencies and charities offer people to visit for practical or emotional support, and you can also have a friendly chat on the phone with volunteers at Befrienders or The Silver Line. If you have pets, Cinnamon Trust and PAPAS both offer free dog walking volunteers (they will also care for other pets, take pets to the vets and often foster or volunteer pets, if you or someone you love has to go into hospital).
Once the above is taken care of, have a look at some of these amazing inventions. Most are available on the NHS if you ask. And even if not, a few of the more affordable items could transform daily life, both for patients and carers. What is really interesting is that a good portion of them are invented by teenagers, who have had a relative with issues. If this is what they can collectively come up with – here’s hoping they all stand for parliament in a few years!
Inventions to Make Life Easier for Parkinson’s
Parkinson’s disease is not just ‘shaking limbs’ but often affects mobility (the biggest risk is falling) and causes problems with speech, writing and drooling.
- Exercises for Parkinson’s Disease is a workout book of simple exercises, to boost mobility and balance. Includes clear photos and instructions.
- Voice Aerobics DVD (you can watch online) is a one-hour program created by a speech therapist to help restore vocal movement. She’s a fan of using tennis bands to absorb drool (more dignity then wet hankies, and they can be thrown in the wash.
- Bob’s Flunkey is not a product, but a simple homemade invention that a patient came up with, to get dressed (good for anyone who can’t raise their arm above shoulder height). It involves tying string to a bulldog clip, and fastening it to the door.
- U-Step is safer than a zimmer frame, as it has brakes so you don’t ‘roll away’ with it as you stand up. The same company’s LaserCane spots a red light on the ground to help provide a visual cue, to stop freezing. Similar inventions are Walk with Path (lasers that attach to your shoes) and Walk to Beat (a walking stick, with a vibrating beat).
- GyroGlove was invented by a medical student, after seeing a PD patient struggling to eat a bowl of soup. Designed to stop hand tremors, users say it’s like ‘sticking your hand in thick syrup’. Gyenno Spoon and Liftware Crockery are also designed to stop tremors.
- Kangaroo Cup and Handsteady Mug are both cups designed specifically to stop spills. The first was invented by the granddaughter of a patient, the second created after 4 years of talking to over 100 health professionals.
Inventions to Make Life Easier for Dementia
- Pattison’s Jelly Drops are vegan fruit sweets that are easy to pick up, in recyclable packaging. Invented by a relative of a demenetia patient who was getting dehydrated due to forgetting to drink, these are made of 95% water and electrolytes, for further hydration. They have no laxative effect.
- Eatwell is a set of tableware from an industrial designer who created it for her grandmother. As well as the items having high rims etc to stop spilling, they are also in bright colours to encourage appetite.
- Music is often the ‘last thing to go’ for a dementia patient. Donate unused iPods to Music & Memory, and these are given to patients.
- Timeless is an app to help make a patient’s life easier. Used by the caregiver, the app takes photos to let the patient know who is talking on the phone, and also reminds them of daily functions like eating, drinking and washing. Designed to help her grandma, this was invented by a 15-year old!
- SafeWander was invented by the grandson of a patient, and attaches to the clothes (like socks) to sound and alarm, if someone wanders off. This enables carers to sleep, knowing they will be alerted in an emergency.
Make Life Easier for Mobility Issues
- The NHS supplies free basic wheelchairs. But if you want to upgrade to something more comfortable, ask about the NHS Personal Wheelchair Budget, which can help you buy a private wheelchair of your choice. Which? has a good article on how to choose the best wheelchair, depending on your circumstances.
- UriBag is free on the NHS. For men or women, this is made from latex. It looks like a film canister and opens up to use as a portable urinal. You just tip the pee on the ground, then fold it up to take home and wash. Ideal if you can’t find a toilet in time (but make sure you get your Radar key to access disabled public bathrooms).
- Blue Badges give free parking in disabled bays (some shops and councils still charge you, so check beforehand). There is a government ‘grace period’ period of around 10 minutes if you are getting an elderly person (or dog) back to the car). So if you are late back to a chargeable parking space, know that it’s worth challenging). Keep disable badges at home when not in use, as some people steal them to get free parking spaces.
- StairSteady was invented by a 16-year old for her GSCE project! It offers a simpler affordable alternative to stairlifts, which can cost thousands of pounds. Fitted by one of their engineers, this is a handle that you use to ‘lever’ yourself up the staircase, fold it away, then use it to come back down again.
Inventions to Make Life Easier for Stroke Patients
- NeuroBall offers hundreds of physio reps with 8 fun games, rather than boring post-stroke training. Research conducted by Brunel University London showed that this invention improved wrist and shoulder movement for stroke survivors.
- LaserFinger attaches to your glasses or hat, to turn appliances on and off (with a slight head movement). Invented by a bunch of teens.
Make Life Easier for Blind People
- Articles for the Blind is a free service from Royal Mail to send nearly all post for free (including internationally). You can also get free directory enquiries (and priority repair) and Blind Person’s Allowance. This is no joke, but blind people only get a TV license discount (not free, with a difference in price if the set is black-and-white?!)
- Be My Eyes is a free app where supply outstrips demand. Only 250,000 people use it at present, whereas they have over 3 million volunteers waiting to help any blind person worldwide check expiry dates, read directions, distinguish colours or read out a recipe.
- British Wireless for the Blind Fund offers digital radios (and a Bumblebee smart device) on free loan to those on a budget (you can buy them otherwise).
- Listening Books and Calibre Audio both offer affordable subscription services to access thousands of books, with free postage (or streaming). If you use a computer, Moon and Elia Frames are easier to learn than Braille.