We spent a week away visiting family. I didn’t plan very well for packing; but really, who wants to spend the short hours of life thinking about such things? It would have been wise to make a carefully thought-out list of the places we were going and the mobility equipment needed to access them. I realized my mistake two hours into the trip and emotionally beat myself up the rest of the seven hour drive. In my frustration, I told my grown son that when he had children, packing with a baby would be a breeze compared to traveling with all of my mobility equipment. My always thoughtful son suggested that the word “accessories” was more appropriate. (I remember when accessories were earrings and a necklace!)
While I am grateful for the many options available and the resources to obtain them, my house looks like the senior department at your local pharmacy with every size, shape, color and brand of mobility equipment invented. (FYI: when available, I usually choose the non-descript black option as if it will attract less attention.) Over the years, I have accumulated the following:
1 Cane – procured through physical therapist/insurance. No longer used for walking, but serves as a clever handle to open the door to the electric lift in the garage.
3 Rollators – one bought at local store and used so much the wheels shredded, two bought from ebay (one used upstairs and one at-the-ready downstairs for the times I do make it down there). This does not include the tall rollator insurance paid for but was too wide to fit through the doors in my house at the time. I sold that one on our local classifieds.
1 Combination rollator/wheelchair – bought on ebay for traveling
NOTE: Rollators fold, but not with the baskets in them, so the impressive group of varying sized baskets is kept on a shelf in the garage.
1 Transport chair (lightweight for traveling) with mandatory cushion – bought with insurance and my co-pay
1 Small electric scooter with small battery and charger – bought for $599 at Walgreens. This travels with a separately-purchased (pricey but worth it) gel cushion and a handy basket.
1 Very large electric wheelchair with it’s very large battery and charger – bought with insurance and my copay
1 Portable/foldable 7-foot ramp to access up to two stairs – bought used through local classifieds
1 Plastic transfer board – bought used through local classifieds
3 shower chairs of increasing sizes – all purchased used from local classifieds over time
1 Handle for side of bathtub – bought at local store, no longer used by me but kept for visitors
1 Exercycle to maintain muscles in legs
3 Sets of weights to exercise arms, 2 sets of 2-pound weights (kept in different locations for easy access) and one mismatched set for different arm strengths – bought at local stores.
Various colors and lengths of rope (yeah, I’ll explain that at a later time).
I use my small scooter most of the time because it’s fast and I lOVE being fast, especially when the phone or doorbell rings (who’s going to wait 10 minutes for an answer?). I keep a rollator in the kitchen and try to use it for awhile each day to keep my legs used to the idea of moving me forward. My electric wheelchair is kept in the bedroom where I can transfer to it if the battery charge on my small scooter gets low during the day (the wheelchair must be used from time-to-time to keep the battery working anyway). I use the largest shower chair in the bathroom. Other devices are kept in a storeroom for the times they are needed. It would be interesting to put them all in one place and take a group photo for the purpose of impressing any readers, but that would require time and effort from people who would be willing but surely have better things to do.
SO, what to take along on a trip? My small scooter always travels with me. And my walker must go along to carefully (do not underestimate that word) climb a few stairs and get through and into places where even my small scooter doesn’t fit. Taking the portable ramp would have helped get me up those two steps into a relative’s house, but then who would perform circus acts for the family? (Why do people love to watch?) Even with a minivan, space is always an issue when traveling with multiple people and their luggage and their electronic devices (and food in a cooler and skit props for that family reunion). Don’t forget to leave room for the dog, his bed and his food to be dropped off at the boarding kennel on our way out of town.
It’s vitally important to remember the carefully dispensed medicine in it’s daily date and time dispenser and a small cooler for refrigerated syringes. Yup, I’m not the ideal travel companion….but for some reason my family continues to be willing to take me along and relatives are willing to let me come visit; so we’ll keep loading me and my “accessories” into the car and traveling the highways of this great nation. But next time, I think I’ll take the time to plan more carefully!