“Anything that helps to restore a person’s dignity is a great thing.”
That’s the verdict of one man on Sheffield City Council’s new specialist equipment lending service, which aims to help disabled people move around and live more independently.
The service is aimed at people living at home whose conditions mean they need two carers, or increased care, to help with tasks most people take for granted, such as going to the toilet and getting into bed.
Piloted last year and now a permanent service, users have said the initiative, which gives advice about the latest moving and handling techniques, and also loans specialist equipment free of charge, has helped restore their dignity.
David Statham, a 57 year old from South Sheffield, has had a neuro-muscle wasting condition for the last ten years. He said: “You can only know what it’s like to be disabled and permanently in the wheelchair if you’re permanently disabled and in a wheelchair.
“If you start having your dignity taken away bit by bit, anything which can restore it to whatever degree, especially to a large degree like this lift does, is only a good thing.
“My illness renders me unable to transfer from my wheelchair to the toilet. I was really hung up on that but now it’s become ok. It’s also given us a bit of confidence, in that if we should go away for a few days to a hotel I can get onto the bed a bit easier.
“With the assistance of the service, I can access places in my own home that have long been out of bounds. We’ve had this sofa for about four years and it’s only very recently that I’ve sat on it for the first time, certainly not before I had the mini-lift.
“It’s quite liberating, being able to sit in your own house more comfortably and not be at the mercy of your wheelchair all the time. We’re very thankful for this service.”
Sheffield City Council piloted the scheme, which was then run by two occupational therapists, last year. At that point, the therapists were able to help a third of the 31 people they saw. Now the council has expanded the service with an extra two occupational therapists and aims to help at least 120 people this year.
Councillor Cate McDonald, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care at Sheffield City Council, said: “It’s great to hear from people like David who are now able to do more. Another man we’ve helped used to need two carers to put him to bed. He’s now able to do this himself and has talked about the freedom of being able to choose when he goes to bed – something most of us take for granted.
“I’m very pleased to have introduced the service on a permanent basis after the successful trial. Helping people live more independently, where they can, and with a better quality of life is something we want to do much more of. It’s undoubtedly better for the people we’re able to help and reduces pressures on carers, which also benefits services.”
Social workers and carers are now referring people to Sheffield City Council’s equipment and adaptation service. These are people who are typically unable to walk across a room any more, unable to get themselves to the toilet, often in a wheelchair or even confined to bed.