Assistive Devices

Assistive devices are designed for your safety and convenience.  Remember, they are tools for your use – tools to help you live well.

If you are scheduled for or have had orthopaedic surgery, some of these devices may be recommended by your surgeon to assist you during your recovery.  For inpatient surgery, an occupational therapist may show you how to use the device before you leave the hospital.

Grab Bars:  A grab bar is a bar that firmly attaches to a wall in your bathtub or shower, giving you something to hold on to when entering or leaving the bathtub.  Most people need a grab bar placed vertically along the faucet wall of the bathtub to hang on to when they lean over to turn the water on and off, and to help them step over the side.  Another is placed horizontally along the back wall to assist you in rising after sitting in the bathtub.  It is particularly important that grab bars be securely screwed into the studs in the wall so that they can safely take your weight.

Non-slip mats:  It’s important to have non-slip mats both inside and outside the bathtub or shower to provide traction for your feet when they are wet.

Bath or shower seat:  A bath or shower seat can be useful if getting down to sit on the bottom of the tub is difficult or if you tend to get weak or dizzy when standing in the shower.  Look for a bath seat with height-adjustable legs and non-skid rubber tips on the feet.  A seat with a backrest may be more comfortable.  Be sure to check the manufacturer’s weight limitations to see if it is the right one for you.  A hand-held shower spray is necessary to allow you to direct the water where needed.

Tub Transfer Bench:  A transfer bench can help you get into a shower/tub without climbing over the tub’s edge.  One side of the bench legs fit over the rim of the tub while the other side of the bench legs sit inside the tub.  The bench allows you to safely slide over the tub rim and then you lift your legs in.  Look for a bench with height-adjustable legs and non-skid rubber tips on the feet for security while bathing.

Cane:  A cane can provide you with balance and support if you are unsteady on your feet or have a “bad” (weak) leg.  A cane needs to be the correct length, or it may cause shoulder and back pain.  The cane should come to the point in your wrist where you wear a wristwatch when you stand with your arms at your side.  When walking, always hold the cane on your strongest side.  If you have arthritis in your hip, you should use the can in the opposite hand as this will take the pressure off that hip. Always move the cane and the opposite (weaker) leg together.

When going upstairs, take the first step up with your strong leg and then move the cane and the opposite leg together.  When going down the stairs, take the first step down with the cane and the weaker leg.  Then lower the strong leg to the same step.  If you are unsure or unsteady on the stairs, sit on the stair and ease down one step at a time.

Useful accessories such as ice picks and hand loops are also available.

Hip protectors:  Some people may be particularly vulnerable to injuries if they fall, possibly because of osteoarthritis.  Others may have a fear of falling that prevents them from doing the activities that they enjoy.  Hip protectors may allow you to continue enjoying independence and an active lifestyle while reducing the risk of hip fracture if you do fall. (NOTE:  the literature is not entirely supportive that hip protectors will reduce hip fractures.)

There are several styles of hip protectors, including a belt style similar to a small hockey belt and a style that builds thin hip pads into briefs (underwear).  The hip pads can be made of specialized foam or plastic that absorbs impact.  Whichever type you prefer, it is important that they fit properly and are comfortable when you wear them.

Sock Aid:  A sock aid will help you to dress yourself and may be recommended following joint replacement surgery.

Slip your sock over the sock aid.  The heel of the sock should be against the hard plastic side of the sock aid.  Place talcum powder inside the sock aid.  This will allow your foot to slide easier.

Drop the sock aid to the floor and slide your foot inside the sock aid while pulling on the strap with both hands.  Avoid bending forward at the waist to see your foot.

Pull the strap until the sock is fully on your foot and the sock aid pops loose.  Use your reacher or long-handled shoehorn to adjust your socks and/or to take them off.

Long-Handled Reacher:  A long-handled reacher will help you to dress yourself and may be recommended following joint replacement surgery.

Remain seated in a chair or at the edge of your bed.  This increases your safety, especially if you are not fully weight bearing on your operated leg.  Use a reacher to place the article of clothing (underpants, pants, skirt) at the foot of your operated leg.  Slide the article of clothing over your operated leg and pull clothing up to knee level using the reacher.  Then, dress your non-operated leg.  Stand up to pull up your clothing.

Long-Handled Shoehorn:  A long-handled shoehorn will help you to put on / take off your shoes and may be recommended following joint replacement surgery.

To put on a shoe:  Use a reacher to hold the top part of your shoe, including the tongue.  Slide your foot in while using the shoehorn at the heel.  Do not twist your foot while putting on your shoe.

To take off a shoe:  Use the end of your reacher to push your shoes off.

Crutches: Crutches provide you with balance and support, especially after an injury or surgery to your leg or hip.  The crutches will need to be properly fitted.  A physiotherapist, athletic therapist or casting technologist is the best person to ensure your crutches fit properly.  An improper fit can result in skin breakdown and sore arms.

When using crutches, put your weight on your palms, not on your armpits.  Do not twist to turn, but instead take small steps.  Move the crutches first, then the injured or operated leg, followed by the good or non-operated leg.

To go up stairs using your crutches:  put your non-operated leg on the stair, then put your operated or injured leg on the stair and then place the crutches on the stair.  To go down the stairs using your crutches:  put your crutches on the stair below, then put your operated or injured leg on the stair, and then place your non-operated leg on the stair.  If you are unsure or unsteady on the stairs, sit on the stair and ease down one step at a time.

Walker: A walker can provide you with balance and support if you are unsteady on your feet.  A large variety of walkers are available – the selection of a walker that’s right for you will depend on your particular circumstances and especially on your weight bearing status.  A physiotherapist or occupational therapist can help you decide the best walker for you.

A walker needs to be adjusted to each person’s height to prevent leaning and strain.  Adjustments should be made by a therapist.  When walking, lift and place the walker, if not on wheels, a short distance forward.  If on wheels push forward only a short distance.  Step forward with your weakest leg first.  Using your arms, push down on your walker, then lift and step forward with your other leg.

A walker without wheels may be recommended following joint replacement surgery.

Raised Toilet Seat: A raised toilet seat is used to limit hip flexion after surgery, thus lessening the chance of joint dislocation.

The raised toilet seat fits on existing toilets, adding height and allowing a person to stand easily and gain independence.

A raised toilet seat is considered a necessity for hip replacements to prevent dislocation.  Orthopaedic patients with knee replacements, casts or following back surgery would also benefit from raised toilet seats.