Travelling with Special Needs: No Problem

Just came across this valuable resource for your clients and loved ones travelling with a person who has special needs.  This might be for accessibility (such as renting a wheelchair or scooter at the person’s destination), oxygen, special beds, bathroom equipment and more.  The destination location may provide the service or the caregiver can contact a Certified Accessible Travel Advocate when making reservations.

Find out more at this website and get on down the road  . . . or on the plane . . . or sail off on that long-awaited cruise!

Take care,

Julie, O.T.

The trending is already here. Are you ready?

Here are trends of interest to Baby Boomers and professionals watching the trending in home safety and environmental modifications.  

Feel free to share this website with your patients and clients for Active Tips and Gentle Moves TM to make their lives easier!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Israel Gamburd, president of Los Angeles-based Gamburd Independent Living Solutions, sums up the state of the bath safety market this way: “The past year has been huge. It has reached a point where I have almost had to turn down business.”

Of course, not everyone is experiencing a level of growth where refusing customers is an option, but Gamburd’s experience may serve as an indicator that demand for bath safety products is exploding and that there is plenty of opportunity for HME providers seeking out cash alternatives for their businesses. With baby boomers aging and needing assistive home products for their parents and themselves, bath safety is a natural category for any company serving the homecare market, vendors say.

“We’re now dealing with the ‘sandwich mom’ who is challenged with finding care for her parents, as well as her own family,” said Doug Francis, principal and co-founder of Port Washington, N.Y.-based Drive Medical Design and Manufacturing. “Many times this caregiver is more interested in finding an item that adds to her parents’ independence and quality of life and less interested in what is paid for by the government.”

Consumer awareness of bath safety products has greatly increased in recent years, Francis says, which raises the retail profile for HME providers.

Beyond grab bars

The core products of bath safety—grab bars, commodes and bath benches—remain the top sellers of the category, but manufacturers say they are drawing more interest in a new generation of products designed to expand the portfolio.

Gamburd chalks up the ShowerBuddy, an ergonomic shower transfer system, as a catalyst for his strong business growth this year. Designed to assist the caregiver, the portable system alleviates heavy lifting with automatic hoisting and lowering into a tub or shower stall.

“This is a cost-effective system for those who can’t afford to install a permanent fixture,” he said.

New York-based Cleanis is offering a couple of new products that are also designed for caregiver benefit—the Carebag commode liner and Aqua wash glove. At $1 per liner, the Carebag is a super-absorbent pad that offers users an affordable option for commode pail management, said Nicholas Beck, Cleanis general manager.

Beck contends the new wash glove delivers the same performance as the traditional pre-moistened shampoo caps.

“It allows HME providers to get out of the saturated low-margin no-rinse wipe market,” said Beck.

Selling upscale

Having cost-effective options for consumers is a must in a sluggish economy, but carrying products on the opposite end of the scale is also proving to be a successful formula, vendors say.

“It has been an interesting evolution,” Gamburd said. “Where once people would laugh at $100 grab bars, they’re not thinking twice about spending that kind of money if they are designer quality. There are a lot of people out there who want something much better than what Home Depot would carry.”

Consumers are also becoming more sophisticated in their choices of product materials and colors, Francis says.

“People are demanding products that look less ‘medical grade’ and more ‘designer inspired’ as the category continues to expand,” he said. “We also see the need to make products transportable to aid those that continue to travel. Of course there will always be a need for a basic product, but we believe that basic products can still have some pizzazz and we can bring high design to the masses.”

Merchandising these products is also essential for sales, says Cali Thomson, business manager of bath safety and walking aids for Elyria, Ohio-based Invacare.

“It is important to think like a traditional retailer when displaying bath safety items—create a bathroom vignette with a bathtub, toilet, and maybe a vanity to display the products,” she said. “Create an environment that is inviting and help the customer envision how these products would help them be safer in their home.”

Build a package

Ken Spett, president and CEO of Atlanta-based Graham-Field Health Products, asserts that purpose, not price, is the main purchasing factor for bath safety products.

Carrying a wide array of styles and price ranges, as well as performing installations, positions the independent HME provider as an expert in the field, says Spett, which serves as a competitive advantage over giant discount retail chains.

“Becoming an expert means having a trained staff to educate their customer base and having a team of trained technicians that can install these products,” he said. “Installation is an integral part of selling a bathroom safety package. While some customers may wish to ‘shop’ these products individually, I believe it is the service an HME provider can deliver that will result in more sales.”

Customer empathy is another valuable sales tactic that separates the independent provider from the mass merchandiser, says Dave Henderson, national sales manager for Algona, Wash.-based EZ-Access.

“For many users, this is a very personal area and the ability to talk knowledgably and in comfortable terms is appealing to the customers,” he said. “The HME provider can often win the sale with personal service and immediate delivery.”

Data you can use


Here’s some data you can use from my industry research.  Let’s call it “Data” and “What to Do” with It:

Data:  From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Research Update

Falls are the most common unintentional injury for persons 35 to over 65 years of age.  The number of falls TRIPLES for persons over age 65.

What to Do with It:  Everyone needs to be mindful of fall risks within your home (the most common location for falls and injuries) and especially proactive for the older adults in your life.  Use information from our Active Tips to guide you in addition to online resources such this checklist from our friends at Rebuilding Together.

Data:  According to a publication of the American Association of Retired Person’s more fatal falls and injuries occur on stairways and this includes step ladders.  Remember that persons 50 and over are in this group!

What to Do with It:  Consider the following from the CDC Portable Ladders Self-Inspection Checklist

Inspect all of the surfaces, moving parts, attachments, feet, etc. before each use.  “Non-slip bases are not intended as a substitute for care in safely placing, lashing, or holding a ladder that is being used.”  Use the right ladder for the intended job and never exceed the weight limits or design constraints of the ladder (for example not standing on the top step when it is not designed for weight-bearing!).  Never place the ladder on a surface other than solid, level ground or flooring. Check if the steps and all surfaces are they free of water, oil, and grease?  “The use of metal ladders should be prohibited wherever they might make contact with energized electrical conductors.”  And see the link above for more . . .

Data:  Generated from the CDC research of the 10 Leading Causes of Nonfatal Unintentional Injury, USA, note the following in a search for persons ages 49 to 65:

  1. Falls
  2. Overexertion
  3. Struck by or against another object
  4. Other causes including motor vehicle accidents and other forms of transportation

What to Do with It:  Please be mindful of your own limitations and ask for help when you need it.  Consider modifying your methods, tools, or equipment from the suggestions noted in our Active Tips including the TSS flagship product.  Be especially mindful of the risk of overexertion during hot and cold weather extremes.  Get competent help when needed even if you must pay for it initially.  Have you heard about

Data:  From the CDC Weekly Report on Nonfatal Bathroom Injuries Among Persons Aged Over 15 (from Emergency Room data) we find the following.

For all ages, the most hazardous activities were bathing, showering, or getting out of the tub or shower. Approximately two thirds of all injuries occurred in the tub or shower, and approximately half were precipitated by bathing or showering, slipping, or getting out of the tub or shower. Only 2% of injuries occurred while getting into the tub or shower, when bathroom fixtures and floors likely would be less slippery. According to the Home Safety Council’s 2004 The State of Home Safety in America report (7), 63% of U.S. homes used bathtub mats or nonskid strips to help reduce bathtub falls, but only 19% of homes had grab bars. The study described in this report included all settings . . .

What to Do with It also comes succinctly from the CDC Report:

These findings suggest that all adults, especially older adults, their caregivers, and their family members, should be educated about activities in the bathroom that more frequently result in injury, notably getting out of tubs and showers and getting on and off toilets. Injuries might be reduced through environmental modifications, such as putting non-slip strips in the tub or shower and adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower to reduce falls, and installing grab bars next to the toilet for added support if needed. However, more research is needed to determine how effective grab bars and other environmental modifications might be in preventing bathroom injuries. Increasing awareness of potentially hazardous activities in the bathroom, combined with these simple environmental changes, could benefit all household residents by decreasing the risk for injury.

So there you have it:  the data and some intial ideas about what to do with it.  What have you learned from your own experiences?  Please offer constructive tips and suggestions for our readers in the Comments below.

Take care, Julie O.T.