The WHO World Report on Disability states that 15% of the total world population faces some or the other form of disability. Out of these, 2-4% have severely deranged functions.
These are significantly larger from the last report data not only because of better data collection methods but also due to an increase in chronic diseases.
When a person is undergoing treatment in the hospital, the hospital under such circumstances usually provides for the necessary movement aids such as wheelchairs, crutches, etc. But once discharged, this equipment has to be purchased by the patient.
Various walking aids are available in the market which may be needed to keep the individual physically independent and mobile. Otherwise, the individual can get constrained due to a lack of movement and this could adversely affect his/her mental health as well.
What Are Crutches?
These are movement aids, used in case of leg injuries. They assist in movement by transferring the weight from the legs to the arms and trunk. They can be used in both temporary and permanent conditions where even the arms are not strong enough to bear the weight.
However, crutches are not advised in very young or very old patients and in those who have strength, sensory, and nerve-related limitations.
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Why Use Crutches?
- They assist in walking by taking the bodyweight off from the injured part and avoiding further strain.
- They aid in faster recovery by keeping the affected part free from any movement and stress.
- They improve the balance and stability of the body and prevent the person from falling.
- They provide independence of movement for places inaccessible by a wheelchair.
- They assist in maintaining an upright posture which is essential to keep the blood circulation efficient.
- They keep the person physically mobile even in the case of disability, thereby not feeling disconnected or aloof.
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Kinds of Crutches
To understand what kind of crutches you may need to buy, you first need to know which kinds are available in the market to suit your needs.
By and large, crutches are a popular choice among patients because they are affordable, lightweight, can easily be transported and they allow for mobility which may be hampered by other mobility aids such as wheelchairs. The most commonly used crutches are:
1. Underarm (Axillary) Crutches
They are the most common ones used. They rest in the underarm, a few inches below it, and can be adjusted as per the underarm and the hand position. They are available in wood and aluminum. Great for short-term use but should be avoided in cases where the upper body strength has been compromised.
These crutches can cost you anything between CAD 25 and CAD 50 or around USD 20 to USD 50.
2. Forearm (Elbow or Lofstrand) Crutches
The forearm bears the load in these crutches. They keep the elbow free and allow for some range of movement at the elbow. They are more suited for long term use and for those who want an increased range of movements like in sports etc
For these, you may have to pay anywhere between CAD 25 and CAD 250 or USD 20 to USD 230. The comparatively higher price is because these crutches offer greater variance in designs and modifications.
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3. Platform (Tricep) Crutches
As the name suggests, these rest about 2 inches below the skin fold of the underarm at the area of the triceps. They can range broadly from CAD 120 to CAD 300 ( or USD 100 to USD 250)
4. Strutter Crutches
These are a kind of underarm crutches that have a broader base for improved stability and balance. They can range from CAD 30 to CAD 120 (USD 20 to USD 100).
There are a lot of government health care plans to support those needing medical assistance. However, these do not cover all the costs. The respective provinces or territories ensure medical insurances but they do not cover a lot of treatments, aids, and equipment. Routine visits to the doctor and emergency are covered but many other things may not be.
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Types of Health Insurance Plans
Public Health Insurance
For permanent citizens, public health insurance such as Medicare and Medicaid is available. A health insurance card is issued by the respective province which has to be shown at the place of treatment. It is paid through the taxes collected by the government and covers a variety of treatments. Emergency treatments are free, even without a health insurance card.
It is best to check the respective province for what all is covered under the health insurance. The maximum amount which is covered by the provincial insurance differs and can be checked from the information guide of the province in your income tax package.
Mobility aids such as crutches may be covered under this insurance which would be per the provincial insurance policy. They usually cover the crutches with a basic design however they may not cover the cost of design-modified crutches.
It is important to mention here that to be able to procure crutches under the health plan, the person should have a prescription by the physician mentioning that they are essential for the person and that his daily activities will be hampered without them.
The provincial or state government may also have programs to help you to manage these costs.
Private Health Insurances
This option can be used for treatments not covered under the public health insurance scheme. The company or organization you work for may also be providing a health insurance plan, which can be used to procure a pair of crutches.
IFHP (Interim Federal Health Program) – for Canada
This gives temporary insurance to refugees and their dependants and protected persons till the time they are eligible to subscribe the same through their province or other private plans.
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They are a humanitarian service found internationally. They could fund the crutches with the help of the aids they receive. They can also give away free crutches donated to them by people who no longer need them.
HELP or Health Equipment Loan Program is a program run by them that helps to provide pieces of equipment free of cost with the help of finances received from state and private sources or through contributions made by hundreds of volunteers.
Rent and Donations
Many places and people are willing to donate their crutches for free since they no longer need them. Crutches can also be borrowed from somebody willing to give them for a short temporary period. These sources can be found online in advertisements or newspaper ads.
Accessories for Crutches
The crutches available commercially in the market are ready to use designs. However, many accessories for the crutches are also available to modify the basic design and make them more customized and user-friendly. The accessories available are as follows:
- Crutch pads – these are the paddings on the crutches that make them more comfortable while taking support and also prevent any soft tissue damage to the body. They may also be given in the hand rest area to avoid friction and callus formation. These may cost an additional CAD 10 (USD 8 to USD 10) and are available online (Amazon) and in some medical stores.
- Crutch tips – these are the rubber-cap-like attachments at the tip of the crutches. These act as a cushion for shock absorption while walking. They may need replacing if they are worn out or in case of breakage. They are again easily available at Amazon and other stores.
- Forearm cuffs – these cuffs provide grip at the forearm. They protect the soft tissue against the hard rivets, hinges, and other metallic parts. They are available in a range of CAD15 to CAD20 (USD 10 to USD 15).
- Hands-free crutches – these are specially designed premium crutches. They can cost up to CAD 450 and are made of metal.
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Where to Look?
- CVS pharmacy – different designs and types can easily be found here from $30 to CAD130.
- Walgreens – in nearly the same range, many types of crutches can be found here.
- Walmart – Till Jan 2021 there were over 400 Walmarts in Canada and over 4700 in the USA in different states, provinces and territories. Options are also available in this non-medical store from around CAD 15 to around CAD 300 (USD 10 to USD 250).
- Amazon – this most popular online shopping site has a wide variety of options to choose from. They showcase products from many companies and in many designs.
- Allegro Medical– this online medical store has a wide variety of options from around CAD 15 to CAD 400 (USD15 to USD 350) .
- Vitality Medical – this online healthcare supply store offers more affordable options than the others for both consumers and resellers. Their products are cheaper than other sites.
- Smartcrutch – they offer premium designs for the crutches that you want to use. The prices also therefore can be in a marginally higher range.
- Some regional organizations of the provinces (in Canada) may provide short-term loans for crutches. E.g. Goodwill/Easter seal.
- CanadaHelps also has some loan programs.
It remains a good idea to thoroughly check the local policies of your province for detailed and updated information on discounts available in procuring crutches.
To conclude, walking aids such as crutches are essential not just for the physical independence of the individual but for his mental freedom as well.
These frequently seen but not-so-frequently thought about mobility aids are now easily accessible to those in need, thanks to various policies and programs at the provincial levels. So all you need is an awareness of the financial assistance available and the best products in the market and you are good to go!