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Lecturer’s device provides dignified care for disabled youngsters

Monday 9 January 2017

Disabled children are being provided with much more dignified care thanks to a device created by a University of Salford academic.

Occupational Therapy senior lecturer Jo-Anne Webb designed the Klip-2-Lift system, in collaboration with Barbara Ackley from The Disabled Living Centre charity, after spending years working with children and young people who had conditions such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy and were unable to move about or use the toilet without assistance.

Jo-Anne, who worked as an occupational therapist enabling people to become more independent in schools, hospitals and their own homes before teaching the subject, noticed the distress that people often suffer when being hoisted in and out of wheelchairs using traditional all-in-one slings.

These slings are difficult to remove once the person has been transferred and so for ease, the bulk straps are often left beneath them all day, causing difficulties as they get caught under the wheelchair and leading to problems such as sores and ulcers.

She said: “This has always been a bugbear of mine. Carers transfer young people from a wheelchair onto a bed to take their clothes off, and then hoist them onto the toilet.

“That tends to be too difficult for a lot of carers, so the disabled young person is often just put in a nappy all day, which is incredibly undignified for them.”

Her new system involves a waistcoat-style jacket, which the young person wears throughout the day and which can be clipped onto a hoist, along with a pair of detachable leg straps.

These straps are removable and are only needed for the duration of the transfer from bed to wheelchair, or from wheelchair to toilet.

The innovative design allows ease of access for toileting, personal care and readjustment, encouraging a normal toileting regime without the need for nappies. It also avoids problems caused by the disabled person being left to sit in traditional sling designs all day.

The jacket is available for children as young as three as well as in smaller adult sizes. It comes in a variety of colours and can be made with a school badge, so looks like part of the uniform and means the young person doesn’t feel excluded if they are attending a mainstream school.

An adaptation of the Klip-2-Lift jacket means it can be used with a series of robust handles positioned at key points which means disabled people can be much more easily handled by physiotherapists who are providing them with mobility training, or by parents and carers of children with challenging behaviour.

The University’s Technology Transfer team worked with Jo-Anne to patent her innovation and negotiate a licence with care equipment specialist Lynch Healthcare Group who are now selling it through their website, where it will be made available to charities, hospitals and other organisations providing care across the UK and Europe.

Jo-Anne, who has nearly 30 years’ experience as an occupational therapist, said: “I’ve had lots of positive feedback from physiotherapists, occupational therapists, families and support assistants, who say it’s made a huge amount of difference to a young person’s quality of life.

“It’s so much easier for the carer to use and it’s much more dignified for the disabled person. It’s also much safer for people who need support while walking, and I’ve spoken to parents who say they now use it to walk their child to school – whereas previously that was something they would never have been able to do.”

Penny Townsend, a paediatric physiotherapist who has been using the system with young people in Huddersfield, said: “These jackets are excellent for people who are unsteady on their feet, and they allow carers to safely handle children with challenging behaviours, without having to physically hold or support their limbs to stop them running into the road or getting into other potentially dangerous situations. As well as being safer, using the jacket is much more dignified for the young person.

“There are a lot of other advantages to using these jackets. One young man I work with places his arms inside it when he is distressed, which helps him self-regulate his behaviour, while another young man arrives at school and goes straight to the cupboard to ask to put it on, and since wearing the jacket his meltdowns have decreased.”

David Lynch, Managing Director of Lynch Healthcare, said: “Green Trousers is our flagship store for disability and care equipment and we are delighted to be selling exclusively the Klip-2-Lift product range. After having personally been involved in moving and handling equipment for 18 years, I know this product has a great future ahead.”