There are some ten million people in the UK living with arthritis. If you’re one of them you probably already know all too well about how it affects your ability to do things that most people take for granted. For many, walking becomes an exhausting painful challenge and a scooter offers a way to regain lost mobility. Here we take a brief look at what arthritis is and some of the different types. We also consider what to look for when choosing mobility scooters for people with arthritis and how to go about checking if you are entitled to help with paying for a vehicle through the Motability Scheme.
What is Arthritis?
The word itself comes from Greek and means ‘joint inflammation’ but there are in fact several types of arthritis in which the causes are unrelated, and the symptoms may vary considerably. By far the most common form is osteoarthritis, which affects some eight million people. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage protecting your bones breaks down, resulting in pain and swelling in the joint, eventually causing bony spurs called osteophytes to develop. Although the cause isn’t clear, some things can exacerbate the problem, such as joint injury and obesity. It is most common among women, those over 40, and anyone with a family history of the condition.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects around half a million people and is again far more common among women and older people. It is an autoimmune condition, which means the body’s own defences attack the joints. There are many other types of arthritis such as ankylosing spondylitis, fibromyalgia, lupus and gout. Although usually associated with those of advancing years, it is by no means exclusive to the elderly with around 150,000 children in the UK diagnosed with some form of arthritis. Of these the most common is one of several types of juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
What type of mobility scooter is best for arthritis?
Just like with most conditions, there is no single essential feature common to mobility scooters for people with arthritis. It is a condition which varies greatly, both between different types and between individual patients. Symptoms can vary on a periodic basis and can range from mild discomfort and stiffness to severe pain and almost complete loss of movement in the joint. It can be progressive, or in remission – with no further worsening of the condition – or can return and worsen without any obvious cause. As such, different sufferers will have very different needs.
Someone who is considering their very first mobility scooter, suffering from relatively mild arthritis symptoms, might well need a small lightweight vehicle that can easily fold down into the boot of a car. They may still be working, and or active in other respects, but just need a bit of help getting about, so something compact and lightweight, that can easily access shops or the office may be ideal. Alternatively, someone who has much greater difficulty walking even short distances might be better off with a larger heavier vehicle, possibly a class 3 scooter which can use roads and travel at 8mph. A few people with the most severe symptoms may need a powered wheelchair instead.
Mobility scooters for people with arthritis will usually need to have controls which are easy to operate since hand joints are often affected. Large switches and levers with soft grips that do not require much effort to turn will likely be ideal. Those with painful knee and hip joints it may require extra leg room and you will want to take stability into account.
Any form of back or upper torso pain will mean you need to consider the softness of the ride, so think about things like pneumatic tyres, comfortable seats and suspension before you buy. For those who are on the large side, you will need to consider the maximum weight the scooter is intended to carry.
The only way to be sure that the mobility scooter you are considering buying is suitable for you is to test drive it. This is where the Monarch Mobility free home demonstration offer comes into its own. They can arrange to bring mobility scooters to your home and allow you to sit on and operate them in a real environment, so you can be absolutely sure that you have the right level of comfort and operability before you buy. If your condition is expected to get progressively worse, you may want to try and think ahead and anticipate how your needs will change over time. This will no doubt be easier with the vehicle in front of you too. If you qualify for the Motability Scheme, so much the better as you will be able to change your vehicle regularly.
Does having arthritis entitle me to the Motability Scheme?
A simple diagnosis of arthritis is not enough to entitle you to use the Motability Scheme, in fact, many people suffer from arthritis and have no difficulty walking at all, which means they would not be legally permitted to use a mobility scooter under current legislation. To qualify for the Motability Scheme you must be in receipt of one of a very specific range of benefits. These are the Higher Rate Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), the Enhanced Rate Mobility Component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), the War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement (WPMS), or the Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP). There should also be at least twelve months left on your current award. Bear in mind, if you are not in receipt of any of these benefits, but you find walking difficult, you may be entitled to them. You can get further details here.