Car-shopping considerations for caregivers

When you care for someone with physical or mental challenges because of age or disability, you might find regular transportation is more complicated. A traditional car setup may be difficult or even dangerous for those with limited mobility or safety concerns. Yet, the ability to get out and go places is necessary, not just for appointments or to run errands, but also to retain some freedom and engagement with the world.

Choosing a vehicle

If you're choosing a new car, it may require additional consideration to find a vehicle that's more accommodating. So it can be a bit trickier than the average car shopping experience. You'll want to think about the basics like your budget, mileage, reliability, and desired features or technology. But it's also important to consider the more specific needs of your passenger. Think about the person or people you'll be driving and what accommodations are needed to ensure their comfort and safety and provide them appropriate accessibility and convenience.

Common features caregivers may find helpful in a car include:

Large cargo space for hauling equipment and other items

Low floor but higher seats for an easier time getting in and out

Spacious interior with plenty of leg and headroom in the front and back seats

Power doors that can open by pressing a button on the remote and a touch-activated back door for easy loading and unloading

Remote start to heat or cool the car before entering

Power windows and locks with child safety locks in the back

Also, don't hesitate to ask for advice from salespeople at car lots for cars that fit your specific needs. A salesperson might offer suggestions you hadn't considered and have a better idea of what type of cars will work best for your situation.


Car accessories to improve accessibility

Many helpful gadgets and accessories can increase your current car's accessibility. Consider what specific parts of your vehicle or aspects of traveling that your passenger struggles with. This will ensure you best meet their needs, allowing them more independence while also making travel easier and more comfortable.

Swivel seat cushion. Getting in and out of a car seat can be very difficult for those with limited mobility. A swivel seat cushion makes it easy to sit and turn without straining or having to twist the body. Many swivel seat cushions are also much softer, making car rides more comfortable.

The Sojoy iGelComfort Deluxe Gel Swivel Seat Cushion has a 16-inch diameter and memory foam inside for increased comfort.

Vehicle support handle. A portable support handle can be kept in the car or a bag. It hooks into the door's latch to support users while pulling themselves up to rise from their seat and out of the vehicle independently with less risk of injury or strain.

The Able Lift Auto Cane Vehicle Support Handle is a small 1 pound, 6.5 inch long support handle. It stores easily in the car and works in any door latch.

Buckle release aid. Pushing the small release button on the seatbelt can be difficult for those with arthritis or limited hand or finger strength. Release aids are designed to reduce the force and fine motor skills needed to unbuckle.

Bucklebee is a small release aid that can stay on the seatbelt for convenience.

Buckle cover. Alternatively, if you have concerns about someone with dementia, Alzheimer's, or another disability who may try to escape from the car, you don't want it to be easy to unbuckle the seatbelt. There are buckle covers that require a small device to slide through a slot to press the release.

Buckle Robot is a universal and simple seatbelt cover with a release key that can attach to a keychain.

Kimberly Blaker is a freelance writer living in Michigan.

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