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More mechanical malfunction …

Claws on Walls

Eek, hoist breakdown alert – just a few months after the last one!  The legs stopped working – no opening in/out to go around furniture.  Sigh.  This means yet more contact with my local social services department (SS).  Bangs head on wall.

Used several times a day, 365 a year, hoists (called lifts in the States) are remarkably robust pieces of equipment by and large but, like anything mechanical, they do occasionally malfunction and more so as time passes by.  My SS has a five year replacement cycle policy on them except when they don’t.  Confused?  Get in line.

My hoist is over 5, but not yet 6, years old.  Over time, it’s had a few things go wrong – legs, wheels, batteries – nothing major.  But, minor or major, repairs are always a complete pain due to the tortuous bureaucratic process in place which has to be followed each time.  And it’s a process that makes no sense at all other than to inconvenience the end-users – that is the ill and vulnerable user who is entirely dependent on such essential equipment and their long-suffering carers.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem if an OT (occupational therapist) wants to see and check me, the equipment, the environment of use, whatever but surely there has to be immediate – within 1-2 hour – back up replacement supplied, an urgent, speedy visit and an automatic repair process kicking in, given the essential need driving provision and use of the equipment?

But, no.

What you get is an OT answering the phone who nine out of ten times will say, ‘you’re not on our system’ straight after asking your name.  My blood starts to boil at this point, especially, as now, when the hoist last went wrong less than four months ago!

They have to allocate you to an OT – once you persuade them of your existence and that they did provide you with the hoist – who will ‘give you a call, hopefully today or tomorrow’.

Really?!  Given that you discover the hoist malfunction only at a point when you needed to use it, how do they imagine you will manage meantime?  This is not an item you have for the aesthetics, is it?  But your need cuts no ice as the bureaucracy begins.

Knowing this process by now, I keep a spare hoist in the house – luckily, I have room and am not subject to the UK ‘bedroom tax’ problem.  However, the spare hoist is not as easy to use as the main one and, this week, big problem because EaZyD had seriously put his back out – strapped on heat-packs, physio, constant pained moaning – the perennial carer problem exacerbated by his love for hard sport!

Knowing how hard on his back the spare is – lots of heft needed because of too small wheels, hand-levered leg opening, too narrow leg length and span, too low a lift – he ended up taking the hoist apart himself to find the problem.  Two hours later, with judicious use of sellotape and some conducting metal from the local electric shop, yay, the hoist is functional.  We carried on with our day.

Sadly, of course, this is likely to be a short term solution only as we explained to the assigned OT.  Yay again, the same one as two months ago and she remembered me/the hoist.  She had thought it should be replaced – over 5 years old – last time.  The authorisation process decided a leg repair was cheaper.  It took seven weeks to get the part and replace it!

“Why has it gone wrong again?”  She asked.  “Er, wear and tear …?”  My best guess.

Back it goes through the system.

The SS’s contracted maintenance company come out.  “We don’t deal with these hoists but yes, it’s broken.”  Duh.  That was Wednesday, 48 hours after I called the SS.

They have to tell the SS it cannot be repaired but my OT is not back in until Monday.

She has to pick up their report, speak to her supervisor.  They decide what to requisition – new hoist or specialist repair company.  They raise a purchase order, get it authorised.  They place the order.  It will then take a certain amount of time to get the new hoist or effect the repair.

Let’s hope D’s spit, sellotape, wiring solution holds up.

This is the piece of equipment we use to get me in/out of bed, transfer me between bed, chair, bath, toilet, wheelchair.  It’s my getting up/down legs replacement.

I cannot begin to tell you how exhausting and stressful I find this, wondering everyday when it will let me down, knowing I will have to deal not only with my own difficulties with that but also the carers who let me know in no uncertain terms how much they hate any change and D who will be grimacing in pain trying to help me.

I would buy my own but there are still these maintenance and repair issues and, as I know with my house lift (elevator in US speak), these huge maintenance service providers simply do not support privately paying individuals well.

Rock and a hard place, right?  How long will I wait for a solution this time, I wonder?

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