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When health care resources are limited, rehabilitation services are rare. You may need to improvise rehabilitation equipment for use in therapy or to help patients with mobility and activities of daily living (ADL). Therapy devices help patients gain or regain activity levels as close as possible to normal. Equipment used for mobility and ADL helps patients function better in their daily lives, despite decreased physical ability. For convenience, I will discuss each of these separately.

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Transfer Belt

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Transfer belts (aka walking belts or gait belts) are used to transfer people who have difficulty walking. These belts also enable helpers to lift patients safely (and without straining their backs), get them into and out of beds, and get them out of chairs.

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To make a transfer belt, place a 3-inch-wide webbing (or several loops of it), a wide clothing belt, or a sturdy (e.g., canvas) wide piece of cloth and a buckle around a patient's waist, and use it as a handhold while transferring them or helping them to walk.

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Parallel Bars

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Patients use parallel bars to practice walking. Fashion these from two long, sturdy poles set into Y-shaped supports at each end. Place the poles parallel to one another, and low enough so patients can use their arms to steady themselves as they walk. Make sure the apparatus is solidly fixed in place, since patients depend on it if their legs give out.

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Child's Walker

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When children need to use walkers or to practice walking, such as when they are healing from a leg fracture, it helps to make it fun. Use your imagination to craft these devices. Girls especially enjoy using a baby buggy. (You can add a doll to make it more fun.) For boys, decorate a walker with cardboard or paint to make it look like a car or boat. When using a baby buggy, be sure to put enough weights in the bottom so that it provides the child with support and won't tip over.

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Cervical Traction

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Cervical traction helps lessen the pain for patients with cervical disc disease. It can be applied in a clinic for 30 minutes twice a day or at home more frequently for shorter periods of time.

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To make a cervical suspension device:

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  1. Build an overhead suspension frame using a flat 2-inch × 12-inch metal bar bent to hook over a door.

  2. Bend a 0.5-inch-diameter × 6-inch-long rod into a horseshoe shape and then weld both ends to the flat bar.

  3. Fashion a head harness from leather, jeans, or khaki clothing material and fasten with sandal buckles. Pad it well with soft cloth. Use a cotton rope purchased from a local market. Tie one end of the cord to the support.

  4. Make two hooks from 0.25-inch metal rods shaped into an ...

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