After 2 years absence, my parents are set to make what was – pre-covid – their annual 6-week pilgrimage to Cortona. At 88 and 85 years old, neither of them are spring chickens, making this return visit something of a challenge.
With the help of my eldest sister, a Brexit card was procured for my father, an EEA health card for both parents, a new passport for my mother, and of course, the purchase of air tickets with travel assistance for my mother who suffers from mobility issues. They will be accompanied out by one sister and returned home, hopefully tanned and relaxed, by the other.
On the Italian front, the countdown began in early May to replicate all the various mobility gadgets and aids which help my mother move around. We already have the shower seat, the grab handles and a ramp down the side of the garden steps, but we were missing the walkers, the wheelchair, the perch stool and the bed rails. We also needed to ascertain whether or not my mother’s parking card for disabled people would be utilizable in Cortona.
My first port of call, regarding the latter, was to Cortona’s municipal police office. They have assured me that parking cards for disabled people are internationally recognised. All one need do is provide a car number plate, after which you can drive anywhere in town with the registered car. As long as you display the card, you can also park either in the disabled parking spaces – if you can find one - or in paying spaces without having to pay.
With regard to the mobility aids, I knew exactly what I was looking for thanks to my other sister having already set-up my parent’s home. So, my second port of call was to the Camucia Sanitaria – in via Lauretana no. 13-17.
They hire out bed bars, collapsible wheelchairs and walkers – both 2 and 4 wheelers - at a cost of E.2,00 per day. A reasonable charge for a 2 week holiday. For 6 weeks and in the hope that we repeat the exercise for some years to come, it worked out more cost effective to buy, especially since my colleagues at work were able to lend me a collapsible wheel chair.
It made sense that my next port of call was to take a look at some local, second-hand websites. I can’t say I did an exhaustive search, but most items seemed to cost little less than buying them new - which I found surprising - with delivery/collection a complicating factor.
My third port of call was to attempt a repeat order of my sister’s original purchases in the UK, but thanks to Brexit, none of the items were available for delivery to Italy! My final port of call therefore was, for good or bad, Amazon. There is no way I would have been physically able to track down between here, Perugia and Siena all the individual items on my list and even on line, I wouldn’t have known where to begin for competitively priced, quality goods.
So it was that I spent hours trying to find comparable items to those my parents have in the UK on Amazon:
1. The lightest of 2-wheel walkers which also exceeds standard height - a specific request from my mother. I eventually found one that weighed in a little heavier than the one in the UK (2.4 kilos as opposed to 2 kilos), but extendable by a further 10 cm. Cost E.54,03 made by Intermed.
2. A grab handle for just one side of a double bed - not only for getting you up to a sitting position, but also to stop you rolling out of bed in the middle of the night (as happens!). Cost E.58,45 made by Mobiclinic.
3. A 4-wheel collapsible walker with seat. I was looking for larger, thicker wheels than standard which makes it easier to push on uneven ground. The one I finally purchased cost E.149,90, made by Hellavo. Having pushed it up and down the garden, I can genuinely say it works very well on even the roughest of terrain!
4. The perching stool, a really useful aid for sitting someone down while brushing teeth and face – or while keeping you company in the kitchen – I could only find on Amazon.uk. Cost £59,99 made by The Elite Care Store.
I have no doubt that left to my own devices I would have ended up spending a lot more money if not for the customer ratings and comments. I am a sucker for what “looks” good, even if it might cost more. Ultimately, it was the comments that helped me to choose each individual item rationally and on the basis of its practicality: the simplicity of assemblage, the item’s sturdiness, the ease of collapsibility and of course its quality.
We have now assembled – painlessly I might add - and tested everything. Apart from the 2-wheel walker which seems to have a life of its own – which may or may not be a good thing – we are more or less set for my parents arrival and what will, I hope, be a wonderful 6 week break for them.