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The cost of living independently with a disability

Posted  July 11, 2017

No one likes to consider the possibility of becoming disabled. But if the unimaginable does happen, you will want to regain your independence and be able to continue with your everyday activities as best you can.

Special equipment or services can make a huge difference to your quality of life, but they come at a price - from R20 for a Mali-Bhala money guide that enables a blind person to distinguish different bank notes, to six figure amounts for power wheelchairs, and modifications to your car and home. This is why disability insurance is so vital.

disability

 

We take a look at 10 extra costs you might incur should you become disabled:

1. TransportWhether you use public or private transport, this is one of the biggest costs of becoming disabled.

Travelling to work can cost an extra R449 – R1 731 a month according to a 2015 Pilot Study conducted by the Department of Social Development. Some centres and associations offer subsidised transport such as Dial-A-Ride in Durban and Cape Town, but these are limited to large urban areas on selected routes only.

Modifying your vehicle to hand held controls will cost over R100 000, and an electric wheelchair carrier on the back of the car could cost R23 000.

Employing a full time driver will cost at least R7 000 a month.

If you need a companion to accompany you when you take public transport to ensure you are safe and get off at the right stop expect to pay R40 – R70 a day.

2. Airline travelTickets don’t cost extra and an airline like SAA won’t charge extra for a guide dog. But you will need to plan travel well in advance and let the airline know details of your disability. In some cases your doctor will need to complete a medical clearance form. The additional cost would be that some airlines require people with severe disabilities to be accompanied by a carer, at full ticket price, for your account.

3. Wheelchair batteries and maintenanceWheelchairs are typically covered by medical aids, although if you want a top of the range wheelchair costing R110 000 you may need to pay in, which is where your disability insurance pay-out would come in handy.

Chairs need to be serviced, and power chairs need new batteries every three to four years, at a cost of around R3 000 per battery. Associations like QuadPara SA have a battery replacement programme you may qualify for where you will receive a new battery once a year.

The hourly cost of servicing a wheelchair is around R570 for a power model and R350 for a manual.

4. Caring for a guide dog Guide dogs are the responsibility of the owner once they are trained. Basic care costs over R7 000 a year - R4 800 for top quality dog food, and R2 400 for vaccinations, deworming, and tick and flea treatment.

5. Communication help for the blindLosing your sight means you will need to learn Braille. A computer with a Braille reader or a BrailleNote Apex reader will cost between R20 000 - R30 000 and last around five years.

6. Communication help for the deafHearing aids are available on medical aids, subject to limits, and a basic model is offered by public hospitals. A hearing aid will last four to seven years and batteries need to be replaced every seven to 10 days.

Hearing aids range in price from R5 000 to R65 000, a pack of six batteries costs R65.

A sign language interpreter will help a deaf person communicate in important meetings, for instance with your doctor or your bank. The cost can be as high as R2 500 a day.

7. Home modificationsModifying your home for your disability includes everything from a tipping kettle device to rails, widened doors, bath chairlifts and raised toilet seats. A R60 000 government grant is available, but may not be sufficient to meet your needs. The shortfall will have to be funded from your pocket, or from your disability insurance.

In the bathroom:

  • Reclining bath lift: R15 000
  • Bath chair: R3 300
  • Raised toilet seat with handles: R2 500
  • Tap turners: R700

In the kitchen:

  • Kettle tipper: R900
  • Jar holder: R600
  • Talking digital clock: R400

8. Getting dressedPutting on a shirt and jacket, shoes and socks, requires flexibility and a range of motion that a disabled person may not have. There are special tools to help, like a reacher, which enables someone in a wheelchair to get a favourite sweater down from a high cupboard.

  • Handy reacher: R230
  • Dressing stick to pull your jacket around your back: R130
  • Sock aid to help pull your socks on: R330
  • Extra long shoehorn: R200
  • Shoe remover: R90
  • Magnetic jewellery clasp: R270

9. Preventing pressure ulcersPressure ulcers are a common problem for the physically disabled. Treating a pressure sore can cost between R17 500 and R198 700. Cushions and mattresses play an important role in prevention. Memory foam cushions cost around R2 000 and are long-lasting, but the covers, costing R240, need to be replaced regularly.

An anti-bedsore mattress can cost over R5 000.

10. Personal care itemsThe estimated cost per month a disabled person spends on incontinence products is R1 000.

The bottom lineThere are products and services available to make a disabled person’s life more comfortable and more independent - but they come at a cost. These extra costs may be partially covered by medical schemes, and some costs are allowed as tax deductions, but many are not covered in full. With a disability policy from 1Life you can pay for the changes to your home and lifestyle, regain your independence and live an active, productive, healthy life.

Prices are from a variety of South African suppliers and are a guideline only.

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