Case Study #3

Personal/Family Background
Individual involved at age 60, married, with daughter (15) still living on farm. A 30-year-old son was established as a full partner on the family farm. A mobility impairment complicated with cardiac problems was causing difficulty and distress in this client’s everyday activities. Proper medical care and treatment were ongoing, with surgical relief not being an option. Medication was being taken regularly for the heart condition.

Farming Operation
In the very northwestern part of Illinois, this family farm emphasized the raising of hogs and beef cattle. Small by comparison, the farm produced about 300 pigs a year with 125 head of cow/calf combination on hade. To complement this, tillable ground only amounted to about 200 acres, which was used for pasture and to raise some hay.

Physical Limitation
Severe rheumatoid arthritis of both hips and knees limited mobility, which was compensated for by the use of crutches, wheelchair, or power scooter. In addition, congestive heart disease was diagnosed as severe enough to eliminate the possibility of surgery for the arthritis. A mitigating factor, too, was the client’s weight. Being excessively overweight contributed to the stress on the joint of his lower extremities, and was having a noticeable impact on his ability to access the tractors he needed to operate.

Career Decision/Priority Needs
From the initial discussion, this individual’s only concern was being able to safely and easily be able to get onto and operate a specific tractor. He then could perform most of the farming duties he felt were his responsibility in working with his son. Being a newer model with a cab, it was somewhat higher off the ground than his older tractors, and with a loader attached it posed even more of a challenge to get into.

From talking to the client, and outlining various possibilities for lifts to incorporate onto his tractor, he definitely ruled out a seat-type lift. He felt a standing platform style suited his needs. Therefore, since nothing commercially available existed in that form, a fabricator would have to be found willing and capable of building what was needed. From the client’s own investigation of area welding/machine shops, he provided a lead. Contact with the shop owner determined his interest in tackling this project, though unfamiliar with building anything of this kind. A meeting was held at the client’s farm, and brought together the fabricator, the client, and an agent of the state Department of Rehabilitation Services. Contact with the DORS agent was necessary to secure funding for the cost of building the lift. Plans were discussed regarding best design, safety features, operation characteristics, etc. Follow-up mailings to the fabricator included several variations of successfully built platform lifts to give additional construction ideas. As a result, a platform lift was created which fully satisfied the client’s needs along with being safe and unobtrusive for the tractor’s regular use.

Safety Considerations
In initial discussions with the fabricator, several safety factors were detailed for inclusion into any final design.

That included:
• Recognition of possible “pinch points”, where a finger or toe might get caught between a moving piece of the lift and a stationary one.
• Use of a high quality cable winch, with a rating well above the expected amount of weight to be lifted. The winch also had to have power up and down capability, preferably with the means to operate in the event of power failure.
• Mounting the lift in a way so as not to be a visual obstruction, or interfere with any function of the tractor or associated attachments.
• The incorporation of limiting switches, so the lift could not be operated beyond designed limits.
• Handrails or other means to maintain balance when using the lift.
• Heavy construction to withstand vibration, fieldwork, and extreme weather exposure.

Although a few months transpired in the course of getting this lift built, when received the client found it to be exactly what he had hoped for in the beginning. He was extremely pleased to find that the tractor, with lift attached, worked better than he ever imagined it might. Expectations are that with reduced stress and fatigue of not having to climb up on the tractor, this client will be able to be more productive during the time he is working.