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Be Safe: Wheelchair Safety for Users and Caretakers

Be Safe: Wheelchair Safety for Users and Caretakers

By Kevin Cleary

Boy, do wheelchairs make things easier!! Whether for a temporary injury while recovering or for a permanent disability, the ability to roll around can make everyday activities much easier. While it may seem like a simple endeavor, often safety is overlooked. What can happen? It’s just a chair with wheels!! Without some common sense safety tips the person seated in the wheelchair as well as their caretaker can get injured.

 Be Safe: Wheelchair Safety for Users and Caretakers

Let’s State the Obvious

There are some basic, common sense rules for using a wheelchair. Probably one of the more important things is to pay attention to the wheelchairs weight capacity. For instance, if you are a bariatric patient it would be dangerous to be using a lightweight wheelchair to get around. Not only could the patient be injured but possibly even your caretaker or loved one. Inadvertently rolling backwards can cause injury to your caregiver or even yourself if it gets out of control. Using the Safe t Mate 3rd Generation Wheelchair Anti-Rollback Device can keep the patient and caregiver safe. By grabbing the tires as the user attempts to stand or sit and utilizing high-strength plastics and robotic welding, everything is stable and safe. When traversing uneven ground, care should always be taken to try to avoid steep inclines/declines. These slopes should never be attempted transversely, but should always be tackled at a 90° angle. Either go straight up or straight down. Obviously, if the slope is very steep extreme caution should be taken when going downhill. One way to restrict unsafe speed is to install the Safe t Mate Wheelchair Speed Restrictor . Resistance pads apply friction to the large wheels of a wheelchair and can be adjusted from slight drag to substantial resistance according to the user’s ability. It can even be considered a therapeutic device to build strength!! A good rule of thumb is, if in doubt don’t try it. While it may be funny in a movie, the prospect of a loved one careening down the hill out of control can be frightening. Just by adhering to these two simple rules, the prospect of tipping over is minimized. Seatbelts are another common sense safety measure that must be adhered to. One way to guarantee wheelchair users stay buckled in is to use a seatbelt with an alarm on it. The AliMed Buckled Seatbelt with TR2 Patient Alarm sounds an alarm and flashes a red light when unbuckled and has multiple mounting grommets for a custom fit. One alarm that is tamper resistant and even has a low battery warning is the Safe t Mate Integrated Alarm. Its 95 dB pulsing horn alerts nearby caregivers of a potential fall. It features a failsafe alarm that sounds if the cord is accidentally removed during operation. Safe t Mate also provides an Alarmed Velcro Brand Seatbelt. This is a lap belt for those that can self release, but need the reminder to stay seated while alerting staff for family members. Combining a seatbelt and alarm, the Skil-Care ChairPro Seatbelt Alarm alerts caregivers when a seatbelt is unbuckled therefore minimizing the risk of falls. This eliminates the need for sensor strips or clothing clips as well as reminding patients to stay securely in their chair. For those that need more torso assistance, the Therafin Wheelchair Positioning X-Harness can keep patients securely in the chair without the fear of slumping forward or to the side.

You’re the Mechanic

 Be Safe: Wheelchair Safety for Users and Caretakers

Whenever our cars need servicing we take them to a mechanic. Unfortunately, there is no corner mechanic for your wheelchair. You need to be observant to make sure that everything is in good working order. As Mosby’s Textbook for Long-Term Care Nursing Assistants states, it is important to check that tires are properly inflated and are not loose. Underinflated tires or loose wheels can lead to the braking mechanism not working properly. The spokes of a wheelchair also need to have attention, since broken spokes can interfere with the proper operation. Depending on the type of chair you’re using, it’s a good idea to pay attention to any loose nuts or bolts. Without overstating their importance, these are the small parts holding your chair together. One handy little tip: keeping a small little toolkit with your wheelchair when you travel is a good idea. This way if you need to make any adjustments you have the proper tools for your wheelchair.

Don’t Share the Load

Sometimes wheelchairs can be a point of fascination for young children. Sharing the ride with them can lead to an unsafe situation (especially if it’s a power chair). While your grandchild may love sitting on your lap while you roll around your house all it takes is one lapse in attention and a loss of balance and an injury can occur in the blink of an eye. Not only is giving the grandchild a ride on your lap a bad idea, but care should be taken to not overload the back of the wheelchair. If too much weight is placed on the back of the wheelchair this can cause the chair to tip backwards and possibly cause the user to smack their head on the ground. One way to combat this is the Comfy Anti-Tip Device which is attached to the bottom of the wheelchair and provides stability therefore reducing the risk of tipping backwards. For those that use a Drive wheelchair, the Drive Anti-Tipper without Wheels fit several different Drive models. They will help keep you up right and moving forward!! For other wheelchairs they offer the Drive Universal Rear Anti-Tipper with Wheels . These fit most major wheelchair manufacturers and have a universal spacing sleeve to accommodate a secure fit. To avoid tipping over forward, the Safe T Mate Adjustable Front Anti-Tippers offer five height adjustments to accommodate a variety of wheelchair heights, from full height to low hemi chairs. In order for your chair to work properly you must be upright, so be safe!!

Special Care for Electric Wheelchairs

For those that use power (electric) wheelchairs a whole new set of problems can arise. One of the first things we learned in science class is that water and electricity don’t mix very well. Sensitive electronics can be easily compromised when exposed to water. This can cause the wheelchair to stop functioning, or even worse behave erratically. One simple way to protect yourself from the elements is the Sammons Preston Wheelchair Umbrella . It provides 40 inches of rain protection and can mount to most wheelchairs. Yes, these wheelchairs can be disengaged and pushed but they weigh significantly more so any incline can become a problem. Not to mention the fact that there is no way then to stop it. Canyou say runaway train!? Keeping your power chair clean and dust free can go a long way to operating it safely. One simple way to keep dirt and debris away from your power wheelchair is to use the EZ-Access Power Chair Cover . It’s a lightweight, easy to use waterproof cover that will protect your chair year-round when not in use. If you find yourself out and about and a sudden rain storm should appear, the Skil-Care Wheelchair Rain Cape with Case can protect both you and your chair’s sensitive electronics. With a little bit of common sense and safety forethought, you can avoid accidents while using your wheelchair and make it safe for those around you.

 

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