Preventing Wheelchair Injuries for those Receiving Care at Home
When thinking about wheelchairs, many of us don’t realize they can be the cause of many injuries, including fatal ones. For those receiving care at home, this is extremely important. Just as with anything else that has wheels, there is the potential for accidents. In 1990, the last year the National Institute of Health did a study, they wrote that 3.3% of wheelchair users experience a serious wheelchair related injury each year. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recorded that there were 770 wheelchair related accidents that caused death during the years 1973-1989. Today, there are many more people using wheelchairs so this number has inevitably gone up.
While seemingly uncommon, it is important to note that these types of accidents are preventable. Once we reach a certain age, preventing a fall, either in or out of a wheelchair, should be an utmost priority because a fall becomes a long and complicated ordeal. For both wheelchair users and non-wheelchair users, modifying the home can stop a fall from happening. Below are some adjustments that can be done in order to make it safer for an elderly person who needs a wheelchair.
Before Using a Wheelchair, be Sure to Know When to Apply the Brakes:
This sounds simple, but the brakes on a wheelchair are one of the most important features on the chair. For example, it is imperative to make sure the brakes are set whenever someone is getting on or off the device. If a chair is still able to roll, there is a chance that the wheelchair user may put their weight on it and have it slide out from under them. Before someone gets up from a wheelchair they should always be sure to have assistance. Whenever commuting, say on a bus or a van, it is important to keep the brakes locked. Without locked brakes, a sudden stop or turn could spell disaster for the person sitting in the wheelchair. Lastly, periodically check the brakes to ensure that everything is working how it should be and that the brake pads are not worn out.
Create Ramps For the Wheelchair:
If you or your loved one bought the house before a wheelchair was a necessity then chances are the house is not wheelchair friendly. Sometimes, whole upstairs areas of the house become inaccessible, even with the presence of ramps. There should be a ramp leading into the entrance of the house and also to any essential parts of the home such as the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living room. Ramps not only help the one in the wheelchair, but also the caregiver who is pushing the chair. Of course, the angle of the ramp should meet safety standards. It shouldn’t be too steep.
Know the Functional Height for Wheelchair Users:
It is important to adjust the height of things found in the house. If the person who uses the wheelchair loves to cook, then it could be helpful to provide a separate table where the person can prepare food at the height most comfortable for them. Also, why not relocate the most essential items the person will need? For some people, reaching things too low or too high is the problem. There are companies that exist which lower and raise countertops and cabinets and sometimes a height adjustment is exactly what the person in the wheelchair needs to feel more comfortable.
Place a Mode of Communication Within the Wheelchair:
In the event that an accident does occur, it is extremely important the person in the wheelchair can summon help immediately. A lot of people who fall, either in or out of a wheelchair, experience delayed emergency response because they are alone or too far away from someone who can call for professional help. It is important to include a working cell phone, a medical alert, or even a walkie-talkie on the wheel chair. This way, in case someone falls, help will quickly arrive.
Wheelchairs need clear pathways to operate in. A lot of times, homes are cluttered with furniture and if that sounds like your home, it could mean it’s time to get rid of some inessential items. Also, there should be no cords, clothes, or debris of any kind on the floor because these things can cause a wheelchair to snag and topple over. The wheelchair user should be able to freely roam the vicinity of their home without any problem of running into something.
Written by: Max Golttlieb
Max Gottlieb is the content manager for Senior Planning. Senior Planning provides free assistance to seniors and people with disabilities. Senior Planning specializes in long term care, which includes finding and arranging care services, transitioning people into new living situations, and applying for state or federal benefits.