There are various reasons why an individual may use a personal mobility aid (PMA), including disabilities and old age. In general, PMAs like wheelchairs help to provide the user with independence, comfort, and the ability to go about life just like everyone else.
As with any PMA, there are risks that come with wheelchair use. Fortunately, it is easy to prevent injury-causing incidents from happening.
Here are four wheelchair-related risks and how to prevent them.
Transferring to/from a wheelchair
When moving in or out of a wheelchair, both wheelchair users and caregivers face a high risk of injury.
Transferring the user to another surface may cause the back, arms and neck muscles to become strained. Additionally, lifting and transferring may lead both parties to fall.
Learning the proper transferring technique is crucial to minimise the risk of injury.
The steps to proper transferring are as follows:
1. Move the wheelchair as close as possible to the surface you want to move to, though there should still be room for you to manoeuvre around the wheelchair. It is best to transfer on the stronger side of the user’s body.
2. Lock the wheels and move the armrest and foot pedals out of the way.
3. Use transfer aids like lifts of slide boards to make the transfer.
Moreover, you should never lift more than is comfortable. It is also inadvisable to use your back to support the user’s weight; instead, you should depend on your leg muscles.
If the user begins to fall, you should not try to stop the fall. Instead, you should slowly bend your knees and lower the user to a safe surface.
Tipping and falling
Tipping and falling may result in serious injury for wheelchair users.
Some common causes of tips and falls include:
- Sitting incorrectly
- Using a wheelchair that is not suited to the user’s size
- Leaning too far backwards, forward, or to the sides
- Moving too quickly
- Travelling on uneven surfaces
- Unlocked brakes
- Unassisted or improper transfer
Hence, it is vital to choose a suitable wheelchair that fits the user perfectly. If the user needs to lean over or pick something up, it is essential to lock the wheels first so the wheelchair does not tip over or move abruptly.
Furthermore, if you’re trying to tip a wheelchair over a curb safely, you should grasp the back of the wheelchair on a non-removable section to prevent a fall.
Wheelchairs, particularly self-propelled ones, require a lot of upper body strength to move around. They often strain one’s muscles and joints, which are prone to overuse and tightness.
Avoiding imbalances and developing strong arm and torso muscles is important to prevent injury and move a wheelchair effectively. This helps to provide stability and facilitate propulsion whenever necessary.
Therefore, it helps to do targeted exercises that improve strength, endurance, and range of motion. There are several exercises one can do while in a wheelchair, including chest squeezes and captain’s chair.
Wheelchair faults and poor maintenance
Daily use may lead to wear and tear, making the wheelchair unsafe. Hence, it is essential to care for the wheelchair to ensure its mobility, performance, and safety are up to standard.
Some ways to conduct proper maintenance of a wheelchair include:
- Cleaning every 2 to 3 weeks
- Checking the tires regularly
- Looking for damage in the cushion, seat sling, and back support
- Regularly adjusting the cushion, seat sling, and back support
- Listen for sounds the wheelchair doesn’t usually make and adjust or tighten accordingly
- Keep the battery of motorised wheelchairs healthy and fully charged
When using a wheelchair, it is crucial to understand the potential risks and dangers to prevent them from happening. Thus, it is best to learn the proper techniques for movement and maintenance. This will ensure that your journey is as safe and comfortable as possible.