Providing care and assistance to a loved one suffering from illness can be difficult. It can be compounded if your loved one relies on a wheelchair for mobility.
Just as there are multiple reasons for wheelchair reliance, there are many usage parameters. Some individuals need wheelchairs for all movement, some just when leaving the house. Depending on what your loved one needs, you’ll have to make adjustments accordingly.
Basics of Wheelchairs
If your loved one doesn’t have a wheelchair yet, help him or her choose an appropriately sized model. It’s not comfortable to sit in a too small chair for hours on end. Consider accessories like a side pouch for necessities, foldaway surfaces for laptop usage, and seating pads for comfort.
You’ll also want to ensure your home or your loved one’s home is adjusted for wheelchair usage. Install ramps, widen doorways, and lower counter heights for easier mobility and functionality. The more adjusted your loved one’s environment is, the more he or she can move around without assistance. Independence is important for everyone, especially those who have to rely on outside assistance for so much.
Tips to Better Assist Your Loved One
If your loved one is still mobile:
– Experts at the Cleveland Clinic encourage patients to take steps using their good feet first. This helps in balancing. The exception is when going down stairs, begin with the bad foot so the good foot retains a holding.
– Help him or her walk around every two hours or so. It doesn’t have to be far, just around the room. This will help with blood circulation and decrease development of decubitus ulcers, or pressure ulcers.
– Prevent falls by walking behind or alongside your loved one. The exception is when descending stairs: being in front will help your loved one hold onto you should he or she lose balance.
Helping an individual into and out of the wheelchair can take some practice.
1. Position the wheelchair as close as possible to the person.
2. Tuck away the foot rests and engage the brakes.
3. If the patient is lying down on a bed, help him use upper body strength and momentum to roll to his side, then push up at the same time his legs swing down.
Once sitting upright, have him lean forward to help distribute weight. Then help him pivot on his good foot to face away from the chair. Slowly ease your loved one into the wheelchair.
Various points you may want to consider.
– Dress your loved one in comfortable clothing. Look for elastic, velcro, and big buttons to help with comfort and ease in removal (Washington State Department).
– While your loved one is in the wheelchair, move his or her body every two hours to reduce the risk of pressure ulcers and keep blood circulating throughout the body.
Learn how to identify and treat pressure ulcers.
– Look for spots on the skin, specifically over bony areas such as the hips, back, and buttocks. The discoloration will range from red to blue to purple depending on skin complexion. Remove whatever is causing the pressure point and check the area in 15 minutes to verify the skin is back to normal.
– If left unnoticed, the ulcer can enter Stage 2 where the skin is open. There may even be a blister filled with fluid. This can usually be treated with antibiotics.
– Once an ulcer reaches Stage 3, affecting the skin’s fat layer, or Stage 4, affecting the bone or muscle, a doctor may have to surgically remove the area (Macon).
Caring for a loved one can be difficult. Knowing what to do when it comes to managing wheelchair care makes the job a bit easier. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Consider hiring a registered nurse stop by once in a while. Registered nurses can show you new techniques, or just take over your loved one’s care so you can run errands or just relax. To learn more about private duty nurses and respite care, visit NurseRegistry.com/private-care.
1. Bone, Muscle, and Joint Team. Best Ways to Help Someone Who Uses a Wheelchair or Cane. Cleveland Clinic. April 2015. Web.
2. Macon, Brindles Lee, and Matthew Solan. What You Should Know About Decubitus Ulcers. Health Line. Web.
3. Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. Personal Care: Grooming and Dressing. Aging and Adult Services Administration Department of Social and Health Services. National Caretakers Library. Web.