Wheelchairs can be very useful for seniors with mobility problems, but they are only useful if they are safe. Using an unsafe wheelchair can do more harm than good so it is important for seniors and family caregivers to follow some important safety tips and make sure that their wheelchair is always in good condition. In this article we would like to share some wheelchair safety tips that seniors and family caregivers can follow to ensure maximum safety when using a wheelchair.
One of the most important things for family caregivers to do is to perform a safety check on their loved one’s wheelchair regularly. Damaged wheels and wheel spokes can be dangerous for seniors and can make maneuvering their wheelchair much harder. Flat or loose wheels are important to look for because wheel locks will not work if the wheels on the chair are too flat or are loose. This can be very dangerous for seniors, especially if they are on an inclined area. Some people do not think to check the wheel spokes on their loved one’s wheelchair, but damaged wheel spokes can be problematic as well. Broken or damaged wheel spokes can interfere with the movement of a wheelchair and can keep the wheels from locking at times. In addition to checking the wheels and wheel spokes, family caregivers should make sure that they lock the wheels whenever their loved one is on an inclined area or if they are moving into or out of their wheelchair so that their chair will not roll away and cause them to fall.
Next, seniors should make sure that they know how to safely operate their wheelchair. Wheelchairs might seem easy to operate but many wheelchair users make common mistakes that can put their safety at risk. Both manual and electric wheelchairs have certain safety risks that can put seniors in danger if they are not used correctly so it is important for seniors to know what is safe and what is not. We will discuss specific safety concerns for both types of wheelchairs later in the article, but first it is important for seniors to know some basic safety tips that can apply to both types of wheelchairs.
When it comes to operating wheelchairs seniors will be faced with some limitations that they might not be used to such as issues moving over curbs and stairs or going up hills. Seniors might be tempted to try these things on their own but doing so can be very dangerous. Wheelchairs are not made to go over curbs or down the stairs so seniors should ask for help or use an alternate route with a ramp or elevator. Going over a curb or down a flight of stairs can cause a wheelchair to tip over which can cause seniors to fall out and get hurt. Going up a hill can also be very dangerous, especially if seniors are in a manual chair and are trying to go up the hill on their own. Without enough force the wheelchair will begin to roll backwards which can also lead to it tipping over. Seniors should also avoid reaching for things that are high up when using a wheelchair because doing so can cause them to lose their balance and fall out of their chair.
Manual wheelchairs are great for short term or occasional use but they are not designed to carry heavy items on the back. Many seniors will use a manual wheelchair when they are out with family members to keep their family members from having to wait for them to catch up and will try to hang bags or purses on the back of their wheelchair. Manual wheelchairs are not meant to support heavy weight like that and can easily tip over from the addition of a heavy purse and shopping bags.
Electric wheelchairs are great for everyday use for seniors who need a long term solution but they come with their own set of risks because they are electric. The first thing that seniors should keep in mind is that electric wheelchairs are not reliable in the rain. Many electric wheelchairs experience operating problems in the rain as they get wet so it is important for seniors to try to stay out of the rain if they are using an electric wheelchair. The next thing for seniors to keep in mind is that electric wheelchairs are not safe for children. Many seniors want to put their grandchildren in their lap and take them for a ride but this can be dangerous because small children are more likely to mess with the controls or battery. Seniors can enjoy spending time with their grandchildren without putting themselves and their grandchildren at risk by allowing them to ride in their electric wheelchair.
Following the tips in this article is very important for seniors that are using a wheelchair. Family caregivers can assist their loved ones by performing routine equipment checks on their loved one’s wheelchair and by reminding their loved ones why wheelchair safety is important. Seniors should always know their limitations and avoid doing anything that could cause them to fall or tip their wheelchair over.
For additional information, please review other related posts in our home care services blog:
- Lifting and Transferring: Tips for Family Caregivers
- Exercise Tips for Seniors with Limited Mobility (2 parts)
- Mobility Aids for Seniors (2 Parts)
- Home Safety Modifications for Seniors