A Primer for Wheelchair Bound Patients
Some basic hints will help you to assure maximum comfort and safety,
whether you are a wheelchair user yourself, or if you have been asked to
assist someone in a wheelchair.
People who have suddenly become chair bound patients due to changes in
their personal or environmental circumstances have many specific needs. In
case such times arise for you or for someone you need to assist, you may
want to familiarize yourself with these. These are just some of the
considerations which you might have to keep in mind in case these
If patients are confined to a chair for any length of time, and they
enjoy sitting outside on a nice, sunny day they will have to take extra
precautions. The materials used in the
construction of wheelchairs that do not do well when exposed to direct
sunlight. Metal and plastic on a wheelchair can become extremely hot and
may cause burns, so a wheelchair should be kept in the shade in order to
We make sure we apply sunscreen to our face, neck and arms most of the
time, because we worry about exposure in those areas. But those patients who are in
a wheel-chair probably will also have their thighs exposed to direct
sunlight if they wear shorts, a skirt or dress. Remember, therefore, to
cover the legs of chair bound person with sunscreen to avoid a severe
Just like the rest of us, wheelchair bound patients can be small or
large. Make sure you wear gloves on your hands, if you are going to be
called upon to push someone in a chair who is heavy or large. You may
develop blisters very quickly, especially if you have no prior wheelchair
experience, and may not know the right way to push. Even a pair of small
driving or exercise gloves will work.
After a rain shower, the ground can be covered in small puddles which don't
pose a problem for those who aren't confined to a wheel-chair, since they
can simply step around or over them. For those patients who are chair
however, splashing can become an issue, soaking both their feet and the
chair. When the ground is wet and when it's raining, be sure to
cover them with an extra large poncho, protective plastic or some other
large piece of waterproof cloth.
Another thing to be concerned about are drinking fountains. They come
in a variety of heights, and so some of them may not be accessible to
those in a wheel-chair. A good way to get around this problem is to bring
along a plastic cup so that you can fill it from the fountain and drink it
or give it to the occupant of the wheelchair. This is the best way to
enjoy a cold drink without reaching the fountain.
Those patients who are heat sensitive will need to be considered in case of
over-exposure, since it is very easy to become dehydrated in the heat of
the summer. Know your surroundings when you are away from your normal
environment, and learn about any air conditioned facilities along the
route. In this way, you can stop at regular intervals to allow for a
cooling down period if you are out and about.
When you are traveling by wheelchair, it is not so easy to just go to a
cooler area, or sit under a tree for awhile. Since these options are not
so available, you have to plan ahead for a cooling down place.
If you use common sense and awareness of special needs, you will be
able to manage yourself or assist a wheel-chair patient easily enough. Once
you have been doing it for a while, many of these hints will become second
nature to you. Meanwhile, follow simple guidelines such as this, and make
it a point to think ahead, or ask whether there are any special needs that
you may not have considered.
Author: Sian Roteller
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