Monday, June 09, 2008

caregiving: falling out of a wheelchair

Sitting in a wheelchair should have a certain safe and secure connotation. Patti on the other hand has a knack for falling right out of a wheelchair when unattended.


Sunday morning to the blare of a Dixieland band (my designated ring tone for incoming calls from Patti’s care facility) I was alerted to a fall by Patti.


Patti was discovered on the floor of her room less than 10 minutes after having been changed, dressed, and seated in her wheelchair in front of her TV. Her wheelchair was upright but across the room.


Patti could offer no clue as to how she ended up on the floor.


Patti had no complaints of pain or injury and an examination revealed only a bad bruise on one knee.


Why the fall? That answer is part MS related symptoms of ataxia, mental confusion and part mystery since this only happens when unattended. Patti’s MS short term memory loss erases the only eye witness report.


Ataxia (uh-tak-see-uh) = loss of the ability to coordinate muscular movement.


In an earlier entry, Is MS fatal? I referenced Patti’s neurologist warning us 20 years ago that falls and choking were the most ‘at risk’ threats to living with MS.



This has now been two falling episodes and one choking in just a couple weeks while in 24/7 attended care.


Previously it has been about a year since her last fall. Yet that is exactly what makes MS caregiving so tricky. Multiple Sclerosis is about the short circuiting of the brain’s communication with the body, therefore history or patterns are deceiving as formulas for treatment plans.


A conventional seat belt is useless on Patti. She constantly fidgets with the latch. When driving in our van I frequently have to stop to reattach her seat belt. Restraints are a possibility but always the last resort. 


When picking Patti up for our outing I asked her about her fall. She claimed she was fine, could not remember anything, and “what can I say, I’m a klutz.” 


Caregivingly Yours, J Patrick Leer 





(also available in Blogger edition, Caregiver Blog: "Caregivingly Yours")


  1. I wondered about seat belts but you answered that question; Patt's got to have some independence I would imagine and if the seat belts don't work, it would be hard to justify restraints (in my opinion unless I'm sure the falls are very frequent and produced multiple injuries; such a fine balance I'm sure to make that decision)

    love her attitude though and love what ring tone you put on your phone to alert you of calls from that facility; I found humor in the ring tone (not in her fall; hope she's doing okay)

    take care of both of you, Patrick; I'm sure it is a full time job :)


  2. Am glad she's ok :) she has a wonderful sense of humour, she's never lost that :) Rache

  3. you need one of those cushions that elevate at the front so she cant fall out or at least makes it harder


  4. They do have a small alarm attachable that sounds with a brisk forward or downward movement, but at my Dad's facility they were using it incorrectly, & were not thrilled when I brought that up ;-0. ~Mary


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