Thursday, July 10, 2008

caregiving: wheelchairs - confessions of a pusher

Test drive yourself, several minutes spent “in” a wheelchair is worth more than a mountain of tips. Almost every building has a loaner wheelchair available.


#1 … Communicate WITH the person in the wheelchair. NEVER just pull, push, or grab someone’s chair without communicating.


Don’t ‘loom above’, pull up a chair, squat, or kneel when talking.


# 2 … Visually inspect for any medical or safety attachments. Confirm with occupant and or staff or both when in doubt about disconnecting. Triggering an alarm is beyond annoying.


Since you will be pushing, understand the chair mechanics. Where are the brakes? Would the occupant like foot rests attached?


#3 … Keep your eyes on the road! Watch the surface immediately in front of the wheelchair as well as ahead for obstacles, slopes, unusual surfaces. … Wheelchairs are not equipped with shock absorbers!


# 4 … Ramps, curbs, curb cuts, etc. The mantra is downhill = big wheels first, uphill = small wheels first.


Yes, ‘big wheels’ first means briefly walking backwards but that is OK.  It is safer, takes less strength and creates a gentler ride.


BEFORE you pivot and both of you begin moving backward PLEASE inform the occupant of the chair what you are doing.


# 5 … ‘Tipping levers’ are extensions that protrude backwards from the rear axle of wheelchairs. Pull back on the handles and at the same time push down and forward on the tipping lever with your foot. This will balance the wheelchair and its occupant on the rear wheels.


ALWAYS inform the occupant BEFORE tipping.


# 6 … When going down a hill I have found it easier and safer to slalom versus a bee line. I confess to a couple high speed chases when I lost my grip on Patti’s wheelchair. 


# 7 … ALWAYS engage brakes when stopped.


# 8 … Remember to have fun together.


(Maybe this only applies to me but try to resist the urge to stand on the tipping levers and ride on the back of the wheelchair like a shopping cart.)


Caregivingly Yours, J Patrick Leer 





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


  1. one should not read one of your entries with a mouthful of coffee, Patrick; I almost lost it when I read tip #6; those must have been wild adventures!!

    these are all great tips! I never thought about that but it is important to work together with the person someone is pushing and to communicate with them and not take the fact lightly that the work you are doing is vital for their safety and comfort

    enjoy the day :)


  2. "....ride on the back like a shopping cart"???  

    Sounds like there is a story in there somewhere....


  3. I chuckled as I read this, Patrick, because I had my first experience 'driving' a wheelchair with my disabled friend at her health care facility. I learned the hard way. By the time I got out the front door, I had experienced nearly every caution you mention except the downhill/uphill issues. I did talk to her while I pushed her, and I did check to make sure her legs and feet were where they were supposed to be. Going through doors that did not open automatically, or have buttons to push them open was a great challenge. I learned to go in backwards through a door that doesn't open electrically. I didn't know about the tipping levers... thanks for that info! I think if I could have read this before the first time I took someone out in a wheelchair, I would have been less anxious. But I'd say to anyone who hasn't taken a wheelchair-bound patient out for a walk in the warm sunshine to go ahead and do it anyway... the person you are visiting will adore you for it. bea

  4.  I have to stop myself from riding the leveling bars also, LOL.  Great tips.  As we all know not every WC is made alike.  Or ride the same.


  5. #9 Make sure the kids understand that it's not a bumper car!
    We had many adventures with stairs and I can honestly say there were more than a few gray hairs and fast heart rates involved.
    We went alot of places before all those nifty cut outs in the curbs.  And one time, some friends of my husband's, carried him up a long flight of stairs for a party!  

                                                          Have a great weekend,  Leigh

  6. ((((((((((((((((((HUGSTOYOU))))))))))))))))))))That is good info to know.Everyone should know toes rules.Have a nice weekend.


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