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
website: www.CaregivinglyYours.comvideos: http://www.youtube.com/daddyleer
(also available in Blogger edition, Caregiver Blog: "Caregivingly Yours")