Thursday, December 09, 2010

winter caregiving tips: wheelchair outings

While winter embraces all, it does demand caregiver / carer respect. Our story is about Multiple Sclerosis however winter weather does not discriminate over diagnosis.

In a wheelchair Patti does not generate the same body heat as a walking person. Cognitive impairment only adds to risk when outdoors in any weather.

Speculating on how fast it takes for hypothermia to set in is a fools’ question. … Prepare!

It’s easy to say “wear several layers of loose-fitting clothing”. However when someone is unable to dress themselves this can get beyond interesting. I find a sense of humor most helpful.  

While a hat and scarf are often recommended I have concerns about mixing scarves and wheelchcairs, seems an accident waiting to happen. Hats work OK but are easily misplaced and can create some serious electric hair styles.

For outerwear we usually rely upon a hooded wool zippered cape. Capes are easier for getting on and off when assisting someone in a wheelchair and a zippered cape simply increases options. Hoods are easy to flip up or down, cover everything except the face and are always attached. While wool is ‘old school’ it still has the unique ability to provide warmth even when it is wet.

Mittens ‘rock’! Rather than struggle to fit her fingers into gloves Patti just slides her hands into warmth.

Do not forget lower body. Wrapping a blanket around gives that stadium seating look. However sliding leg warmers over pants legs are just as easy and makes a fashion statement. Both help maintain body heat and reduce any wind chill.

Thick socks with oversized shoes or boots make assisting with dressing infinitely easier. Patti’s not going to be walking. Proper shoe size is not as important as warm feet!

Remember your carer / caregiver self especially your footing on snow or ice-covered sidewalks, steps, driveways, etc. Falling is unacceptable.

Most winter outings will never need all of the above. Being prepared separates hiding out or enjoying winter to its fullest! 

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick Leer 


  1. I hadn't really thought of this before, Patrick, about generating heat or lack of generating heat. I think your ideas are all great to keep someone "warm and toasty" yet safe in the winter months. Of course, one could also move to a warm climate area where it was 75 degrees today :)


  2. Did Patti get you with that snowball, I bet you had a great time.

  3. Great advice, Patrick. A wheelchair outing in cold weather is always an adventure, no matter what you're planning to do. Stay safe and warm!

  4. I do know the freezing, when not walking! I set in the sun when I can?

  5. This has been an issue that I have been working towards helping with for the past 3 years. My newest product, I think, and many agree, fits this bill.
    I want Patti to have one. I'll email you right now.


  6. 'Infinity scarf' is a generic term for a scarf that has the ends stitched together to form a large loop. Put it over the head, a half twist and loop over the head again. Two layers of warm scarf in which to snuggle the lower head and upper neck. Cozy.

    They're in department stores beside the long scarves with fringes that cause so much grief.


Blog Archive