Tuesday, December 13, 2011

winter wheelchair tips for caregivers 2011

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!

While winter embraces all, it does demand caregiver / carer respect. Our story is about Multiple Sclerosis however winter weather does not discriminate over diagnosis.
Lower body for a non-ambulatory person is most vulnerable. Last winter was a benchmark when we received a gift of a buggy bag® wheelchair lap blanket. All the time and stuff involved such as layers of socks, leg warmers, boots, and blankets disappeared. It’s almost like the BC / AD line in our history of winter living with MS. Not only did it quickly become a winter mainstay but its all-weather features have made it all year rain gear.

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. A sense of humor is most helpful. 

For outerwear we depend 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.

While a hat and scarf are often recommended I have concerns about mixing scarves and wheelchairs, though I have learned of the ‘infinity scarf’ for those wanting style without the ends that could catch in wheels. Hats work OK but are easily misplaced and can create some serious ‘electric hair’ styles.

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

Most importantly remember your carer / caregiver self especially your foot wear on snow or ice-covered sidewalks, ramps, driveways, etc. Fashion is arbitrary, falling is unacceptable.

Being prepared separates ‘disability forced hibernation’ from enjoying winter to its fullest!

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick Leer 


  1. Great post Patrick! Thanks for the 'Thumbs Up'.


  2. I think it is good that you guys make the effort to get out in the elements like this, Patrick! You do have it down with what is needed for warmth and safety and practicality!



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