When used properly, a manual wheelchair can be crucial to helping people with mobility issues maintain some of their independence. For patients who might not be able to move themselves, wheelchairs can help nurses and caregivers to carefully transfer them from one place to another, both in a hospital and care environment.
As a caregiver, it’s up to you to make sure you know how to use wheelchairs as safely and efficiently as possible. Sometimes, this will mean figuring out how to manage your weight when you’re pushing a patient up and down a ramp, while other times, it will simply mean making sure the person you’re caring for is comfortable in their chair.
Here, we’ll look at some general safety tips for nurses and caregivers who need to handle wheelchairs on a day-to-day basis.
1. Always Use the Wheelchair Brakes When Necessary
Most manual wheelchairs will come with brakes that you can apply when the chair is not in motion. Nurses and other care providers should use these breaks not just when the patient is sitting in the chair and not planning on going anywhere, but also when they’re transferring a patient from the chair to a bed, bath, or vice versa.
If you want to give the person in your care the freedom to lock and unlock the wheelchair themselves, then you can always consider using brake extensions to make it easier for them to manage their motion. Remember, when conducting wheelchair transfers:
- Make sure the leg rests are moved or swung to the side before the transfer
- Apple wheelchair brakes before the care patient is transferred in or out of the wheelchair
- Keep loose objects away from wheelchair spokes
- Follow the guidelines provided for head positioning supports, belts, and trays as recommended by the healthcare
2. Make Sure the Patient Is Sitting Comfortably
Sitting in a wheelchair for long periods of time can cause some pain and discomfort in the wrong circumstances. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that the care recipient is always encouraged to use the wheelchair back support and seat cushion according to the guidelines recommended by the manufacturer. If a healthcare professional offered extra advice on how to use the wheelchair safely, you can remind the patient of that when necessary too.
The right cushioning on a wheelchair should help to manage things like pressure redistribution and posture when the patient is sitting in their chair for long periods of time. Make sure that the cushion is placed correctly before transferring the patient into the chair to reduce the risk of long-term discomfort.
3. Encourage Communication Whenever Possible
Ultimately, one of the easiest ways you can make sure that a patient’s wheelchair experience is as safe and comfortable as possible, is to communicate with that individual as frequently as possible. Good communication can mean that it’s easier for you to remind the care recipient to change position frequently to limit their risk of sores.
At the same time, the more comfortable the patient feels communicating with you as their nurse or care giver, the more likely it is that they’ll be willing to ask you for assistance if they’re having trouble reaching the items they need, accessing important things, or they’re feeling somewhat uncomfortable.
Make sure that your patient can always come to you when they’re having any issues with their wheelchair, or when they have concerns with their health that might be linked to their mobility. This will help to keep unnecessary injuries and discomfort to a minimum.
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