How to Help the Patient in a Wheelchair


As a volunteer or helper in the home, you may find that you have to care for a patient in a wheelchair. The help you give will depend on the type of patient involved. The disabled person confined permanently to a wheelchair will be very familiar with the way to use it and will probably instruct you about the specific help he needs, if any. But a temporarily incapacitated person of any age or a frail, elderly person may have to use a wheelchair for a while, yet may not be expert at handling it. These people are more likely to appreciate help.

Types of wheelchair

There are many different types of wheel­chair, so before handling one you should examine it carefully. Note the position of the wheels and brakes, and establish whether the armrests and footrests are fixed or movable. In common use is the self-propelling type of wheelchair, with two large rear wheels. The outer rim fixed rigidly to each of these wheels makes it possible for the occupant of the chair to propel himself along. Chairs with four smaller wheels are often lighter and easier to lift and push – but the occupant is dependent on someone to wheel him along. They often take up less space than the self-propelling types, and have pneumatic tyres, giving a more comfortable ride.

You may be involved in the care of a disabled patient who is moved from an ordinary to an electric wheelchair. Electric wheelchairs are usually operated from a lever on the armrest and run on batteries that can be recharged overnight from the mains. These chairs are expensive but offer the patient a large measure of independ­ence. If you are helping a patient adjust to one, bear in mind that the controls are sensitive and require a degree of skill.

Helping the patient into a car

When you are helping the patient from a wheelchair to a car or vice versa, make sure that the brakes of both car and chair are fully on. Take note of how the patient wishes to be moved, and keep any clothing and blankets clear of the wheels. The swing lift may be useful.

Pushing a wheelchair down

It is important not to startle or jar the patient in a wheelchair when negotiating a kerb. You will be successful as long as you take care to remain in complete control. With your foot on the chair’s tipping lever hold the chair firmly and tip it back. Lower it slowly and gently down the kerb, making sure both back wheels touch the ground at the same time.

On the flat, do not push the chair so fast mat she is frightened of being pushed out.

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About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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