Wheelchair fall prevention is a very important technique to learn, particularly if you have a friend or family member who is in a wheelchair or are a caregiver to a patient in a wheelchair. While falling out of a wheelchair can be most harmful to the elderly, who may have brittle or weak bones, injury can happen to anyone who suffers a fall, even young children.
Read on to learn more about wheelchair safety training and wheelchair safety for caregivers and how you can help keep your loved ones and patients safe.
Falling Out of a Wheelchair: How Accidents Happen
Before you learn about fall prevention for the wheelchair-bound, it is important to know why accidents happen and why a person can fall out of a wheelchair in the first place. Most wheelchair accidents are due to one of these three situations:
- The patient has a physical weakness or imbalance – such as reaching backward for something, which causes the center of balance to go awry
- Improper fit – the patient simply does not fit properly in the wheelchair, which makes falling out of a wheelchair more likely
- Confusion – this is most often seen in a dementia patient sliding out of the wheelchair, or patients who may be on sedative or strong medications
It’s possible that all three factors listed above can be applied to one patient, which means that they may need a higher level of care and monitoring. If the patient is in a nursing home, small levels of decline may go unnoticed, so it’s important to visit your family member as often as you are able, noting any changes to the staff.
General Safety Tips for Falling Out of a Wheelchair
The first thing you should do for your patient or family member is to get an occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT) evaluation. An OT and PT can determine the capabilities of the person, and the patient may need ongoing OT or PT help to ensure their mobility even while wheelchair-bound, and help ensure fine or gross motor skills that can prevent sliding out of a wheelchair.
However, there are always general safety tips for falling out of a wheelchair to keep in mind for patients who are in wheelchairs:
- Make sure settings on power wheelchairs are set to a comfortable speed
- Always lock the brakes when entering or exiting the wheelchair
- Don’t use wheelchairs on stairs or sharp inclines, even if another person is driving the chair (wheelchair ramps are very helpful to avoid this)
- Attach tail lights to your wheelchair for night use so you are easily seen
- Do not hang shopping bags or other items from the wheelchair handles
- Avoid using in the rain if possible as traction can be lost
- Avoid overreaching for objects
- Do not lean forward too far in the chair
If you are traveling with a wheelchair, it’s a good idea to have it serviced and inspected prior to any trip to help prevent falling out of a wheelchair while traveling.
More Directed Safety Tips for Falling Out of a Wheelchair
It’s good to have an idea of general safety tips to help prevent the elderly from falling out of a wheelchair, but some patients may need more precise help. If you are a caregiver for someone who’s in a wheelchair, it’s a good idea to rearrange their room so that everything they need is within reach. This can prevent overreaching, which is one of the top reasons for patients falling out of a wheelchair.
Adding a drop seat to the wheelchair is also a smart idea. A drop seat can change the incline of the chair, which makes it tougher to slide off. A seat alarm can also be installed, which emits a loud sound when a patient is trying to get up. One of the biggest suggestions, however, is to provide more one-on-one assistance when the person is trying to get up from the wheelchair or needs to reach for something. Having a 24-hour caregiver can help prevent a patient falling out of a wheelchair, as they are always there for assistance. If the patient still has a high level of cognitive function, teaching them safety tips regarding their wheelchair is also a sound idea.
If you need more information on how to stop someone from falling out of a wheelchair, or would like to hear more about mobility products, contact Williams Lift Co. today. We want both patients and caregivers to live their best lives.