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Monday, May 24, 2010

Nursing Homes: Wheelchair and Other Equipment

By Jeff McDaniel, ATP
Most of us have been inside nursing homes. It is possibly a glimpse of our future, I for one hope that things greatly improve if it is my destiny. It’s no argument that most families are ill prepared to take care of their loved one and choose this option for the best care for their family member. Unfortunately though, lack of funding and other roadblocks lead to numerous problems, one of which is a proper wheelchair.

Of the 1.8 million nursing home residents in the United States, more than half are incapable of independent ambulation. For these persons, their wheelchair is their only means of ambulation. However, a 1996 study revealed that of a 96 patient observation, only 4 patients actually propelled their wheelchair. The others sat in their chairs and were pushed by attendants throughout the day. I have no doubt of the accuracy of this study as I rarely see nursing home patients propelling themselves. I do understand the need for the wheelchair, accessing the dining area, activities, their bedroom, and etc. I also understand that nursing homes do not have the ability to purchase custom wheelchairs for each of their patients. I also know, however, that there is a lack of knowledge and understanding of how much a wheelchair can affect the patient’s overall health. Safety, posture, and skin protection are all functions a proper wheelchair should consider.

However, if funding is so limited, how can we as an industry address this issue? For one, we need to educate these facilities. Simple adjustments such as footrest height, seat width and depth, and seat to floor height could very well account for 50 percent wheelchair problems. An inexpensive back and cushion and a properly adjusted wheelchair is both affordable and an appropriate option for the majority of nursing facility patients. More needy patients may require a tilt in space wheelchair or more complex seating. For these patients, communication with the family may be required for funding, as these types of solutions are more expensive. Alternatives such as demonstration and used equipment may be helpful in reducing the costs of this type of equipment.

There are limited programs out there that can cover certain items in nursing facilities. Texas residents can contact us for more information.

Active American Mobility and Medical Supply
Greater Houston and San Antonio Texas
Ph.888-REHAB-07 (888-734-2207)

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