As more of us grow older the use for wheelchairs and another mobility device to move around more freely are used more frequently. The use of a manual or electric wheelchair is fairly easy to use to move around making these devices extremely popular for seniors and others who require extra help to get around.
However, there are some scenarios that can cause a wheelchair to become more dangerous in terms of falling and sliding out of the chair than others. There are some excellent wheelchair safety measures that anyone should follow to help prevent falling or sliding from a chair. We have outlined this useful wheelchair safety guide so you or a loved one can help to minimize and wheelchair falls and sliding.
Where you sit in a wheelchair maters (Centre of Gravity)
First-time wheelchair users should be aware of where they sit in the wheelchair and getting to be aware of the center of gravity will help prevent tipping and falling while in the chair.
For those that need to use wheelchairs, you will understand that when you need to reach for something, make transfers, or any other movements your center-of-gravity changes along with balance. These weight distribution movements can trigger falling or sliding. For sliding, there are wheelchair seat belts that can help keep the user in the wheelchair seat and safer.
Because of this when you do reach for something, move sideways, forwards, or backward it’s important to try and maintain balance. Casters can help with this on a wheelchair.
It could help if you have a caregiver or loved one that can allow you to practice movements in the chair if you are a first-time user. Transferring in and out or bending while you have help can be safer.\
Bending forward in your wheelchair
The forward movement while bending forward is a large contributor to sliding and falling from a wheelchair. Reaching for something and scooting to the edge of the wheelchair is not a good idea. Doing so can make falling on the wheelchair dangerous.
To help combat this you want to try and get your wheelchair as close as possible so you will not have to stretch. If this cannot be done. Make sure your caster wheels (Front Wheels) are positioned away from the drive wheels (Back wheels) so you have a long wheelbase before reaching for the object in the forward position.
Bending backward in your wheelchar
when bending backward the first rule is do not bent your chair backward where your front caster wheels leave the ground. This is very dangerous. When you need to reach behind you again you should have your casters extending away from the drive wheels.
This will create the longest wheelbase for stability. Now you can reach back without changing the sitting position you are in.
Curbs can be dangerous at any speed
Curbs, stairways, steps, and any type of uneven flooring is a potential for falling. When possible always try and use a ramp, or smooth flooring to get around the curb that you are facing. If this is not an option then try and have someone help you whether that be a caregiver, family member, or friend that is with you.
Regardless of the curbside, it can be dangerous. We have seen a curb 1 and a half inches take down a mobility scooter user that was barely moving.
The sudden movement down from the back tired caused the user to quickly shift his weight resulting in the chair tipping completely over pinning the scooter on the user’s leg. Be careful with curbs and uneven pavement.
Preventing wheelchair falls and accidents
Falling, sliding, and tipping a wheelchair are some of the most common accidents that happen when users are in a wheelchair. Simply going too fast can cause you to have an accident, surfaces that are slick, bumps, and taking corners too fast are all some reasons that an accident can happen.
Factor in nighttime outdoors and your chances go up dramatically for an accident to take place if you not careful. Here are some safety tips for wheelchair users to help with wheelchair fall prevention.
- Avoid rainy slick weather if possible
- Get help when travelign up inclines or declines when possible
- Lift foot rests and armrest up before wheelchair transfers
- If using a wheelchair at night use flash tap, flags, and wear light color clothes
- Try not to have extreme weight in a bag that is on the back of a wheelchair
- Lock wheels and brakes if possible fore getting out of the wheelchair
- Lock brakes before reaching or for an object
- Dont over stretch to reach an lbject. This could cause tipping
- Sliding to far forward could cause the wheelchair to tip. Keep your center of balance
- Move footrests so tripping is minimized
Outdoor safety for wheelchairs
when using your wheelchairs or electric wheelchairs outdoors can make things more dangerous because of the elements of weather and uneven pavements and curbs that might need to be traversed. Surfaces are just more dangerous than indoors.
It takes just a small amount of debris like sand for tires to become unstable and slip, especially on uneven roads on inclines or declines.
It is wise to stay clear of wet surfaces and puddles as well. Getting your wheelchair wet makes it easier for sliding and automatically tipping.
Our final thoughts on wheelchair fall prevention
Wheelchairs are excellent mobility devices that give mobility and independence back to millions of people each year. And while wheelchairs are safe for the most part there are things that can cause falling and sliding resulting in a more dangerous experience.
Following these basic tips can help reduce the danger quickly for anyone that uses a chair. We hope these simple steps make your experience in a chair much safer.