Being a caregiver of a wheelchair user comes with its challenges. Naturally, your job is to secure the safety and well-being of the individual using the wheelchair. However, there are times when the wheelchair user isn’t exactly open to receiving assistance. It’s only fair that this is understood. People aren’t exactly happy when they feel they’ve lost their independence. Your approach to caregiving requires a little finesse.
Here are three steps to becoming a champion caregiver to wheelchair users:
1. Avoid touching the wheelchair without permission.
Although there may be an explicit agreement between you and your care recipient, don’t assume “ownership” of the wheelchair. In other words, your role as a caregiver should be governed by the individual receiving the care. Remember that the chair belongs to him/her and not you. Kindly request permission to move the chair during times when it may be necessary. Outside of that, simply await a request for assistance. This will go a long way in forming a trusting bond between you and your care recipient.
“Never touch a wheelchair or wheelchair user without a direct invitation to do so,” insists Avacare Medical, “It is both demeaning and rude. Most wheelchair users consider their wheelchair an extension of their own body, so avoid leaning on, pushing or otherwise handling their chair without their explicit permission.”
2. Lift your care recipient responsibly.
What does responsible wheelchair user caregiving look like? A huge component involves careful lifting of the individual. It’s vital that you possess the upper body strength to safely lift your care recipient up and into the chair by yourself. Make sure that you have ample space to work with. As well, ensure that your clothing and footwear won’t impair your ability to safety transition your loved one from another position to being seated comfortably in the wheelchair.
The U.K.’s Autochair also stresses the importance of checking in on the wheelchair user’s emotional state. “Check that your friend or family member is happy to be lifted and let them know what you’re going to do before you do it,” instructs their website, “When you come to lift, make sure your feet are planted and that you keep the weight of your friend or family member as close to your body as possible. Lift smoothly, with your back straight and your knees bent.”
3. Don’t use the wheelchair yourself.
Although this may seem like a no-brainer, it should be stated. Some people see wheelchairs as interesting ways to have fun. It needs to be stressed, however, that they are not meant for joy rides. When your care recipient is not using his/her chair, that is not an invitation for you to take it for a spin. It is a mobility device, not a toy. Leave it alone.
“You’d think this doesn’t have to be said, but unfortunately, there are actually adults out there who ask this,” affirms Avacare Medical, “Where would the wheelchair user go while you tried it? Besides, they don’t see a wheelchair as a joy ride – don’t undermine their pain and discomfort by implying that it is.”
At Advantage Home Health Solutions, we provide a variety of wheelchair solutions for both simple and complex situations. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, seating and positioning products, wheelchair lifts for home and even vehicle lifts for your wheelchair. Simply give us a call at 403-460-5438. You may also email us by filling out the form on our Contact page!