This Saturday, it becomes official. The fall season will be here, making the air crisper and leaves on the trees scarcer. For many Canadians, fall is a wonderful time of year, filled with vivid colours and warm, cozy evenings at home. However, for wheelchair users, the autumn season brings unique maintenance concerns that can impact mobility and safety.
No matter the time of year, the vital importance of wheelchair maintenance should not be underestimated. Nevertheless, when autumn arrives, it’s necessary to pay extra special attention to the proper functionality of wheelchairs.
Perform regular tire inspections.
Your wheelchair’s tires are its foundation – literally. Obviously, they are the point of contact with the ground. Ensuring they are in good condition is paramount. During fall, wet leaves, rain and uneven surfaces can worsen traction. Be sure to check your tire pressure regularly, as fluctuations in temperature can affect it. Underinflated tires can reduce your mobility and increase the risk of flats.
“Properly inflated tires are important for wheelchair propulsion,” informs Physiopedia, “If the tire lacks sufficient pressure, the wheelchair will be difficult to manoeuvre, propulsion will take more energy and it will stress the shoulders more. The tire and wheel will also wear much more quickly when the tire is not properly inflated.”
Inspect the tire treads for wear and tear on a regular basis, as this directly impacts traction. If you notice significant wear, consider replacing the tires to maintain grip and stability. As well, keep a portable tire pump and a patch kit on hand for quick fixes while on the go.
Follow a brake servicing schedule.
Your car needs to have its brakes serviced on a regular schedule, does it not? Why should your wheelchair’s brakes be any different? As you know, brakes are your safety lever while using a wheelchair. They are especially essential when navigating slopes and inclines during the fall season.
Ensure that your wheelchair’s brakes are functioning correctly by regularly checking their grip and responsiveness. If your wheelchair has wheel locks, make sure they engage smoothly and securely. A key aspect of brake maintenance is keeping them free from debris and moisture, which can reduce their effectiveness. Clean them regularly and lubricate moving parts as needed to prevent rust and ensure a reliable grip.
“When testing the brakes, apply pressure evenly to both wheels,” instructs Australia’s Get About Mobility, “The wheelchair should stop quickly. If it doesn’t, there might be a problem with the brake, or it might need to be adjusted. Whether it’s a power or manual wheelchair, the brake is an important safety feature. Be sure to check it before every use.”
Clean and lubricate throughout the season.
Fall brings not only beautiful foliage but also rain, mud and dirt. Your wheelchair can take a beating in these conditions. Regular cleaning is essential, not just for appearance but also for function. Use a mild detergent and water to clean the frame, seat and wheels. Don’t forget to dry it thoroughly.
“If your wheels or their components need lubrication, WD-40 is a good choice,” suggests New Jersey’s Williams Lift Company, “Ensure that manual and power wheelchair wheels are dry before using the wheelchair again. If the casters on the wheels need cleaning, such as if they are clogged from hair, remove the wheels first, then clean the casters.”
Lubrication is another critical aspect of maintenance. Apply lubricant to moving parts like axles, bearings and hinges to prevent corrosion and ensure smooth operation. Be cautious not to over-lubricate, as excess grease can attract dirt and debris.
Check the condition of the seating and cushions.
Comfort and support are vital for wheelchair users. Therefore, it’s wise to ensure that your wheelchair’s seating and cushions are in good condition. Examine the upholstery for any tears or damage. They can worsen over time and lead to discomfort or pressure sores. Replace any damaged or worn seat covers promptly.
Inspect the cushion for signs of wear and loss of support. A well-maintained cushion is crucial for preventing pressure ulcers and ensuring comfort during long periods of use. If your cushion shows signs of degradation, consider replacing it for optimal support and safety.
“Starting with the cushion cover, look for signs of wear, such as tears on the material or splitting at the seams,” instructs Ontario’s Sunrise Medical, “Also look for thinning of the cover material or obvious wear patterns on the material. With respect to the actual cushion, the cover must come off to complete the visual inspection.”
Examine the wiring and maintain the batteries.
For power wheelchairs, fall maintenance also extends to the electronic components and batteries. Check the condition of the wiring and connections to ensure they are secure and free from damage. Loose or frayed wires can lead to malfunctions or power loss.
Battery maintenance is also crucial for uninterrupted mobility. Ensure that your wheelchair’s batteries are fully charged and regularly inspect them for signs of corrosion. Clean the battery terminals with a mixture of baking soda and water to prevent build-up.
“Maintaining the batteries is vital to the performance of the wheelchair,” insists Physiopedia, “It is important that the appropriate charger be used with each battery set. Only use the charger that came with the wheelchair.”
Add seasonal accessories to your wheelchair.
This will enhance your comfort and safety throughout the fall season. Rain covers, for example, can protect you and your wheelchair from wet weather. Wheelchair gloves with gripping surfaces can provide extra traction and control when manoeuvring in slippery conditions.
Also, invest in reflective tape or lights for increased visibility during the shorter, darker days of fall. Being seen by others is crucial for safety, especially if you’ll be using your wheelchair in traffic or poorly lit areas.
At Advantage Home Health Solutions, we provide a wide variety of wheelchair solutions for both simple and complex situations. Choose between manual wheelchairs and power wheelchairs as well as seating and positioning products. We also provide wheelchair lifts for your home and even vehicle lifts for your wheelchair. To learn more, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 403-460-5438. You may also email us by filling out the form on our Contact page!