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Wheelchair Safety Training for Caregivers

Dear Allegra:

I am a caregiver for my father as he recovers from a stroke. While he is making progress, he still relies on a wheelchair when we go anywhere that requires much walking.

My husband gets a little nervous that we don’t know much about proper wheelchair use. He thinks we need to attend wheelchair safety training for caregivers.

Do you have any tips or suggestions? I wouldn’t have given it another thought if not for my husband’s concerns.

Best regards,

How to Use a Wheelchair Safely

Dear Melissa:

Your husband is right! Learning more about the proper use and handling of a wheelchair is important for caregivers. However, many caregivers don’t realize they need training.

Here are a few wheelchair safety tips to keep in mind as you are caregiving for your father:

  • Good fit: Since it sounds like your dad will need to rely on a wheelchair for some time, make sure he is using the right one. If he was in the hospital, a physical or occupational therapist may have helped you with that. If not, you should talk with a therapist he is working with during his rehabilitation. They can conduct a quick assessment for you.
  • Brake usage: This is easy to overlook if you aren’t familiar with wheelchairs. Make sure your dad’s chair has working brakes and you use them whenever his wheelchair is stationary. Also remember to engage them when he is getting in and out of the chair.
  • Pathway safety: Rugged terrain, such as a park path or gravel driveway, can lead to tip-over accidents and injuries. Try to stick with paved walkways and drives whenever possible. At home, keep frequently traveled pathways free from clutter and obstacles.
  • Pocket storage: When you are pushing someone in a wheelchair, it isn’t uncommon to place both of your belongings in the hanging pocket usually found on the back. If you do, don’t place too many items or very heavy items there. It can put your back at risk when you are pushing the chair or cause the wheelchair to tip backwards.
  • Chair inspection: You should routinely inspect your dad’s wheelchair. Make sure the wheels are secure and the tires aren’t low on air. The wheels need to be regularly oiled for optimum safety and performance. Check with the medical supply company you are renting the chair from if you aren’t sure how to do this.
  • Cleaning and care: Just as you would for any type of medical equipment, the handles, seat, arms, and tires of a wheelchair need to be cleaned frequently. Debris can build up on tires, and viruses might linger on handles and arms.

Finally, if you haven’t done so already, have your dad’s physical therapist show you safe transfer techniques. They are vital for keeping you, your husband, and your dad from being injured.

My best wishes to your father as he continues his recovery!

Kind regards,