Wheelchair Safety Tips for Caregivers

  • Posted on Mar. 5th, 2012


Lightweight Medline Transport Travel Wheelchairs are very handy tools for those of us caring for elderly parents - and sometimes for us baby boomers as well.jpg

By Kaye Swain

Wheelchairs are definitely a help for the caregiver as well as the caree, aren’t they? It’s a lot easier, and faster, to push someone on four wheels, than to help them walk slowly through the grocery store or mall. Thanks to a broken toe a few years ago, we have a handy dandy transport/travel wheelchair stored in the garage. It was inexpensive, very helpful, and is readily available for any emergency in our home – or to loan out to friends and family members. We learned how handy those can be when I started caring for my elderly parents during my senior dad’s end stage period of his Parkinsons Disease.

With plenty of experience using these handy tools, you’d think I’d know everything there is to know about wheelchairs. Not true! While doing research on another project, I discovered some great safety tips I’m going to keep in mind for myself and wanted to share with you.

Per Mosby’s Textbook for Long-Term Care Nursing Assistants:

  • Check the wheels regularly for flat tires or loose ones. A wheelchair wheel lock will not work on a flat or loose tire.
  • Keep an eye on the wheel spokes as well. Damaged, broken, or loose spokes can interfere with moving the wheelchair or locking the wheels.
  • It’s best to always go forward with a wheelchair unless you are going backwards through a doorway.
  • Some wheelchairs have arms that are removable when the patient wants to move to a bed, toilet, or car. Very handy. (Our transport wheelchair does not have that option – but it’s lighter to push and easier to put into the car, so I still love it.)

I also found a great pictorial guide for helping a caree in and out of their wheelchair at Duke.edu. I really appreciate that it focuses on OUR health and safety as well as our loved one.

The State of Missouri has another useful resource, with many safety tips for wheelchairs, including:

  • Don’t put heavy loads on the back of a manual wheelchair. It might make it tip over.
  • Avoid riding in the rain in an electric wheelchair. It could cause it to behave erratically for a variety of reasons.
  • Do NOT let kids and grandkids play with any wheelchair, especially an electric one. Also, if it is electric, don’t let them touch the controls or stand on the battery box.

As far as that last tip goes, my grandkids and senior dad loved it when he could slowly tootle around the house in his lightweight wheelchair, with his young great-grandson on his lap. We treasure the photos we have of them and their matching, ear-to-ear grins. His was not an electric chair, though. If it had been, we would have been extra careful to follow the wise advice at this site, while still enjoying the sweet site of great-grandpa enjoying his precious grandchild.

How about you? While caring for your elderly parents or other loved ones, have you discovered some great wheelchair safety tips and helps ? Be sure to leave your suggestions in the comment box. We’d love to hear them.

Kaye Swain is a member of the Sandwich Generation dealing with the issues of caring for the elderly parents and relatives in her family while also babysitting grandchildren. She enjoys writing on those topics at SandwichINK, in order to provide other multigenerational caregivers with useful information, resources and encouragement.

  • 8 Comments... Add your opinion!
  1. On Mar. 16 2012 @ 3:38 pm Caring for Aging Parents said

    Great article and reminder that the focus should be on caregiver safety as well as care receiver!

    Most common tip – remind the senior to lock the brakes when they are getting in/out of the wheelchair.

    Another good tip is remembering to think about seat height – as well as seat width. Some elderly are better at foot propelling than pushing with their arms. It’s a good idea to have a seat height that allows them to “walk” while in the wheelchair (and not too low to make it difficult to get out).


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