If you have an elderly parent who has recently gone through surgery, then they may need to use a wheelchair for some time until they get back on their feet. This is especially likely if a hip, knee, ankle, or foot operation was required. While a mobility device like a wheelchair can help your loved one get around, you may have some safety concerns. If your parent is weak, then they may tip the chair or slip out of it. To make sure this does not happen, make sure the wheelchair is fitted with appropriate safety accessories.
One of the simplest and most effective wheelchair safety devices is the seat belt. A properly secured seat belt will not only prevent your loved one from slipping out of the chair, it will also position the hips towards the back of the seat. The positioning helps to keep the back straight to reduce strain on the hip and back muscles. A belt can also help your parent to stay seated. Some older individuals may absentmindedly try to get up from a wheelchair when they have been advised to reduce stress and pressure on a surgical area.
If you want your loved one to use a wheelchair with a seat belt, you can purchase one that comes with a safety restraint or add one yourself. There are several different varieties that can be purchased. Automotive-style seat belts are similar to the button-release lap belts you see in vehicles, and airline options are hinged varieties you typically see on an airplane. Plastic-side or squeeze-grip closures are available, and so are Velcro options. Automotive and Velcro styles are the most common belts available and are the easiest for elderly individuals to use.
If you decide to purchase a belt, consider finding one that attaches directly to the frame with the help of screws. Seat belts that attach this way will come in two parts. Each side of the belt will have a small opening on the end surrounded by a metal grommet. To attach the belt, inspect the seat of the wheelchair and find the screws that keep the upholstery or fabric attached to the metal frame. Find the right and left screws that sit farthest back from the front of the chair. Use a screwdriver to remove the right screw. Take the right-side end of the seat belt and slip the grommet under the seat fabric. Replace the screw through the fabric opening and the grommet. Complete the same process with the left side of the belt.
Anti-tipping prongs are also a good safety feature for your loved one's wheelchair. These steel protrusions attach to the back of the chair along the lower wheel axle. The steel safety bars sit parallel to the wheels and are elevated several millimeters off the ground. Small rubber ends sit on the tip of each prong and they press against the ground if the wheelchair is tipped backwards. This prevents the wheels from sliding forward and allowing your elderly parent to fall all the way backward. If you are concerned about forward falls as well, then similar prongs can be adhered to the front of the chair.
Anti-tipping devices generally clip or tighten right onto the frame of the wheelchair. However, you should keep in mind that the prongs can prevent a more active loved one from getting around. Specifically, if the chair must be wheeled up a ramp, over a small stair, or up a curb, the anti-tipping prongs will hit the ground as the wheelchair is maneuvered and angled slightly. To prevent mobility issues, consider removing the prongs once your loved one gains strength and can move around a bit more.
If your elderly parent needs a wheelchair, then you may be concerned about tipping and falling accidents. This can be a real concern if your parent is weak. To reduce concerns, make sure to purchase and install a seat belt and anti-tipping prongs from a health care equipment company.