Blog posts of '2014' 'November'

How people sit is fundamental to their health

The standard sling seat, sling-back, collapsible wheelchair was designed to transport people short distances, for short amounts of time, to assist the person pushing the chair, and to make storage easy.

The chair works for the caregiver, but very poorly for the person in it, particularly if it is  used for long periods of time and as the primary seating system for the individual.

When frail elders are properly seated in chairs designed to meet their personal needs improvement in their health is virtually instant.



Benefits of Proper Seating

Improved Posture 
The chest cavity more easily expands if the person is not slumped forward.

Better positioning improves:
* breathing
* swallowing
* digestion
* lung compression
* vascular health
* Pressure distribution

Good positioning can also improve Quality of Life:
* Posture
* Skin Condition,
* Ability to Care for Self
* Efficient use of limited energy and endurance
* Eye contact
* Socialisation / Talking to each other
* Eating/Drinking
* Watching TV
* Self confidence
* Neck / Shoulder pain
* Lower back pain

Prevention of Skin Breakdown
Proper cushions and support prevent skin and tissue breakdown by more evenly re-distributing pressure, thus allowing the individual to be up for longer periods without causing damage.

Improved Comfort and Wheelchair Tolerance
Comfort and physical safety is an important concern of frail elders. The amount of time the person feels able to be up in the chair can be used as a practical indicator of comfort . If the person is uncomfortable in the wheelchair or day chair, they will often ask to go to bed sooner and refuse to become more involved in activities.

Older adults experience more pain due to:
* Arthritis
* Chronic illnesses
* Fatigue
* Diagnosed or undiagnosed spinal fractures
* muscular atrophy
* Tendon shortening 

Often with proper positioning and support, this type of pain can be dramatically reduced. Persons with dementia may not have the verbal or cognitive ability to express their pain in words or even respond appropriately when asked if they are in pain.
However, their behaviour is often a good indicator of pain.

Improved Ability to Care for Self
Correct arm rest length and height allow a wheelchair to get under the table so that at meals the person can be close enough to reach the food and feed themselves.
A level eye gaze allows them to see in the mirror for grooming.
With the proper chair many people can independently wheel themselves from place to place.


Better use of Limited Energy and Endurance

Frail elders often have limited stamina, endurance and energy.  When one is not positioned properly energy is required simply to remain upright.

The standard wheelchair wights between 15 - 20kgs, a lightweight chair weighs 10-12kgs and an ultrlight chair can weigh even less 8-9kgs.  Choosing a lighter weight chair can save energy for use with other activities.  With proper support, the person can relax and focus on other activites such as eating or conversing.


Improved Socialization

Improved socialization can result from:

*level eye gaze
*ability to move oneself in and out of social situations
*Increased comfort
*choice in accessing activities

Improved Quality of Life

It goes without saying that if a person is more comfortable, more independent, and has better function, that person will have improved quality of life and self esteem.

Caregiver Assistance

When properly seated
*Frail elders may be easier to transfer
*Be able to transfer themselves
*Able to feed or roilet themselves
*May require less repositioning
*Tolerate being up for longer periods
*Have fewer behavioural problems