Choosing Wheelchair Cushions: What You Need to Know

wheelchairbandwristWhen you begin using a wheelchair, many times the main points about daily care and ongoing needs are all you have time to learn before you go home from the hospital or rehab.  Then, once you’re home, the reality of wheelchair use sets in, along with the risk for some common issues that go with it, like urinary tract infections and pressure sores.

According to SCI Nursing magazine, about 20 percent to 30 percent of people with spinal cord injuries may develop pressure sores in the first to five years post-injury.  Pressure sores can be life-threatening for people who use wheelchairs, and a variety of factors can play into your risk of developing them. One of those factors is your choice of wheelchair cushion, based on what your body needs in terms of support and comfort due to your individual physical condition.

The good news is that manufacturers have made significant advances in designing wheelchair cushions that reduce your risk of developing pressure sores or other skin issues. A well-selected wheelchair cushion can provide comfort and prevent skin breakdown or pressure sores.

Chris Malcom [back] and his friends, Eric and David, understand the importance of choosing the right wheelchair cushion.
Chris Malcom [back] and his friends, Eric and David, understand the importance of choosing the right wheelchair cushion.
Chris Malcom knows all too well how important the right wheelchair cushion can be in preserving your health.  Malcom is a C-7 quadriplegic and works with wheelchair users on a daily basis

“I’ve been a wheelchair user for over 20 years,” Malcom explains. “Since using an Air Roho cushion, I’ve never had a problem with skin issues or pressure sores. In my 22+ years in a chair, I’ve only had one skin problem and switching to a Roho helped me get over that. You can’t go wrong with a Roho!”

As you may know, people who use wheelchairs often are very brand-loyal when it comes to choosing and using a particular kind of cushion for many years. That’s because one type of wheelchair cushion may work better for one person than it does for someone else, due to the differences in their conditions, physical strength, other medical issues, activity levels and other lifestyle concerns.

rohoimageThe clinical magazine, Team Rehab Report, published an article titled, “Sitting Around: Wheelchair Cushion Evaluation andEducation in Pressure Sore Prevention” that examines factors for choosing the right wheelchair cushion for your needs.  Written by Tina Roesler, MSPT, the article shared the following advice. The proper evaluation of each wheelchair cushion reviewed by the article included:

Postural evaluation seated in the wheelchair. Postural evaluation is primarily an observational  technique that looks at whether the pelvis is even and whether there is any excessive abduction or internal or external rotation of the lower extremities.”

Dynamic sitting balance in the wheelchair. Dynamic seating is a series of functional and reaching activities (e.g., throwing and catching, picking things up off the floor and pushing a wheelchair). During these activities, we looked at how often [patient] repositioned himself after an activity or lateral movement; if he was sacral sitting to maintain balance; and if he supported himself more with his upper extremities. In addition, [patient reported on how he felt while performing the activities.”

Keep in mind, your activity level can factor into your cushion requirements.
Keep in mind, your activity level can factor into your cushion requirements.

Other factors that play into your choice of wheelchair cushion can be based on:
– Personal feedback regarding ease of transfer, comfort, maintenance and skin appearance.
– Evening and morning skin checks with documentation of any damaged skin.

Ultimately, Roesler says, “the selection of cushions may vary depending on the clients’ level of injury, type of transfers, cognition, and current medical conditions (impaired skin integrity, severe spasticity, etc.).”

If you have questions about your current wheelchair cushion or your medical condition in general, contact your healthcare provider.  Please note that this information is not a substitute for medical advice from your healthcare provider.

Chris Malcom, here with his daughter Madison, enjoys the comforts of his ROHO cushion. Learn more about Chris' business, At Home Medical, at www.athomemedical.com.
Chris Malcom, here with his daughter Madison, enjoys the comforts of his ROHO cushion.

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