Sometimes in life, there might be a time when you need to use a wheelchair, either for a short time such as recovering from an illness, accident or medical procedure, or for a more long-term reason.
Regardless of the reason, and length of time you’ll need one, there will undoubtedly be some adjustment in adapting to be a wheelchair user. Things will be different for everyone, depending on their individual circumstances, type of wheelchair they need and how long they need to use it.
For example, some people will be able to move themselves with ‘self-propelled wheelchair’, using their hands on the push-rims of the rear wheels. Others will require an ‘attendant-propelled wheelchair’, which should be pushed by a caregiver using the handles on the back. It is easy to distinguish, as the self-propelled chairs have larger rear wheels, with accompanying push-rims.
Some people may need, or choose, powered wheelchairs, which use rechargeable batteries in the base and are moved and steered using a small joystick in one arm of the chair.
Whatever type of chair you need, you should receive valuable advice from occupational therapists – part of the medical team caring for you that will introduce you to a wheelchair and how to use it. If you just need a wheelchair for a short recovery period, it may be loaned to you by your treating medical facility.
Listen carefully to what occupational therapists tell you – they are the experts who routinely handle hundreds of wheelchair users. Take notes or record their suggestions, and do not be afraid to ask, either at that time or if they occur to you later. However, there are some general tips on adjusting to a wheelchair that will benefit most people and their carers:
If you’ll be in a wheelchair long term, get the best you can. Having a properly fitted wheelchair that meets all your needs not only makes it more convenient and easier to use but is also beneficial for your long-term health. Think about how much time you will spend in a wheelchair and then invest in the best you can afford.
It’s not just you who needs to adapt – the house will have to change. Standard homes are not designed for wheelchair users. If you will be in a wheelchair for the long run, you may need to move to a new home designed for wheelchair users, with wider doors, corridors, ramps, lower work surfaces, accessible storage and so on. If not, your home may need significant modification. You may need to rearrange your living accommodation on the ground floor or install some kind of wheelchair accessible lift. Consider adjustments you might need to the home. For more information on Stairlifts Bristol, visit a site like https://www.pearcebrosmobility.co.uk/
You have to get used to seeing the world from different heights. For many people who use a wheelchair for the first time, one of the biggest adjustments is seeing someone else at the level of the torso rather than face to face. Some users report neck and shoulder pain from constantly looking up to interact with others. It can also be a problem in particularly crowded places.
If you push your own wheelchair, you will be ache! It will take time to build up the muscles in the arms and shoulders to propel and steer the wheels. You might also have to buy gloves specially designed for wheelchair users, to protect the palms of your hands.