Contributed by Max Gottlieb, Content Manager for Senior Planning

Sometimes, as a person progresses deeper into their senior years, they begin to face mobility

issues they are unaccustomed to. Of course, wheelchairs are a great aid to move a senior from

one place to the other, but they are also the cause of many injuries, including fatal ones. In

1990, the last year the National Institute of Health did a study, they wrote that 3.3% of

wheelchair users experience a serious wheelchair related injury each year. The Consumer

Product Safety Commission recorded that there were 770 wheelchair related accidents that

caused death during the years 1973-1989.

While seemingly uncommon, it is important to note that these types of accidents are

preventable. Once we reach a certain age, preventing a fall, either in or out of a wheelchair,

should be an utmost priority because a fall becomes a long and complicated ordeal. For both

wheelchair users and non-wheelchair users, modifying the home can stop a fall from

happening. Below are some adjustments that can be done in order to make it safer for an

elderly person who needs a wheelchair.

Before Using a Wheelchair, be Sure to Know When to Apply the Brakes:

This sounds simple, but the brakes on a wheelchair are one of the most important features on

the chair. For example, it is imperative to make sure the brakes are set whenever someone is

getting on or off the device. If a chair is still able to roll, there is a chance that the wheelchair

user may put their weight on it and have it slide out from under them. Before someone gets up

from a wheelchair they should always be sure to have assistance. Whenever commuting, say on

a bus or a van, it is important to keep the brakes locked. Without locked brakes, a sudden stop

or turn could spell disaster for the person sitting in the wheelchair. Lastly, periodically check the

brakes to ensure that everything is working how it should be and that the brake pads are not

worn out.

Create Ramps For the Wheelchair:

If you or your loved one bought the house before a wheelchair was a necessity then chances

are the house is not wheelchair friendly. Sometimes, whole upstairs areas of the house become

inaccessible, even with the presence of ramps. There should be a ramp leading into the

entrance of the house and also to any essential parts of the home such as the kitchen,

bathroom, bedroom, and living room. Ramps not only help the one in the wheelchair, but also

the caregiver who is pushing the chair. Of course, the angle of the ramp should meet safety

standards. It shouldn’t be too steep.

Know the Functional Height for Wheelchair Users:

It is important to adjust the height of things found in the house. If the person who uses the

wheelchair loves to cook, then it could be helpful to provide a separate table where the person

can prepare food at the height most comfortable for them. Also, why not relocate the most

essential items the person will need? For some people, reaching things too low or too high is

the problem. There are companies that exist which lower and raise countertops and cabinets

and sometimes a height adjustment is exactly what the person in the wheelchair needs to feel

more comfortable.

Place a Mode of Communication Within the Wheelchair:

In the event that an accident does occur, it is extremely important the person in the wheelchair

can summon help immediately. A lot of people who fall, either in or out of a wheelchair,

experience delayed emergency response because they are alone or too far away from someone

who can call for professional help. It is important to include a working cell phone, a medical

alert, or even a walkie-talkie on the wheel chair. This way, in case someone falls, help will

quickly arrive.

Clear Clutter:

Wheelchairs need clear pathways to operate in. A lot of times, homes are cluttered with

furniture and if that sounds like your home, it could mean it’s time to get rid of some of the

inessential pieces in your home. Also, there should be no cords, clothes, or debris of any kind

on the floor because these things can cause a wheelchair to snag and topple over. The

wheelchair user should be able to freely roam the vicinity of their home without any problem of

running into something.

Max Gottlieb is the content manager for Senior Planning. Senior Planning provides free assistance to seniors or the

disabled and specializes in long term care, which includes finding and arranging care services, transitioning people

into new living situations, and applying for state and federal benefits.