Best Ways to Help Someone Who Uses a Wheelchair or Cane
If you need to help a loved one use a wheelchair or cane, here are expert tips to keep them (and you) safe.
If a stroke, orthopedic injury or other cause has made a loved one dependent on an assistive device such as a wheelchair, walker or cane, it’s important to know the best way to help him with his mobility and safety. And safety — yours and his — is always first.
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“When providing care, keep in mind your own safety,” says rehab and sports therapy expert Christine Schulte, MD. “You’re not going to provide much assistance if you hurt yourself in the process.”
Care providers should learn proper body mechanics to ensure that they have a clear understanding of their position in relationship to the patient when transferring the person or helping him move with his assistive device.
“The patient should always be as actively involved as possible,” she says. “Even if it’s limited, all mobility is a good thing.”
When helping someone climb up stairs, it’s best to walk next to or behind him. If he starts to fall, it’s easier to nudge him forward. Keep your hand on his shoulders or on the belt to keep his center of gravity forward.
If he is descending, stand in front of him, since it’s easier to help him keep his balance than trying to hold onto him from behind if he falls.
Also, the person should lead with his good foot going up the steps, and with his bad foot going down the steps, so that the good leg is always initiating the movement.
“If they’re really struggling, there’s no reason they can’t sit on the steps and scoot themselves up and down until they get a little bit stronger,” Schulte says. They can also transition at the top of a stool, then a chair, then to a standing position.
Keep the disabled person’s home clear of clutter on the floor, such as extension cords, laundry baskets and throw rugs that can cause the person to trip or fall. Lastly, ensure that hallways and walkways are well lit so the person has a clear pathway that he can see.