Seating & Positioning

For Consumers: Cushion Care 101

Cushion CareConsumers may think they know all about wheelchair seat cushions — they’re not so different than the throw pillows on the couch, right? — when in reality, wheelchair cushions’ designs, construction, media and purposes are very different.

Tricia Garven, PT, ATP, The ROHO Group, offers the following tips to pass on to end users to help them get the most out of their seat cushions…and for the longest possible time.

  • Cleanliness counts. Recommend that consumers create a “cleaning schedule” for cushions and covers based on who’s using the cushion, what they’re doing while in the chair and where the chair is going. For instance, if the user is a kindergartner, Garven suggests, “He’s likely spilling apple juice on his cushion cover every week. That cushion cover needs to be cleaned once a week at least.” Incontinence issues would also require more frequent cover washing and checking to see if the cushion itself is soiled.

    If consumers can’t sit in their wheelchairs because they’re waiting too long and too often for washed cushion covers to dry, buying a “backup” cover could help.

    Garven suggests cover-laundering time is a great opportunity for consumers to peek at the cushion itself. “If it’s dirty and it’s a product that can be wiped down and cleaned, do it,” she says. Grit, dust from the air, hair, skin cells: “All that’s going to create opportunities for wear,” Garven adds.

  • Check for wear, too. Compression set, foam that’s changed color, leaks…if consumers spot something, recommend they consult their provider or clinician for advice.

  • Make sure the cushion is right side up — and facing front. Unlike pillows on a couch, most wheelchair cushions should not be rotated. Nearly all have specific tops, bottoms, fronts and backs, and consumers need to place cushions properly on their chairs for the best performance. Make consumers and caregivers aware of directional hints printed on tags, etc.

  • Where does the zipper go? Freshly laundered cushion covers also need to be properly placed back on the cushion.

  • Give resources — such as the manufacturer’s customer service phone number or provider’s phone number — for consumers to call if they have use or maintenance questions. Encourage consumers to call if they’re wondering, “Is this how the cushion is supposed to work?” Being able to call to make sure the cushion is facing the right way can improve clinical outcomes and result in happier consumers.

This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of Mobility Management.

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