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ATP Caitlin Miller: Wheelchair Experience Is a Journey

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Caitlin Miller, OTD, OTR/L, ATP, is a Numotion ATP Ambassador Council Member who has worked as a seating and wheeled mobility clinician and now works as an ATP supplier. She was asked why compliance is such a challenge.

Wheelchair Provision Is a Process “Unfortunately, I think this issue is more common than we might like to believe,” she said. “In reality, wheelchair fittings can be busy and sometimes hectic, especially if done in a clinic setting. This is why it’s imperative to maintain an open line of communication with your clients.”

Miller said she explains seating and mobility assessment and fitting as a process. “As cliché as it might sound, I typically like to frame the new wheelchair experience as a journey… I ensure my clients know this is not a one-time-fitting-then-done type of thing. It’s common for me to go back after delivery to make small adjustments or re-educate. If it’s a new injury or diagnosis, this process can be overwhelming, and we can’t possibly expect to accomplish everything in one hour. The after-delivery follow-up is an area that we need to capitalize on. This is where relationships and trust are built and where compliance and overall satisfaction can be guaranteed.”

“Incredible Opportunity” for Education

Miller was asked if non-compliance is sometimes the result of consumers and caregivers being too busy or feeling overwhelmed. How often does life get in the way of, for example, remembering to check the inflation of air cells in a cushion?

“Hey, I get it,” Miller said. “I’m a mom who works full time, has two kids, and can’t seem to keep up with my car keys…let alone being a caregiver for a medically complex individual or keeping up with my own complex needs.

“I’ll start by saying the caregivers of my clients are superheroes, right along with the clients themselves. However, again, I see an incredible opportunity for education here. Of course, we know that tilt/recline aren’t just fancy features we put on a chair just because… but more so because they have an actual medical purpose. Providing education in this manner might make caregivers and clients more aware of the fact that tilt/recline/maintaining adequate air pressure can be just as beneficial for their overall health as is their daily medication. Also, I believe in making things realistic and practical. Setting practical expectations for pressure relief as well as introducing technology available on our equipment — pressure relief reminders — are all ways we can make things easier and increase overall compliance.”

Given how busy wheelchair users and their families can typically be — and the overwhelming number of activities required every day for someone with a complex medical condition — what can seating and mobility teams do to help improve client compliance?

“I think the question actually answers itself,” Miller said. “It’s in having a well-rounded team of professionals that can provide comprehensive care. The ATP/therapist/doctor relationship is invaluable! When I worked as a therapist, I worked with ATPs I knew I could count on. I knew that if I referred to them, I could count on their knowledgeable equipment recommendations, I trusted they were ethical in their paperwork completion, and I knew that if/when my patients needed service, they would be there… and ultimately, it’s because of that trust that I would later go on to work for Numotion.

“When we can form a comprehensive team around a client,” Miller added, “we essentially remove their burden. When we make it easy to understand the information, make ourselves available for questions, and ensure a seamless process, we can increase overall compliance and willingness.”

This article originally appeared in the Mar/Apr 2021 issue of Mobility Management.

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