Focus on Environment
When Wheelchairs Are Used in Facilities
- By Laurie Watanabe
- Dec 01, 2021
CLEANING PROTOCOL: DEPOSITPHOTOS..COM/DMYRTO_Z
Environment is always a key
factor in a seating and wheelchair
evaluation. The rougher
terrain of a rural home — or a kindergarten
playground — could impact
the wheelchair team’s decisions on
wheelchair bases, seating and positioning,
wheels, tires, and more.
But it can also be important
to know when a wheelchair will
be used in a group home, skilled
nursing facility, assisted living center,
or any other venue besides a private
Dave DeRoin, Vice President of
Sales at Broda, explained why.
Managing Wheelchairs with
Mobility Management: If a wheelchair
user lives in a facility, do we
need to assume that there will be
multiple caregivers handling that
wheelchair, and that those caregivers
might turn over frequently, so
they may not have a great deal of
familiarity with the wheelchair?
Dave DeRoin: Yes, I think that’s a
consideration. Turnover in a facility
can be quite high, so a lot of manufacturer’s
reps go in and spin our
wheels in educational in-services
to show the different shifts of caregivers
how to properly use the chair.
We certainly do that. But turnover is
always an issue.
With the many people handling
the wheelchair, one of the things
that we like to do is build the chair
not only for the patient — which is
the primary importance — but also
build it for the caregiver. Absolutely,
ease of use is extremely important.
In fact, some feedback that we
got caused us to label the cylinder
assemblies on our chairs that create
the function for tilt and recline. So we
label those with a numbering system
now, and we can tell people, “This is
the [function] you do first, this is the
one you do second, this is the one
you do third.” Doing that has cut
down on some of that educational
in-servicing we’ve needed to do.
MM: So if the person qualifies for a
tilt system, it’s a medically necessary
system. But if it’s difficult for the
caregiver to use, then they end up
reclining before tilting, for example.
I assume that as the manufacturer,
you’re thinking, “The easier we can
make it for somebody to use our tilt
mechanism, the more likely they are
to use it as clinically intended.”
Dave DeRoin: That’s exactly right,
and that’s really why we created that
kind of numbering system. Because
we noticed that the easier cylinder
to activate was the recline, and so
what most people would do is they
would activate that and never even
activate the tilt — which, as you can
imagine, causes a whole other set
of problems. That’s why we created
these numbering systems with a
bright sticker on the back to say, “Do
this first, then do this.”
We’re not the only manufacturer
[with wheelchairs] inside the facility.
And so we would be crazy to think
that all of these caregivers can
memorize everything there is to know
about every type of chair that’s in
their facility. We always look for ways
to make it easier.
MM: Because not all systems work
in the same way or in the same
order. So you’re doing what you
can to make yours easy with the
hope that it will be used properly
and according to what the clinician
Dave DeRoin: Yes. From the therapist
to the doctor to the ATP, they’re
prescribing that chair for a specific
reason, and we just want to make
sure we’re doing our best to help
keep their patients compliant.
Supporting the Facility’s
MM: Infection controls and cleaning
are always important in facilities
and in healthcare, but during the
pandemic, everybody became
much more aware of them. I
presume another factor important
to you is that your chairs are easy to
clean and are durable? That they
can stand up to a lot of cleaning?
Dave DeRoin: With these cleaning
protocols, it was probably time for
a reset. Not that the pandemic’s
been great, but there are things that
we’re all putting into practice now
that should have always been in
practice. I think we’re all just really
cognizant of washing our hands,
which we should have been doing,
but this kind of gave us a reset. And
the same goes with chairs.
I think we paid more attention in
the last two years to making sure
people understand the types of
cleaners that work on our chairs,
how to clean them, what parts remove from the chair to make it easy to get in those
hard-to-reach spaces. Our chair’s a little unique in that
our seating system is built into the frame itself. So we’ve
developed some ways to cover our seating with a medical-grade vinyl. That’s just an option, but it allows them to
use whatever cleaner is approved in their facility on that
MM: Because you don’t have control over what kinds
of cleansers are used?
Dave DeRoin: Right. We suggest, and we have it in all
of our operations manuals, that the type of vinyl that we
use is open to many cleaners. We tell people, “Just make
sure that it’s not an irritant to the skin of the patient you’re
working with… and that cleaner would be fine.”
The types of cleaners that [facilities] are using now are
a higher grade than I’m sure they’ve ever used. So I think
our patients are probably benefiting from that more than
they ever have.
Building in Real-World Durability
MM: Are there any other factors that you would recommend
examining if an ATP supplier or clinician told you,
“I’m working with a client who’s in a facility: What else
do I have to consider besides ease of use and ease of
Dave DeRoin: Probably ease of use and longevity.
One of the things we certainly take into consideration
is the durability of our chair. We have chairs that have
been out there for 15 or 20 years [in the field] that are
still working great. It’s a popular feature for us, and we
recently updated to a 10-year warranty on the frame. The
16-gauge steel that we use is extremely durable.
Whether it be a group home or a long-term care
facility, they’re not always the best caretakers of the
chair. We know that. We know it gets used, it gets
abused, and to have that type of a warranty is definitely
a popular feature.
But for any ATP, I would tell them it begins and ends
with the patient, a hundred percent. We want to make
sure that the patient is getting exactly what they need —
and we feel that in long-term care, we have both
covered. We have not only the right seating system for
many of those patients, but we also have the durability
and the ease of use that a facility is looking for.
This article originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2021 issue of Mobility Management.
Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.