Helping Seniors Adjust to Wheelchair Use



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A patient who consistently refuses to use a wheelchair.

When seniors return home from a hospital or nursing facility, caregivers are frequently there. Resisting wheelchair use can make transitioning difficult for the patient and the caregiver.

Being in treatment and recuperating from an illness or injury can be quite taxing. The stress of adjusting to caring for someone who has been sick and is now returning home to require care and extra attention is an additional stressor for the caregiver.

During this difficult time, a patient is frequently introduced to a wheelchair. If the patient has never used a wheelchair before, this introduction may be shocking.

A few minutes spent introducing a wheelchair to a patient is well spent. I have been with a woman suffering from a stroke and could stand temporarily.

She proclaimed loudly, “I will never use a wheelchair!”. She was opposed to using a wheelchair, but she needed one because she couldn’t walk and couldn’t be carried anywhere. Circumstances drove her to accept using a wheelchair gradually.

While the caregiver sees the wheelchair as an essential and beneficial tool for transferring the patient, the patient frequently has an entirely different and unpleasant opinion of it. This attitude may perplex a caregiver.

What is the issue with a wheelchair? It’s just some furniture. It assists me in moving you about.

So, what now? What’s the source of your disdain for your wheelchair?

Refusing a wheelchair may imply something much more significant to the patient. Put yourself in the shoes of the sufferer and consider the following perceptions:

  • A wheelchair declares to the world that I am a sick, aged person, and I reject that perception of myself. 
  • I despise both my illness and my aging.
  • That is not how I see myself. I am dependent and incapable since I need a wheelchair. 
  • I refuse to be crippled.
  • Others will think I’m ugly, sick, elderly, useless, unusual, and so on. I don’t want to be associated with any of them. I don’t want to be rejected and avoided by others.
  • I’m grieving the loss of my health and independence. The wheelchair represents that loss to me. I refuse to accept my losses.
  • I have lost my independence and respect as a capable adult by using a wheelchair. I reject the use of a wheelchair as a limitation to my independence.

I can comprehend his concerns, worries, and fury when I see things from the patient’s perspective. We can sympathize with and understand the feelings underlying this opposition to using a wheelchair, especially since wheelchair users would be a permanent shift in one’s lifestyle.

So, how can a caregiver assist a patient in accepting the use of a wheelchair?

Pay attention to the patient. What is most important to him or her: beauty, other people’s opinions, dealing with emotions associated with losing health or independence?

Determine the fundamental issues and then proceed to address them.

A facility social worker, a preacher, a friend, or another wheelchair user may be among the greatest people to counsel patients and reassure them that they have a future worth living. A wheelchair does not take away that future.

Obtain a positive evaluation of the patient’s condition from a doctor, physical therapist, or occupational therapist. In other words, refrain from inquiring about what the patient cannot do.

Ask the patient what he or she CAN DO RIGHT NOW and set some goals. Share this information with the patient, or ask the expert to discuss it with the patient. A positive attitude toward the future is contagious.

Educate the patient on how to use the wheelchair. The patient should be instructed and allowed to practice using the wheelchair to the best of their abilities.

Request that the nurse or therapist show and allow the patient to learn. You can listen and learn, but you must insist on the patient utilizing the wheelchair safely and successfully.

Encourage, but do not compel.

Keep the wheelchair available, take the time and make an effort to teach the patient to accept using the wheelchair.

Yes, using a wheelchair on a long-term, permanent basis is a significant shift in life. It necessitates numerous changes for both the patient and the caregiver. 

Be conscious of the emotions a wheelchair can elicit in a patient who has never used one before. When a person refuses to use a wheelchair, make the transition easier by communicating, educating, and emphasizing the positive aspects of the circumstance. 

Caregivers and their attitudes can significantly impact a patient’s acceptance of wheelchair use.

In conclusion

When an elderly person comes home from the hospital or a nursing home and refuses to use a wheelchair, it can be hard on both the person and the person taking care of them.

The patient may be opposed to using a wheelchair due to feelings of dependency, loss of independence, or societal perceptions.

Caregivers can assist the patient in accepting the use of a wheelchair by paying attention to the patient’s concerns, seeking counseling, obtaining a positive evaluation of the patient’s condition, educating the patient on how to use the wheelchair, and encouraging but not compelling the patient to use the wheelchair.

By doing these simple things, caregivers can help seniors get used to using a wheelchair and improve their quality of life as a whole.