While wheelchairs serve an invaluable purpose in your community, their nylon or vinyl seats often hammock under the weight of the user. This may be fine for short-term transportation, but conventional sling seats are not suited for long-term use by seniors due to safety and comfort concerns.
The best way to optimize the wheelchair experience in your community is augmenting the seats with cushions. Of course your residents’ comfort is a chief concern, but perhaps even more important are the clinical benefits the proper cushion can bring. Maintaining skin integrity, treating existing wounds, preventing skin tears and bruising, and even correcting posture issues are all possible outcomes of outfitting your residents’ wheelchairs with the proper cushions.
Read on to discover Kelly Sullivan’s helpful tips for selecting the perfect cushion. As Senior Product Consultant for Direct Supply, she has more than 10 years of Senior Living experience with specialization in rehabilitation product evaluation and selection.
What kind of cushion shape or contour is best for my residents?
A “one size fits all” approach or assuming that all cushions are created equal is a big mistake – each unique resident has specific needs and providing them with an improperly shaped cushion could lead to skin breakdown or hazardous positioning. So while a flat cushion is good for comfort, it’s important to think about the contour when we consider the benefits of positioning.
Consider these popular cushion shapes:
Saddle-Shaped Cushions – Perfect for residents with hip rotation or a lack of abduction control.
Pommel-Shaped Cushions – Suited for residents who tend to cross or buckle their knees.
Wedge-Shaped Cushions – Designed to help position residents with posterior pelvic tilt to remain back in their seat.
Anti-Thrust Cushions – Used to help mitigate slide for residents who are constantly moving in their chairs.
What type of materials make for the best cushions?
The materials that your cushions are made of can also have large impact on the experience of the resident using them. Choosing between foam, gel and air cushions each present their own set of benefits.
Select from these three material options:
- Foam Cushions – A common choice for many communities due to the great immersion they present. Maximizing immersion with higher densities and multiple layers of foam allows for a greater degree of pressure management and offloading properties.
- Gel Cushions – Gel helps regulate body temperatures, and because residents may be spending large amounts of time in their wheelchairs, keeping their temperature regulated helps reduce the buildup of moisture that can lead to discomfort and infection. Maximize this benefit and look for multi-pack units or cushions completely made of gel.
- Air Cushions – Air cushions keep the seating surface cool and dry for all-day comfort. Given their extra buoyancy, they are also the preferred solution for advanced pressure management, which can help with the treatment of pressure ulcers and related injuries.