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Tips for making occasional use of a wheelchair a good experience

benefits of a lightweight wheelchair

Accepting the help of a wheelchair when you can actually still walk is rather like giving up your car keys when you can actually still drive. You know it makes sense for all sorts of reasons, but it’s a huge admission that you’re getting older and frailer.

It’s not surprising then that many of our parents and older relatives balk at the idea of using a wheelchair when they’re not completely immobile.

Yet there are many benefits to be gained. They can see more on a visit to attractions. They don’t have to worry about holding everyone else back because they are slower or can’t walk as far. They can get through airports and other busy transport hubs faster, when time is of the essence.

Realising those benefits, though, requires a touch of understanding, diplomacy and patience.

How can you help a relative to overcome the fear of losing control and feeling a little humiliated when they agree to use a wheelchair? Here are some ideas.

  • Accentuate the positives. A wheelchair is a tool, just like a car. It helps people to travel further and faster than they might on foot.
  • Avoid assuming that because your parent has accepted occasional use of a wheelchair they will always want to use it. There will be walking days and sitting days.
  • Be prepared and keep a lightweight wheelchair for everyday living at hand for situations where it may be useful. Some wheelchairs are designed to fit in the back of a car, and can be available just in case.
  • Help others not to talk over their heads. Easily done, but you can demonstrate a better way, by including your parent in the conversation at their level, rather than literally keeping the conversation above them.
  • Equally, avoid any attempts to patronise your parent. People in wheelchairs can attract an unthinking ‘do they take sugar?’ type of reaction in some people. Gently change the tack of the conversation so that nobody feels offended.
  • Recognise that sitting in a wheelchair is relinquishing control. Your parent is trusting you with their safety and that’s a major responsibility.
  • Practise with the wheelchair in your own time. Negotiating a wheelchair around corridors and through doors and gates is a challenge, and the more so once you’ve got an anxious passenger on board.

Image by adamtepl from Pixabay

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