I’ve been in a wheelchair for a quarter of a century. I’ve discovered that, whether you are a new wheelchair user or have been using a wheelchair for years, there is always something new and helpful you can learn.
I hope you will find these wheelchair tips useful. Most of them were shared by other wheelchair users!
1. Make Sure to Sit Properly
One of the best wheelchair tips I ever received was to maintain good posture.
Why is this important?
If your posture is good it reduces stress on body parts. It also helps avoid pressure points on your hips so you will be more comfortable. If you have good posture it makes it easier to maneuver the chair. Good posture avoids injuries.
How do you do this? Each part of your body should be aligned. From head to toe, imagine a straight line down your trunk.
Make sure you have an ergonomically designed seat and custom-made back on your chair. These help posture, provide good support and make your chair amazingly more comfortable.
2. Maintain a Balanced Diet
What does eating right has to do with being in a wheelchair?
Think about this: If you are overweight, it is hard to make transfers from your chair to the bed or the toilet. Your legs have to do a lot more weight-bearing.
If you are underweight, you may not have the energy needed to propel your chair and make transfers. Poor eating habits can also lead to diminished bone mass. You need to be in optimum health for your movements in and out of your chair.
Good physical health also promotes good mental health.
3. Avoid Sleeping in Your Chair
I admit it. I’ve dozed off in my chair a time or two. I don’t recommend it.
You could fall out of your chair. It’s not ideal for proper posture.
When you wake up your neck aches. That chair is no recliner.
When it’s time to sleep, get to your comfy bed. You will wake up more refreshed and have more energy to face the day. Besides, your backside needs a chance to get off those pressure points!
4. Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help
This is a hard one. Believe me!
As my system deteriorates due to my neuromuscular condition, there are things I can’t do that I could do a year ago.
It’s hard to become less independent, However, I’ve learned the hard way: If you don’t ask for help from family, friends, neighbors, or caregivers, you could sustain injuries that would make you even more dependent.
Here’s one of my wheelchair tips: Do what you can do safely and ask for help when you need it. And, don’t forget to say, “Thank you!”
5. Lightweight Exercise
I admit it. I am not good at lower body exercise. I know it is vital to maintain whatever muscle tone remains. But, it’s just so darned hard to move my legs.
Upper body exercises are a piece of cake. I’ve built up those muscles pushing myself in my chair.
Another one of my wheelchair tips is to find a good wheelchair exercise program in your area. It’s more fun when you exercise as a group.
Not into group activities? Then, try a home exercise video like this one:
Or, one designed especially for those of us who are in wheelchairs:
6. Talk with Other Wheelchair Users
You’d be amazed at how refreshing it is to talk to someone who understands the challenges we face every day.
Join an online chat group like Ableize
7. Maintain Hygiene and Shower Regularly
Yes. I know! Taking a shower from a wheelchair is almost an acrobatic act.
However, it is vital to your psychical, social, and mental wellness to be clean!
There are wonderful shower safety aids and great new barrier-free roll-in showers. Look into them. You will find, as I did that—with the right equipment—showering is one of those things you can attend to independently.
8. Try to Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol isn’t good for any person’s body or mind. But, it is particularly bad for those of us in wheelchairs.
Alcohol is a depressant linked to mental health issues. Drinking can result in chronic physical and mental health problems.
We can’t afford to tamper with either. Besides the danger to the liver and cardiovascular system, alcohol is linked to illnesses like cancer and type 2 diabetes.
The first thing that happens when I drink is a lack of balance. I badly need that balance to make safe transfers.
There’s also a legal issue: People “driving” power chairs or scooters have been charged with driving under the influence. You don’t want the expense, the embarrassment, or the loss of your “wheels”.
9. Carry a Water Bottle and Energy Drinks
It is important to stay hydrated whether you are in a wheelchair or not!
Sufficient hydration keeps your muscles moving smoothly. It keeps your energy level up and body organs working well.
In the heat, it is important to stay hydrated so you don’t suffer sunstroke. Drinking plenty of water cools your body through perspiration.
Energy drinks replace electrolytes lost in sweat but they should be used sparingly and not instead of water.
I always carry a water bottle with me because most public water fountains were not built or installed for those of us in wheelchairs.
You can even get some convenient water bottle holders for wheelchair users. Take a look at my favorite: The Giraffe Hands-Free Water Bottle
10. Take Care of Your Mental Health
Don’t ignore the effect of a disability on mental health.
Sometimes, when you’re caught up in physical health issues, it’s hard to remember that your mental health is as important.
Being in a wheelchair, it’s easy to look around you and think of all the things you aren’t able to do. That can bring on depression and lack of self-esteem.
One of my wheelchair tips is to pay attention to both physical and mental wellbeing. They are closely linked.
I find one of the best ways to stay optimistic and feeling good about myself is to get out there in the community. Get involved in a cause or a hobby that you care about. You will meet other like-minded people and not get fixated on your challenges.
Two of my favorite activities are bridge and volunteering at the local.
Enjoy Your Life
Whether you like to read, travel, play a board game, engage in online chess, or volunteer, enjoy your life.
Sure! We’ve got challenges. Who doesn’t?
Technology has brought many assistive devices and programs that greatly enhance the quality of life for us. Embrace family and friends and enter wholeheartedly into the activities that you love.
We are all dealt different hands in life. The trick is to accept the hand you were dealt and play it well!