As one enters a nursing home, either as a new resident or a visitor, observe how many residents are sitting in wheelchairs. Do you wonder why they are just sitting there and not actively engaged in the activities the facility might provide? As you walk toward the dining room are there enough regular chairs for all of the residetns to sit in while they dine? As nursing homes are moving toward culture change and Advancing Excellence, why are wheelchairs still used for extended seating?
Wheelchairs were originally developed as transport chairs to get a patient from one place to another and back again and were never designed to be used for extended seating. If a resident is found to be at risk for falls, instead of placing that resident back into physical therapy to strengthen their legs, they are often placed into a wheelchair , often with a chair alarm and within three weeks, according to many physical therapists, will never be able to walk again without extensive therapy.
And when a resident is pushed to the dining room, why can't they be transferred to a regular chair, not only to return dignity to them, but to also give them some exercise by shifting their weight by having them stand up for a few minutes. Many facilities offer "walk to dine" programs which assist the resident in returning to functional mobility. Residents do not have to sit in wheelchairs in order to eat, in fact a wheelchair is very uncomfortable to sit in for extended periods of time.
I feel that wheelchairs need to be assessed prior to placing an elderly person into one, and if the person does not need a wheelchair, the facility should find a less restrictive device for that resident to use, such as a walker/chair combination, a standard walker, or a cane and encourage that resident to get up and walk. Wheelchairs should be considered a restraint, if the resident cannot get out of the wheelchair unassisted. and charted as such.
When looking for a nursing home for your loved one, look at all the obivous signs in the facility, but don't forget to look at wheelchair usage and ask them why so many residents are in wheelchairs, if overuse seems to be the norm.