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Residents' new wheels

November 24, 2014
by Kathleen Mears
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A few weeks ago I was on my way to lunch on a very gray day. The residents were on edge. In fact, staff, residents, and visitors were acting like that Wednesday was a Friday.

I got to my table and tried to busy my eyes watching what was going on. Dan (pseudonym), who lives across the hall from me, wheeled into the dining room followed closely by what looked like a technician who was giving him directions. I noticed Dan's wheelchair was moving easily. Usually he has difficulty manipulating his manual wheelchair. I saw he was in a new motorized wheelchair. The tech told him that the chair enhances his movements. Dan pushed on the wheel rim on the right and the chair moved forward easily.

I have never seen a wheelchair like it. The tech cautioned Dan to move the chair carefully since he had more power. I remember my feeling of freedom when I got my first motorized cart in 1983. I loved being able to move around on my own, going where I wanted to go when I wanted to.

I was fascinated watching Dan use his new high-tech chair. He was grinning from ear to ear. In his manual chair, Dan was always trying to catch up to others. Many times he asked an aide or resident to push him so he could get where he was going faster. Now he can travel alone.

Then, Hank (pseudonym) arrived in his new power chair. He has lived here for a while and usually uses a manual wheelchair. But it became too difficult for him to physically move the manual chair. Many times when we met in the hallway, he commented on my power chair. A few months ago, he told me the facility was going to get him one but he thought it was taking forever.

Hank looked a bit befuddled using the joystick. But he mastered it. Because of their new equipment Dan and Hank got a lot of attention. The staff wanted to see how both men were reacting to having more freedom. Both were cautioned it would take some time for them to learn to use their new equipment.

Seeing the new equipment and the attention Dan and Hank were getting, another male resident became jealous. He is a double amputee and manages to get around using a manual wheelchair. But I am sure he believes that a lighter, more aerodynamic manual wheelchair would make his life even easier. I can understand his feelings. Those of us with mobility problems see a new chair the same way those who walk see a new car. Everyone likes new wheels.

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Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...