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Strange Occurrences with My Power Chair

June 14, 2009
by Kathleen Mears
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Power chairs are great. I can run the chair and do fine. But when the aides do it there can be problems. I have warned them to be careful and for the most part they are. But it is hard for them to understand how sensitive a power chair is. I have told them stories of the ways my power chairs have gotten away from me and the aides.

Several years ago an aide pulled my chair up behind me so that I could transfer into it. It moved too quickly, got away from her, and pushed me onto my bed. I landed on my knees on the floor beside the bed. I was not hurt but I was rather shaken up. The aide was very upset but I was able to calm her. To be safe, three aides assisted me to get up.

Another time when an aide moved my chair behind me, it bumped me. I told her to turn it off, but she could not do it quickly enough. I ended up sitting halfway on the chair's seat. Before I could get properly seated, the chair moved a bit more and I slid out onto the floor. The aide was able to turn the chair off before I ended up lying flat on the floor. It was easier to get me up while I was leaning against the power chair. Again, the aide was shaken and concerned, but I was fine.

Many times I have told aides who were leery about running my chair to learn by sitting in it and running it themselves. Those who felt comfortable enough to try got a better idea of how to run it. They realize it is difficult to run it when they are standing up. Now there are several power chairs here, but each is quite different from the other. Some aides do not feel comfortable running my power chair so those who are do it.

Running a power chair is a lot like running a small vehicle and sometimes there are accidents. Once I got caught on my lift, was thrown into the parking lot and needed stitches. Another time my old chair failed to stop and I landed on the parking lot again but with only bruises. Both incidents taught me to respect the chair’s ability to move quickly. I also know that it can move in the wrong direction and not stop when it is supposed to. I am extremely careful when I am on my van's lift.

There have been funny incidents that have occurred with my power chair. Several years ago my power chair was sitting empty after the aides had transferred me into bed. Then, one of them threw a pillow into the seat of my power chair. All of a sudden, my power chair turned and started to go toward the door. No one could figure out what was making it move. Then we realized that the power was on and the pillow thrown at the seat had leaned against the joystick and turned the chair. All I can remember was the aides yelling at each other and rushing to turn off the chair. Once it was off, we all laughed hysterically. Then I reminded them not to throw anything at my chair unless they were positive it was turned off.

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Kathleen Mears

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