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A malfunctioning power chair and the loss of independence

September 21, 2015
by Kathleen Mears
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A resident I will call Neil got a power-assisted chair last October. Ever since he learned to operate it, he loves the fact that it is much easier for him to get around. But any equipment that enables independence requires maintenance. At first the aides would forget to charge Neil's chair and the battery would be dead when he got in it the next morning. Then, either Neil propelled the chair himself or the aides had to push him to his destination.

Neil got used to being more independent. He got everywhere quicker and was not worn out from moving the chair himself.

Three months ago, I noticed one of Neil's power chair tire was flat. I mentioned it to him he told me he reported it to maintenance. I know Neil wanted the tires aired up right away because the chair was more difficult to control. Eventually maintenance inflated his tires.

A month or so later, both tires were flat. I wondered why the tires were losing air so quickly. This time maintenance inflated the tires sooner. But I wondered if running the chair with flat tires would damage the battery or motor.

Three weeks ago, Neil's chair was dead. Maintenance removed the battery and Neil has been pushing the chair himself. He told me his arms hurt. One day in the back dining room, I needed to get by him. I forgot his chair had no power, and asked him to move up. Neil firmly said, "This chair no longer has power." I apologized, telling him I forgot his chair was no longer powered.

I know Neil is frustrated. Because of his chair's unique design, the batteries are expensive.

I know how wonderful it is to have a power chair and be able to move around on my own. Losing the ability to move quickly is upsetting. I hope Neil's chair will have its power back soon.

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Kathleen Mears

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