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How To Keep An Elderly Person From Sliding Out Of A Wheelchair

elderly man sitting in a wheelchair

If the senior in your life has become wheelchair-bound, they rely on this chair to get around in their day-to-day life.

Sometimes, you may worry that your senior will slip right from their chair and take a tumble.

This could lead to significant, even life-ending injuries, which is obviously something you absolutely want to avoid.

Here is how to keep the elderly from falling out of a wheelchair:

  • Check that the chair fits the person.
  • Ensure Properly Fitting Leg Rests
  • Provide back and/or side cushions to help the person sit as upright as possible.
  • If the senior has dementia or another cognitive disorder, eliminate confusion about things that may cause falls.
  • Try products designed to prevent wheelchair falls.

Understanding what causes wheelchair falls in the elderly is a great first step in preventing the person from hurting themselves.

Ensuring the safety of elderly people, especially those who are wheelchair users, is crucial.

Wheelchairs are essential for mobility, but they also present a risk of falls, particularly for older adults who may spend long periods of time seated.

This article serves informational purposes and offers the best ways to prevent such accidents.

Read our article, How To Choose A Wheelchair For Elderly Loved Ones.

Products And Wheelchair Cushions To Prevent Falls

I wish I had known about some of these products when my mom was in a wheelchair during the last few months of her life.

She had a glioblastoma (brain tumor) that took away her ability to move her legs, so she couldn’t keep herself in the wheelchair if she started to slide.

That meant that, more than once, Mom slipped out of the chair and landed on the floor.

Poor Dad wasn’t strong enough to keep her from sliding and he couldn’t pick her up once she had fallen out.

This resulted in several 911 calls so that first responders could get her off the floor and back into the chair – something that embarrassed Mom to no end.

Had I known these products existed, I would have gotten something to help her, but at that point, we were sort of just “putting out fires” and reacting as situations came up, instead of being proactive.

If your elderly parent or loved one could use a little more help staying in their wheelchair, you may want to try any of the following products.

They’re designed specifically for avoiding falls, making their inclusion a smart and safe choice.


A Pommel Cushion

Bestseller No. 1

The first product you might use for a senior is known as a pommel cushion, also known as a pommel seat.

This has a front protuberance that goes between your senior’s legs (similar to a pommel on a saddle) so they can’t slip out of the wheelchair as easily.

It helps maintain the correct position by providing a barrier between the legs, which can be particularly helpful for those who cannot control their lower body movements.

Pommel cushions are useful for other applications as well. For instance, by creating a natural knee separation, the hips don’t move as much, which could cause less pain for seniors.

Also, there is less body weight on the coccyx, which again reduces pain.


Anti-Thrust Cushion

Bestseller No. 1
ProHeal Gel Anti-Thrust Seat Cushion – Supreme Comfort Gel Infused Foam Cushion – Eliminates Forward Sitting – Dual Gel Bladder – 18″ x 16″ x 5″ x 3″
  • DISTINCT DESIGN: For many confined to a wheelchair, the issue of forward-sitting is one they often encounter. But with the ProHeal Anti-Thrust pillow, the necessary support is attainable. These pillows provide relief from sacroiliac, lumbar, and back pain, and prevent pressure sores.

An anti-thrust cushion is a specialized type of seating aid designed primarily for wheelchair users, particularly beneficial for elderly individuals.

While it shares some similarities with a pommel seat, there are distinct differences that make it uniquely effective.

  • Less Pronounced Front Protuberance: Unlike a pommel seat, which has a more noticeable protrusion at the front, an anti-thrust cushion has a subtler front elevation. This design helps in maintaining the user in the correct position without the discomfort that might be associated with a larger protuberance.
  • Reducing Risk of Pressure Sores: By evenly distributing weight and reducing friction and shear forces, an anti-thrust cushion significantly lowers the risk of developing pressure sores. These sores are a common concern for individuals who sit for long periods, especially the elderly with sensitive skin or compromised circulation.
  • Enhanced Comfort for Extended Periods: For elderly family members who spend a substantial amount of time in a wheelchair, comfort is paramount. An anti-thrust cushion provides a stable and comfortable base, which can make prolonged periods of sitting more bearable and less strenuous.
  • Extra Support: The cushion provides additional support to the pelvis and thighs. This support is crucial in distributing the user’s weight evenly, which is not only comfortable but also essential for proper posture and alignment.

What Is A Lap Buddy?

Bestseller No. 1

Instead of going between the legs like the pommel cushion does, the Lap Buddy sits in the lap of the person in the wheelchair, acting almost as a lap bar.

It’s made of soft, inflatable material with no seams or poky edges. The Lap Buddy also provides a place for the person to rest their forearms and hands.

With the Lap Buddy in place, the senior can’t get up easily.

Besides keeping the elderly in their wheelchairs, the Lap Buddy can also support the person’s extremities, possibly reducing back pain.


Chair Wedge Anti-Slides: How Do They Work?

Bestseller No. 1
Drive Medical 8134 Wedge Cushion, Blue
  • Wedge Seat Cushion: The wedge cushion is ideal to help prevent users from sliding forward

If you’re still looking for a product to help keep your senior in their wheelchair, you may consider a wedge cushion.

This type of cushion goes on the seat of the wheelchair, with the low end towards the back of the seat. The thickest part of the wedge goes under their knees.

It’s a good idea to get one that has a removable, washable cover and that has ties on either side for attaching it securely to the wheelchair.

The angle of a wedge cushion is such that it becomes more difficult for a senior to fall out of their chair with the wedge in place.

TIP: The cushion shouldn’t be too high. The senior’s feet should still be able to touch the wheelchair’s footplates or the floor with the wedge cushion in place.


Non Slip Pads For Chairs: Are They A Good Option?

In the same vein as the wedge cushions, there are non slip wheelchair pads. These are anti-restraint and there are a variety of options out there on the market.

They should be made of a material that doesn’t slide easily, thus keeping the person in their seat.

Another thing you may want to look for is one that is leak proof if your loved one has a tendency towards being incontinent.


Wheelchair Restraints

Bestseller No. 1
NEPPT Wheelchair Seat Belt Medical Restraints Straps Patients Cares Safety Harness Chair Waist Lap Strap for Elderly
  • 👨‍🦽 【Protect Your Loved Ones】 Our Wheelchair Seatbelt Belt are designed specifically for the wheelchair patient, ensuring their safety while using a wheelchair. This safety belt can be securely fastened to the other chair, protecting your loved ones from accidental falls.

I know many family members are against restraints, and I am too. But for someone who is unable to hold themselves up in a seated position, a restraint may do more good than harm.

If one has to be used, I recommend the kind that fit across the person’s chest. A seat belt type can be useless if they have no control over their trunk and may actually injure their skin.


Recliner Chair

Bestseller No. 1
Medline Reclining Wheelchair, Desk-Length Arms and Elevating Leg Rests, 16″ x 18″ Seat (W x D), Black
  • Comfortable and durable reclining wheelchair with desk-length arms and elevating leg rests that make transfers easy

When all else fails, it may be necessary to use a reclining wheelchair which can then allow the person to lie down when they become so fatigued they would otherwise fall out of their chair.

A recliner wheelchair is designed for individuals who spend a majority of their day in a wheelchair and therefore need the option to change positions throughout the day.

It can also be helpful for those with conditions where lying flat is necessary, such as back pain, respiratory issues, flaccid or spastic conditions due to neurological issues.

Ultimately, it’s important to find the right combination of wheelchair accessories and modifications that will help your elderly loved one stay safe, comfortable, and independent in their wheelchair.

Consider consulting with a physical therapist or occupational therapist for personalized recommendations based on your loved one’s individual needs.

Don’t hesitate to make adjustments to ensure their well-being and quality of life.


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