The design and features a wheelchair cushion or pad can directly affect a mobility chair user's health, comfort and well-being. The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel, an independent not-for-profit organization dedicated to the prevention and management of pressure ulcers, has established nine cushion surface characteristics that determine the safety and efficacy of cushions for wheelchairs.
To ensure that the cushion you purchase is safe and appropriate, keep these factors in mind when shopping around.
1. Temperature Control
If you spend most of your time in your wheelchair, your cushion must be able to absorb heat. Cooling cushions made of gel or thermoplastic urethane reduce heat build-up and allow air to circulate so you stay cool and dry.
2. Moisture Control
A cushion should keep you dry and prevent you from sweating because when moisture builds up next to the skin, it can make your skin wet and more susceptible to damage.
The proper cushion friction between your clothing and the cushion cover is essential for your safety. Too much friction makes it difficult for you to transfer to and from your chair whereas too little friction can be dangerous because you can slide off of your cushion very easily.
4. Maintenance Requirements
A cushion should come with an owner’s manual that tells you how to clean and maintain your cushion. You should also be aware of who to contact if you ever have a problem with your cushion.
5. Life Expectancy
Most cushions will last two to five years before they need to be replaced, with the exception of foam cushions, which have a shorter life expectancy. Prior to purchasing a cushion for your wheelchair, find out approximately how long it would last before requiring replacement.
A cushion should not be made of flammable material. Flammable cushions can be very dangerous, particularly for wheelchair users who smoke.
7. Fail Safety
Make sure you know how to tell when a cushion is broken and unsafe to use so you can replace it immediately.
8. Infection Control
The material that a cushion is made of should inhibit the growth of bacteria and other germs to prevent infection.
9. Redistribution of Pressure
One of the most important features of cushions for wheelchairs is to prevent the formation of pressure sores. In order to maintain the health of your skin, a cushion must support your body weight and distribute pressure evenly.
In summary, there are a variety of factors that you must consider prior to purchasing a cushion for your wheelchair. The only thing that wheelchair experts can agree on is that no single cushion is best for everyone. In order to find a safe cushion that meets your specific needs, review several products with these nine characteristics in mind.
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