As an OT, communication with your patients is essential – you need to gather as much information as you can about how they are feeling to enable you to assist them better. However, your patients may not always communicate to you when they are feeling uncomfortable in their chair. They may be embarrassed to ask, have difficulty communicating – or they may not even realise they could be more comfortable.
Here are three simple things to look out for that will help you identify discomfort in your seated patients.
Leaning to the Side
The ideal seated position is for the spine to be straight and supported. As much as possible, the patient should not be using their own muscular strength to remain upright.
If you notice your patient leaning to one side, it might be that the width of the chair is too great. This can be addressed by adding lateral support cushions, as found in many Recliners models such as the Harmony (homecare seating) or the Newark (healthcare seating). If not addressed, long term side-leaning can cause pressure injuries in the hips or side, with too much weight being focused on a small area.
If a patient is sitting with their arms crossed, it might well be because they feel unstable in their chair. This has the potential to reduce their functionality and therefore their independence, as it may become difficult for them to reach items around them or adjust their position by themselves.
The solution for this is to increase the support around the lumbar and upper back area, until the patient feels confident to move their arms freely. Almost all Recliners models come with additional back support options, with some such as the Harmony Porta coming with built in features like headrests.
Ideally the feet should be taking around one fifth of a patient’s weight. If they are dangling and not touching the floor, they are not doing their job! This puts undue pressure on other areas such as the hamstrings or buttocks.
Dangling feet obviously indicates that the chair is too high. If possible, lower the chair so that the feet are flat on the ground, but not causing the backs of the thighs to lift. If the chair is not adjustable, you can use a footplate to alleviate pressure. See our guide for using a footrest here.
A nice initiative launched by OT Magazine. Share a little happiness this year – free to download.