Today's high tech seating products include powered seating products, back supports for wheelchairs, custom cushions and seating accessories. They come in many forms but serve two basic functions: pressure reducing and positioning.
Skin ulcers and sores, can be caused by a combination of factors including the inability to shift one’s own body weight, heat, moisture, and shearing. Heat can be generated by your body when sitting on a surface that doesn't allow your skin to breathe, moisture can be caused by sweat or urination and shearing is a result of repeated friction between your body and the seat. This explanation is oversimplified, and other factors can be involved, but the result is skin breakdown leading to pressure ulcers and sores which are extremely uncomfortable and can lead to tragic results. Wheelchair cushions and back supports for chairs are strategically designed to reduce the factors contributing to skin ulcers and sores.
Foam cushions are constructed of different densities of high quality foam. These foam cushions are contoured for correct positioning and covered with a waterproof inner cover and breathable outer cover. Foam cushions are low maintenance and popular for users who are not at the highest level of risk for developing pressure ulcers and sores.
There are two types of gel seat cushions. The first is a no maintenance polymer gel, similar in consistency to jello with a plastic membrane cover. The gel is cut into smaller shapes and used as padding.
The second type of gel seat cushion has gel with the consistency of soft putty sealed in a plastic bladder and mounted to a foam base. Contoured pieces of foam can be added between the gel bladder and foam base for added positioning benefits. They are excellent wheelchair cushions for pressure reduction and positioning, but requires a bit of maintenance. The gel has a tendency to sink and should be kneaded before each transfer into the wheelchair. These are naturally waterproof wheelchair cushions and do not require waterproof covers.
Air cushions provide the highest pressure reduction and are great wheelchair cushions for pressure sores and the prevention of pressure ulcers, but they offer the lowest positioning benefit. Air cushions distribute weight over a large area without bottoming out. Getting the proper pressure takes a bit of practice and should be checked daily. These wheelchair cushions should only be used when the user or caregiver are willing and able to perform this maintenance. As with gel, air cushions are naturally waterproof wheelchair cushions but waterproof covers are available.
Like wheelchair cushions, backs support cushions are available in a variety of models ranging from basic foam products that provide moderate positioning and pressure relief, to high-end foam and gel or air combination products with aggressive positioning characteristics. Many wheelchair back cushions are designed with versatile mounting systems that allow adjustments of height, depth and back angle to accommodate the individual user.
Powered seating systems are designed to be installed on high-end power wheelchairs, and provide a superior level of positioning to help address pressure relief, spasticity, feeding, edema, etc. The systems can be controlled by the regular joystick, or by any number of the alternate control systems available. Common applications include power tilt in space, recline, elevating leg rests and elevating seats. These are very complex and specific applications, so a consultation with a professional is required to choose the correct combinations of power bases, accessories, cushions and backs.
Wheelchair seating accessories work in conjunction with wheelchair cushions, wheelchair back cushions and power seating bases to provide a better solution for some clients. Common accessories include headrests/neckrests, lateral supports, pommels (abductors), bolsters and wedges (adductors), arm troughs, trays, positioning belts, and special footrests.
Choosing the correct seating product and installation is extremely important to both the health and function of the wheelchair user. It is for this reason that only trained and experienced professionals should be involved. Each of our stores across Canada will work with qualified health care professionals to ensure that you receive the best seating solution to help you maintain maximum comfort, mobility and overall health.