Polio Place

A service of Post-Polio Health International


Part-time or full-time use of proper seating can prevent severe fatigue and preserve overused muscles. To obtain appropriate seating, consult with a medical professional familiar with seating and mobility, such as a physiatrist, physical therapist, or occupational therapist. Work closely with medical professionals and a rehabilitation technology supplier, etc., to determine which options will best meet individual needs. In most cases, a powered mobility device will be the best choice. Powered mobility options include three-wheel and four-wheel scooters, powered wheelchairs, and hybrid models that combine the features of both. Ergonomically designed chairs for use in the workplace are very beneficial.

Choosing the appropriate back and cushion is vital. Factors to consider include: functional abilities including pain and fatigue levels, balance, strength, and range of motion; the ability to shift weight; postural abnormalities; and the home, work, and leisure environment. Another important consideration is the vehicle that will be used to transport the device, as is the need to accommodate other devices such as ventilatory equipment, crutches, canes, etc. (Leonard, 1997).

 Rehabilitation Technology Suppliers (RTS) participate in a clinical evaluation of the client and serves as the expert in recommendation of equipment that will meet the needs/goals of the client. The RTS assists in measuring the client, assessing existing equipment, providing a thorough knowledge of insurance related issues, obtaining demonstration equipment, submitting recommended equipment to insurance, obtaining equipment, delivering and fitting recommended equipment. Check the National Registry for Rehabilitation Technology Suppliers.

Assistive Technology Suppliers (ATS) have achieved the status of ATS through a credentialing exam administered by Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society (RESNA). These suppliers maintain the necessary continuing education to hold the designation of an ATS.

Certified Rehabilitation Technology Suppliers (CRTS) have achieved the highest credential, CRTS, in the rehabilitation equipment provision industry. A CRTS has successfully completed the ATS examination and has been a member of NRRTS for two years.

Please Be Seated!

Prolonged standing is stressful; some people find it harder to stand in one place than to walk. We need to conserve energy while doing everyday tasks so we have vitality left for the fun stuff. So.....sit down! Sitting while performing activities takes 25% less energy - how easy is that? And the benefits don’t stop there; sitting places less demand on the cardio-vascular system and less stress on the weight-bearing joints. Most important - sitting is safer, especially for those of us with weakness, fatigue, and compromised balance.

You can sit during meal preparation and cleanup, showering, dressing, shaving or styling your hair, working on hobbies - almost any activity can be performed while sitting if you analyze, plan ahead, and use a few simple aids. So where to start?

A shower bench or chair and a hand-held shower head are really essential for energy conservation and safety. Some benches have a backrest, adjustable leg heights, and even armrests for pushing yourself up. Attach the shower head to the wall where you can reach it easily without standing. While you’re at it, make sure that all your bath accessories, such as bath brushes and long-handled sponges, are within easy reach. If your shower is over the bathtub, replace bathtub sliding doors with a shower curtain for easy access to the bench.

And please sit down while you’re getting dressed. As an OT, I’ve been amazed at how many people who are at risk for falling challenge their balance by doing lower-body dressing while standing up. Putting on pants while standing just doesn’t make sense. Sit down even for upper-body dressing.

You can be seated while brushing your teeth, shaving, applying makeup, etc. Just put a mirror on the counter by the bathroom sink.

Meal preparation and kitchen clean-up are probably the most energy-consuming tasks we face; there’s a lot to do and it has to be done so often! Sitting in the kitchen is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. However, sitting in a regular chair may cause your work surface to be too high, which can fatigue your arms. It’s not a good trade-off if you rest your legs but overuse your arms. There are several ways to create a lower work surface to preserve your arms.

Many years ago I purchased a drafting chair (not a regular office chair) at an office supply store. It has a pneumatic height adjustment, a five caster base which is very stable, a footrest and an adjustable backrest. Raise the seat high enough to give you a low work surface but not too high - you want to be able to use your feet to push the chair around. But here is a very important caution: The seat must be raised before you sit on it and you can be in danger of having the chair roll backwards as you sit down. Back the chair up against the bottom corner cupboards before you sit down. Once I’m seated I just roll from sink to refrigerator to stove, prepare food, wash dishes, put things away. Since I have wood floors in my kitchen and dining room I roll between those rooms. Sitting at the dining table in my drafting chair allows me to play games with my grandchildren without stressing my arms. If you have hobbies out in the garage, use a drafting chair for that, too.

A bar stool also saves the arms by seating you at a higher level. Advantage - it’s safer as it won’t roll while you’re getting on. Disadvantage - it doesn’t roll around the kitchen. But if you’re going to stay in one place it’s a great solution.

I sit whenever possible, but getting up been a struggle for many years. My solution was to have several high density foam cushions, 4 inches high and 16 inches square, fabricated at an upholstery shop. You may need different dimensions but you get the idea. For a small extra fee the shop covered the cushions in my choice of fabric and added a zipper and carrying handle. After my knee replacement last year it was impossible to get up from regular chairs and the cushions helped me return to my normal activities. I always keep one in my van - just in case.

© 2008 Grace R. Young 

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