No worries. The content of this post will be rated “G” and family friendly.
A few years ago, after numerous long discussions with Lee, my wheelchair guy, and a whole lot of soul-searching, I decided to make the switch from using a manual wheelchair around my house to a power one. There are several reasons for that. As I get older I find that the spasm in my body is becoming more intense, and my strength and balance simply are not what they used to be. All of those things combined made pushing myself in my manual wheelchair challenging, and the situation was only going to get worse as time went on. I’ve had several doctors tell me that the bodies of people with cerebral palsy tend to age faster than those of the general population.
In addition, Lee thought a power chair would enable me to be more independent, and he was right. It is only in my power chair that I can take my trash can out to the curb by myself. And a power chair means that I can get out and about in my neighborhood and on a nearby bike trail in a way that I would never be able to if I had to rely solely on my own strength. This power chair sets me up for success in all kinds of ways. It even reclines fully so that I can take a nap during the day if I need to. It’s similar to what I imagine the bat mobile would be like.
Once the power chair was delivered, there were several things I had to adjust to. There are various speeds of my power chair that are appropriate for indoors and outdoors. In the beginning, I got them confused. Let’s just say that there used to be a whole lot more paint on the interior walls of my house than there is now. The learning curve took some time.
Another thing I had to get used to is that my power chair needs to be charged every night. One cord of the battery plugs into the wall, the other plugs into the chair. I always like to keep my chair close to my bed in case I need to get up in the middle of the night or get out of bed in the morning before a caregiver arrives. Since my power chair is significantly larger than my manual one is, putting the chair in exactly the right spot while it is charging is essential. If it is a few inches too close to my bed, I get stuck and there is not enough room to maneuver my feet when I attempt to transfer. If the power chair is too far away, I can’t grab on to it in order to get myself settled after the transfer. This situation is much more complicated than it might first appear. Especially when I am training a new caregiver who is unfamiliar with how I use my chair for leverage when I am transferring from one place to another. On more than one occasion, I have fallen out of bed when I tried to transfer and my power chair was not in the spot where I needed it to be. EMT’s are some of the few people who have seen me before my hair is brushed in the morning. (Once I hit the floor in my bedroom, I am as helpless as an overturned turtle, and caregivers and I typically call 911 for help to get me back up safely.)
Several weeks ago I was explaining to an old-timer caregiver the dilemma of needing my power chair to be in exactly the right place in order for me to successfully transfer out of bed, and not knowing how to get that done consistently. She came up with a brilliant idea. She outlined a box in tape on my bedroom carpet where my chair needs to go. Now all I have to do is tell the new caregivers I train to put the front wheels of the chair next to the tape. It’s a great system. Not exactly foolproof. (I still lose my balance occasionally, but that has more to do with my cerebral palsy than the placement of my wheelchair these days.) But things are a whole lot better than they used to be.
Who knew that I would get a lesson in “parking” from one of my caregivers at the age of 48? Additionally, who knew I would be giving lessons in “parking” to the people around me so that they could do it well.
“Parking” correctly is a good thing.