Addressing positioning and seating challenges in geriatric residents of a skilled nursing facility that use manual wheelchairs
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Participants in the author’s training program for OT practitioners who work in skilled nursing facilities will gain an understanding of the need and requirements for ongoing wheelchair seating and positioning management of long-term care residents. BACKGROUND: Elderly individuals admitted to a skilled nursing facility receive initial occupational therapy (OT) evaluation for appropriate wheelchair (WC) seating. On extended stay, the resident’s seating needs often change, leading to postural impairment from improper positioning. Lack of awareness of poor positioning by residents, particularly when cognitive issues are present, can delay corrective action because they may not call attention to difficulties or discomfort. Occupational therapy practitioners (OTPs) can play a distinctive role in ensuring that proper wheelchair seating and positioning of older residents is maintained. The author’s aim is to create a prototype program designed to mitigate the risk that accompanies poor wheelchair positioning and that can be carried out at any skilled nursing facility (SNF). OBJECTIVES: The author’s project will address the recognized need for a training program for occupational therapy practitioners that will provide guidelines for assessing, evaluating and planning the appropriate intervention for an elderly manual wheelchair user in a skilled nursing facility. Objectives for the resident include reduction in the incidence of wound development, improvement of functioning, and increase in participation in the care environment with other wheelchair users. METHOD: Program implementation will begin with facility recruitment. The author will create a handout illustrating the planned program and will distribute it in person or via mail to administrators of skilled nursing and residential care facilities within a 100-mile radius that have a rehabilitation department and one or more OT practitioners. When interest is expressed by a recipient, the author will contact the facility and conduct a short interview to discuss problems and concerns, the availability of staff incentives for participation in inservice training, and payment for the author’s services. Depending upon the author’s assessment of participant knowledge, skills and needs, training will be adjusted from an introductory to intermediate level. As part of the proposed program, the author will recommend that OT practitioners instruct nursing and other caregiving staff to periodically screen every wheelchair-dependent resident when they are providing direct care during their daily routines. Miller, Miller, Trenholm, Grant and Goodman (2004) developed the Seating Identification Tool (SIT) to fill the need for an easy to administer screening questionnaire that would be sufficiently sensitive for clinical assessment and research. ANTICIPATED FINDINGS: Occupational therapy practitioners will play a distinctive role in ensuring that proper wheelchair seating and positioning of older residents is maintained. Preventing pressure ulcers will prove to be much less costly than medical treatment, both to the resident and the facility. Reduction in time lost from daily occupations to allow healing will improve the client’s sense of well-being. OT practitioners will be called upon to make periodic adjustments in wheelchair fitting and positioning, which might as simple as providing an appropriate wheelchair cushion. LIMITATIONS: Program development and program evaluation research are in the initial stages and have not yet been implemented in any skilled nursing facility. RECOMMENDATIONS: The author recommends implementation of the pilot program in a skilled nursing facility with data gathering for program evaluation research to gain evidence and further refine the program.
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