Sunday, February 16, 2014

Wheelchair Ride Rewards (Research)

As a hospice volunteer in Detroit nursing homes, I always knew wheelchair rides were a lot more than just moving residents around in mobile chairs. They provided great bonding moments that presented priceless occasions for us to learn interesting facts about our personalities and pasts. Most of all, wheelchair rides gave patients opportunities to extend boundaries beyond their rooms to include other patients, staff, visitors, activities, stimulating sights, sounds and even smells. Nursing home research supports this type of socialization.

The purpose of this research was to examine ways in which nursing home residents experience and enhance their sense of dignity. The two most important mechanisms for enhancement were feelings of being in control of one’s life and being regarded by others as a worthwhile person. Both feelings could be supported through the following:

 1) Finding ways to cope with one's situation
 2) Getting acquainted with and at ease with new living structures at the nursing home 
3) Experiencing physical improvement with or without an electric wheelchair
4) Being socially involved with nursing home staff, other residents and relatives
5) Being among disabled others while experiencing less disrespect from the outer world

This post would not be complete without mention of Nat, one of my favorite wheelchair riders. Nat had a wheelchair-riding contest with himself every time we returned to his room from outdoors. He briefly pushed his wheelchair fast to beat the door buzzer that went off when we entered from the porch. This was a race he always won. He never tired of playing this game or bragging about how fast he was every time he won. People sitting in the lobby began to expect that when we entered, there would be a lot of hoopla over Nat’s beating the buzzer. Laughing with triumph, he enjoyed celebrating his victory and proudly telling everybody I was his wife. This came from a white man who initially expressed reluctance about being assigned to me, a black volunteer. Nat had underestimated the power of wheelchair ride rewards.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

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