The challenges faced by caregivers of mobility impaired have been on the rise for a long time now and are a call for attention. The physical and emotional stresses that caregivers face haven’t acquired much attention as compared to the problems of wheelchair users. But it’s time to work towards solutions that help both the patient and the caregiver.
While talking about the people who are mobility impaired, we tend to think about all the challenges they face while doing the most mundane things like using a bathroom or going to any public place. Although these are quite serious, there are a number of problems which are faced by the caregivers too. A lot of caregivers face physical as well as emotional issues when they are giving care to a person who is either temporarily or permanently mobility impaired.
These issues can vary depending on the health and condition of the patient and the level of assistance they have to provide. They can go through a serious wrist pain or back and neck pain which might arise due to lifting and shifting the patient from the wheelchair to the bed or vice-a-versa. A report* in TOI on Jan 6, 2015, talks about a study conducted on the health status of nurses and how an overwhelming majority of them suffered from musculoskeletal problems. After interviewing 244 nurses from the nursing houses of Mumbai, it was found that around 88.7% of them suffered from lower back pain and neck pain problems of varying degrees. Whereas, most of the times, due to the cost issues, professional caregivers aren’t hired. One of the family members cares for the patient. In both cases, whether a professional or a family member, caregiving can take a toll on their health. It might lead to severe emotional trauma and physical stress. Physically, they might suffer from injuries due to improper shifting to and from wheelchairs or suffer from muscle problems while transferring or helping with mobility inside or even outside the house. The feeling of hopelessness and guilt over how they aren’t providing the best care to the patient might really affect the mental health of the caregivers. They might constantly feel that they lack the ability to fully help the patient. Many times, the professional caregivers/nurses might get emotionally attached with the patient and might suffer from issues like depression, anxiety, guilt, sadness, feeling hopeless, worry, sleep problems, fatigue etc. just like any family member would.
On the occasion of social get-togethers, travelling, or visiting public places, the caregivers might need to ask other people for help with shifting the patient or simply lift them up to get through narrow door frames of the bathrooms or bedrooms. This might end up making them feel embarrassed that they aren’t able to fulfil their caregiving duties. This, in turn, might make them avoid attending any social event so as to avoid any embarrassing situations. They might constantly feel inadequate and end up being lonely and feeling left out of the outside world. Caregiving also affects their personal space. They lack privacy and are unable to give time for themselves or even to the other family members. In the case of paid professional caregivers, their own family always comes second as the patient becomes their first priority at all times.
These issues are pretty serious and are a call for immediate attention. The physical problems that the caregivers face in the bathroom while bathing the patient or while shifting to and from the commode can be minimized by the use of bathroom assistive devices. One of the most desired solutions for this recurring problem can be a wheelchair that is shower proof and also has a facility of a commode pan. This can definitely help the patient to carry out these daily activities with minimal or no assistance by the attendant. A wheelchair that enables the mobility impaired or the elderly to do things on their own will not only help elevate their confidence and make them independent to do most of the things but also help the caregivers and reduce the risk of injuries and other health problems they face. Alternatively, these problems can also be solved if a wheelchair can ensure easy transfers so as to make shifting and lifting less of a task and cause less harm to both the patient and caregiver. With a highly technical world evolving around us, a compact, easy to use, safe and maybe even shower proof wheelchair is extremely important, or rather the need of the day. A wheelchair that not only makes wheelchair- user’s life better, but also ensures that the caregiver’s health is not affected.