Characterization of Power Wheelchair Use in the Home and Community

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Sonenblum, Sharon Eve
Sprigle, Stephen
Harris, Frances
Maurer, Christine L.
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Objective: To characterize the use of power wheelchairs and to determine if multiple measures of mobility and occupancy jointly provide a more comprehensive picture of wheelchair usage and daily activity in full-time power wheelchair users than daily distance alone. Design: Prospective observational study. Setting: Subjects’ everyday mobility was measured in their homes and communities for two weeks and prompted recall interviews were conducted by phone. Participants: A convenience sample of 25 non-ambulatory, full-time power wheelchair users. Interventions: Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures: Wheelchair usage was logged electronically and GPS / interview data were used to isolate chair use to home, indoors but not at home and outdoor environments. Distance wheeled, time spent wheeling, number of bouts, time spent in the wheelchair and the percent of time in the wheelchair spent wheeling were measured to describe wheelchair use. Results: The median wheelchair user spent 10.6 hours (5.0-16.6) in his/her wheelchair daily and wheeled 1.085 km (0.238-10.585) over 58 minutes (16-173) and 110 bouts (36-282). Wheelchair use varied across subjects, within subjects from day-to-day, and between environments. Mobility bouts outdoors were longer and faster than those wheeled indoors. In a regression analysis, distance wheeled explained only 33% of the variation in the number of bouts and 75% in the time spent wheeling. Conclusions: Power wheelchair use varies widely both within and between individuals. Measuring distance, time and number of bouts provides a clearer picture of mobility patterns than measuring distance alone, while occupancy helps to measure wheelchair function in daily activities.
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