Navigating uncharted territory: a qualitative study of the experience of transitioning to wheelchair use among older adults and their care providers

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Giesbrecht, Edward M
Miller, William C
Woodgate, Roberta L
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Abstract Background An increasing number of older adults are procuring a wheelchair for mobility; however, the corresponding impact on related injuries, caregiver burden, and participation restriction is concerning. To inform the development of a wheelchair training program, we pursued a clearer understanding of the experience transitioning to wheelchair use for older adult users and their care provider. Methods Six focus groups were conducted with older experienced wheelchair users (n = 10) and care providers (n = 4). Transcripts were analyzed using a Conventional Content approach; a coding framework enabled inductive theming and summary of the data. Results Three themes emerged from the user group: On My Own reflected both limited training and the necessity of venturing out, More Than Meets the Eye addressing barriers to use, and Interdependence between wheelchair users and the ambulatory community. Care provider responses fell into two themes: the All Encompassing impact of assumed responsibilities and Even the Best Laid Plans, where unpredictable and inaccessible environments sabotaged participation. Conclusions The transition from ambulatory to wheelchair mobility can feel like uncharted territory. Balanced support and appropriate mentorship are fundamentally important and real-world encounters optimize independence and proficiency with skills. The impact on care providers is extensive, highlighting the importance of skills training.
BMC Geriatrics. 2015 Jul 28;15(1):91