The Frustrating Experience of Choosing a Wheelchair Cushion. 

I’ve been through a lot of wheelchair cushions, and have seen each one didn’t work for me in one way or the other. I have had foam cushions, which were comfortable but offered no positioning support and then I’ve had gel cushions, which went hard in cold weather. Four years ago now, I bought Sunrise Medical’s Jay 3 cushion, because of my complex positioning needs. My CP means that I have scoliosis, and my pelvis is tilted so that I fall to one side or the other of my wheelchair and forwards. I told the technician about all of this, and he was pretty confident about helping me because he said that he had studied wheelchair seating at university. I thought ” OK , let’s see how this works out” (I had previously seen two technicians: both of them seemed to want to make money out of me, and didn’t know much about wheelchair cushions and positioning). So, I was pleased when I decided to go to another wheelchair shop where I met yet another technician. This time, he made several home visits and during that time I tried air cushions. At that time, I decided to buy a J3 cushion because of the positioning support and also because I wanted a low maintenance cushion, seeing as I can’t look after it myself whatever type I have.The Jay 3 cushion is low maintenance because it has a foam base and a gel sac at the back of the cushion. When I first started using it, I found it comfortable, but soon noticed the gel sac isn’t really that thick, and so went to the wheelchair shop and saw the technician again. He suggested I try the “personalised” version of the cushion filling, which is gel, but with two gel bags that you stick to the top. As soon as I saw the cushion filling, I really wasn’t convinced as to whether that was the solution, and weather they’d be comfortable and offer enough pressure relief. I would have tried them, but the technician had ordered a chest harness for me, and I wanted to try them together with that so I was properly positioned. He wasn’t sure when the harness would be in, said he’d email me and we left it at that.
Back to my cushion…..I have the 9.5 cm (standard height) version. I have been noticing that the foam part at the front is hard and not as comfortable as I thought it would be. I have the incontinence cover. I have wedges at the sides of the cushion and a wedge in the middle (abductor wedge) which stops my legs being together from spasticity. All the wedges I have are 5cm high, and there’s a 2.5 cm version  of each wedge too. 

I had an old gel cushion, so today I got the idea that I could try it inside the cushion cover I have, and on top of my Jay 3 cushion. I’m noticing that this combination relieves pressure for me a little, but is still not great. I have also seen there’s an option to use ROHO air technology inside the cushion instead of gel. The air cushion I had in the past was the Vicair Vector cushion, which has triangle-shaped air cells inside it. I noticed that that one made me sink a little too, This is despite the fact I have lateral supports on my wheelchair. 

Choosing a cushion is a really hard decision, and I’m also in the process of seeing where I can get a pressure mapping assessment where I’d sit on a cushion with electrodes, and the people doing the study would recommend a cushion for me, based on what’s  available on the  wheelchair cushion market. I’m in the process of looking for a new electric wheelchair too, and hope I get one soon, as correct pressure relief is so important. I’ve just lunched a campaign on Indiegogo called I Desperately Need a New Electric Wheelchair. Indiegogo Campaign – please donate and share! 

I think getting pressure mapping would be interesting, as then I’d know where my pressure points are. It’ll hopefully mean I won’t have to try out so many cushions and then be disappointed by them.  I feel I have yet to meet a seating technician who can really advise me.  I won’t give up hope though! Oh, if you’re wondering, the technician never replied to my repeated emails and I never got my wheelchair harness and knee supports, so I hope to buy them with my new chair. 

If you use a wheelchair and know of a comfortable, supportive cushion that is for people at  high and very high risk of pressure sores, I’d love to hear from you It must have good positioning aids capabilities and also be suitable for all-day use. I know choosing a cushion is a really peorsonal thing for each wheelchair user, but recommendations will be great all the same. 

Finally, I’d like to say that I think every wheelchair shop ought to have technicians with the ability and materials to design a real custom cushion, and not just sell out-of-the- box solutions which have wedges and sticky gel pads which don’t always offer the best support. This was Alfredo’s idea, and I really think it’d be great and beneficial for all wheelchair users if this ever happened. 

  

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