Physical Therapist Teaches Wheelchair Fitting

July 26, 2015
Physical Therapist Teaches Wheelchair Fitting

Cathy Craver is a physical therapist who teaches wheelchair fitting to other therapists. Her goal in teaching is to optimize function for patients who use wheelchairs. Cathy works at Spain Rehabilitation Center  . She recently presented "Seating and Wheeled Mobility: Where Science and Art Meet" to therapists in North Alabama. Cathy has a passion, not only for teaching, but also for helping others.

Cathy has been a physical therapist at Spain Rehabilitation Center for more than 11 years. "I decided I wanted to work with people who have regular problems and who want to live a regular life. I wanted to find a way to help people make the most of their life situation given their disability. Since then it's been a creative challenge. How do you help people make the most of what they have so they can live the life they have left to live? That drives me every day." Wheelchair evaluation and fittings are one of the ways she does that.

The Correct Wheelchair Fit

People who use wheelchairs know the correct wheelchair fit is essential for optimal function. Wheelchairs come in all shapes and sizes.  And people who have issues with limits in mobility often cannot shift, move or maintain upright sitting.  They need the supports provided by their wheelchairs to maintain good posture. "Your wheelchair is an important part of your life.  So you want to make sure you end up with the right wheelchair.  It needs to fit your body, preferences, activities and lifestyle" says The Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC).  MSKTC is an advocacy group for individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal cord injury (SCI), and burn injury. "There are new types of wheelchairs and components coming on the market all the time.  The days of "one size fits all" are long gone." Some of the factors MSKTC recommends you consider when getting fitted for a wheelchair include:

The Wheelchair Clinic:

Selecting the right clinic is a critical first step. The clinic you select should have a process and the key players in place to assist you with making the right choice.

The Wheelchair Team:

Not only do you need the right clinic but you need the right team.  Your team should include experienced rehabilitation professionals including:

  • A medical doctor who understands your overall health situation. The doctor is the one who writes the prescription needed for your insurance to pay for the wheelchair and has ultimate responsibility for determination of medical necessity.
  • An Occupational or physical therapist who is experienced in wheelchair evaluation and training.
  • A qualified wheelchair supplier who works with the therapy and medical team to trial, order and maintain equipment.

Wheelchair Certification:

Many occupational and physical therapists and wheelchair suppliers are certified as Assistive Technology Practitioners (ATPs) from RESNA (Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America).  This means they have completed specialized training and passed a national examination. If Medicare is the payer for the wheelchair, they require the wheelchair vendor to have at least one ATP-credentialed specialist.

Karen Allen Hislop is a seating specialist at Therapy Achievements who does wheelchair evaluations and fittings.  She is ATP Seating Specialist certified with RESNA. Not only does she have advanced training, but she also has extensive experience and has been doing wheelchair evaluations and fittings for over 20 years. She works with a number of doctors and wheelchair suppliers to ensure patients get the correct wheelchair fit for optimal function. In addition, to make wheelchair evaluations even more convenient, she is able to offer tele-health visits.Therapy Achievements is a Rehabilitation Center that provides Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy for Balance and Movement, Speech and Swallowing, Swelling from Lymphedema and Edema, Driving Rehabilitation and Functional Living Skills for visual and cognitive re-training. We help people with Brain Injury, Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease, Lymphedema, Head and Neck Cancer, Vertigo and Dizziness, and other disorders that interfere with mobility and function. We offer VitalStim Technology, Saebo Technology, LSVT LOUD Treatment, LSVT BIG Treatment, and Neuro-Developmental Treatment.