In our increasingly busy clinical lives, it’s easy to rush through wheelchair and seating assessments, relying on information gleaned from past assessments and solely using the client’s existing equipment to determine what their future wheelchair and seating solution will look like. But one of the most important aspects of completing a thorough, high-quality wheelchair and seating assessment is slowing down and starting with a blank slate.
Walking into the assessment with a blank slate does not mean that you approach the assessment without considering the client’s medical and functional history, it simply means that you try to enter the assessment process without any preconceived ideas of what you are going to recommend.
While it’s important to be aware of a client’s diagnosis, when we arrive at the assessment with the diagnosis at the front of our minds it’s easy to overlook the client as a whole person. While it’s imperative to know whether their condition is degenerative or progressive, or whether people with this condition tend to experience certain functional limitations, we need to remember that everyone’s experience of their disability is different and people rarely tick every box on that particular diagnosis’s checklist.
A client’s current wheelchair and seating system can also often lull us into assuming a similar set up must be the best option for their next wheelchair. If a client is referred for a new wheelchair and they have a tilt-in-space wheelchair with custom seating, it’s easy to conclude that the person has complex seating needs with limited ability to self-propel, and that a new tilt-in-space wheelchair with a customised seating solution is the most suitable option to recommend. For many of our clients, this may be correct. But for some of our clients, their functional abilities and their needs may have changed. We may be missing the opportunity to find them a mobility solution which better suits their needs and increases their functional skills and quality of life.
It’s vital that we honour our skills and knowledge as clinicians and complete a thorough assessment that ensures our clients receive the most suitable recommendation for their needs. Such an assessment will usually include a MAT evaluation as part of it to ensure we’re properly assessing their postural needs. The assessment process might take longer but approaching each client with a blank slate will help to ensure that all our clients receive the best therapy service possible.