Wheelchair seat belts serve the same purpose as seat belts in cars. They keep the passenger safe and secure. They either attach to a person’s shoulders or it can go across the lap. Such a seatbelt allows the passenger to sit and ride comfortably in the wheelchair and they are important for personal safety.
These belts are one of many different wheelchair accessories that can make life easier for both occupants and caregivers. Fortunately, there are several styles to choose from if you need one.
How to Attach a Wheelchair Seat Belt
The seatbelt is attached to the wheelchair according to the height of the passenger and is secured to the frame of the wheelchair in different places depending on the design of the belt. The basic wheelchair belt should be attached the same way for every size wheelchair and person. The purpose is to keep the user’s torso safe and secure and prevent him or her from slipping or falling.
When attached in this manner, the passenger will not fall out of the chair or injure him or herself. This is critical when the user comes to a quick stop or slowly loses control and slides out of the wheelchair. The wheelchair seatbelt is meant to prevent this from happening. If the elderly user is unable to stand on his or her own feet, the seat belt will keep the person from standing up.
See this video for a visual depiction of how to attach the most basic seat belt to a wheelchair.
The initial position should be used to accommodate the height of the seat. This height can be changed when the torso is repositioned, either forward or backward. It should be easy to adjust the height slightly higher if the passenger finds it more comfortable.
Many elderly wheelchair users have found a chest harness more comfortable when they are in a reclined position. A lap belt does provide more security due to its center buckle.
Consider a wheelchair transfer board if you have trouble lifting the person from one spot to the next.
Is a Wheelchair Seatbelt a Restraint?
In a way, the wheelchair seatbelt is a restraint, but only because using it is a choice (unless the elderly person is no longer able to make that decision by him or herself.) There are seniors who need to get in and out of their wheelchairs on their own.
If someone has to use a wheelchair seat belt against their will as a way to keep them from moving out of their chair then is a restraint.
Types of Wheelchair Belts
The most common wheelchair lap belt resembles an around-the-waist car belt. The torso is safely strapped to the wheelchair to keep the user secure. The lock should snap close easily, just like a car seat belt.
A wheelchair belt is intended for users who can get in and out of the wheelchair on their own. A chest harness helps provide better posture for those users who need help remaining in a comfortable position. Most caretakers for the elderly recommend a lap belt as a matter of course.
Another type can be a soft belt that ties around the user’s waist and secured at the back of the wheelchair. It frequently is made from a foam material and has comfortable padding, adding comfort and protection for the user. A harness helps the users sit in a more upright position, which can help to prevent eventual back problems.
To choose the best wheelchair belt, determine the level of support the user will need. That will help you decide between a regular seat belt or a harness.
Regardless of the type, they all serve one purpose: to keep a wheelchair-bound user from falling and sliding downward.
These belts come with or without padding. Some belts resemble simple car seat belts while more complex restraints offer more protection. The simple belt is the most commonly used, while added padding provides relief from skin irritation.
In addition to different type of belts, wheelchair belts come with different closure styles.
A clip-style belt is the easiest to snap open and shut. A buckle belt clicks the user in and out of the chair. It, too, is easy to use. Determine which the user prefers before making a final decision. If the user is not supposed to rise out of the wheelchair on his or her own, the belt should come with a buzzer to warn a caretaker when he or she is attempting to get out of the chair.
Size matters. For a wheelchair belt to work, it must fit properly across the body. Sometimes, a simple belt across the lap is sufficient. If not, an across-the-chest style should be the next option. A harness across the chest helps the user retain a decent position to prevent sliding.
5 Best Wheelchair Belts
Following are some recommended wheelchair seat belts from Amazon. This makes for easy shopping, but another consideration is to see what Wright Stuff offers as they have a variety of different accessories for people with disabilities.
Drive Medical STDS850 Wheelchair Seatbelt
- Wheelchair Seat Belt: Our adjustable seat belt for wheelchairs is designed to keep patients secure and safe and is compatible with wheelchairs from Drive and other leading manufacturers
- Quality Construction: An important wheelchair accessory for adults, the 48-inch seatbelt fits users of many sizes and is durable
This wheelchair belt is made for daily use. It has an auto-type closure for the ease of both the user and the caretaker.
- An inexpensive wheelchair seatbelt.
- Easy to install.
- The belt may still allow slippage.
Healthline Wheelchair Strap Seat Belt
- SECURITY - wheelchair seat belt is equipped with a metal buckle for the patient's safety.
- DURABILITY - seatbelt is made of strong and comfortable fabric of high quality, provides security and wears well.
The Healthline Strap Seat Belt has a sturdy metal buckle to secure the user safely into the seat. The belt itself is made of strong fabric. It can be expanded to a length of 48 inches.
- The belt is long enough to accommodate most users.
- Buckle could be fastened more securely to the strap.
- The belt may loosen even when snapped shut.
Fushida Wheelchair Seatbelt and Harness In One
- DURABILITY WHEELCHAIR HARNESS : Fushida safety fasten belts are made of comfortable kniting cloth, provides security and wears well.
- SECURITY WHEELCHAIR BELT : Fushida wheelchair seat belt fit for most people and support your own size also, you can tell us the specified size before payment if you like.
The Fushida Wheelchair Seatbelt, Adult Wheelchair Harness Restraint is made of soft and breathable material, which provides extra comfort for long wear. The shoulder belt is 51 inches, and the waist belt can be adjusted to 102 inches. It does an excellent job of keeping users from sliding and falling.
- The size fits the majority of users.
- The chest harness attaches easily.
- The belt is wider than most wheelchair seatbelt.
KLOSHANE Wheelchair Seat Belt
The harness that sits across the chest is made of soft material. There is a waist belt in addition to the harness, which keeps users very secure.
- Protects users who lean forward.
- Heavy-duty straps.
- Does not come with instructions.
DMI Wheelchair Seat Belt and Safety Harness
- ENSURE SAFETY AND SECURITY by preventing falling and slipping out of wheelchairs for elderly, epileptic or those with loss of muscle function
- WHEELCHAIR SAFETY HARNESS EASILY ATTACHES to the back of a wheelchair or transport chair
The DMI Wheelchair Seat Belt and Safety Harness is 48 inches long. It is relatively easy to install on the backrest of the wheelchair. Simply remove the screws from the bottom left and right sides of the backrest. Insert the screws through the belt and reinsert them through the chair.
- The harness attaches easily
- The buckle is easy to attach and detach.
- The belt is difficult to fit for large users.
Should Everyone Wear a Wheelchair Seatbelt At All Times?
Has an elderly person you know fallen out of a wheelchair in a nursing home? If so, the reason for the fall should be addressed before immediately using a wheelchair seatbelt as a restraint.
Wheelchair falls can be serious, and a quarter of them require hospitalization. People that fall tend to lose control and fall more than once. So, the chances of repeat falls are definitely great.
First, the reason for the falls needs to be identified. There are three broad reasons for wheelchair falls:
- The user is weak and suffers from a serious loss of balance.
- Mental confusion, which can be the result of medications or accelerating cognitive failure.
- The user is using an ill-fitting wheelchair or seatbelt.
Of course, more than one of these reasons can be present at any time. A staff or caretaker needs to carefully monitor the senior’s behavior and falls. When a fall happens, the cause (defined by the three categories stated above) should be assessed.
One of the things that needs to be recorded is how often the user needs assistance in and out of the wheelchair. How dependent, or independent, is he or she? If the user repeatedly slides out of the wheelchair, a drop seat that inclines toward the back of the chair may help to keep the user seated and in place.
Proper monitoring might uncover that the user is falling while reaching for needed objects. A simple re-arranging of the environment can solve the problem quickly.
Medication can leave a patient feeling unstable. If that is the case, a doctor needs to be consulted, and the emphasis should be on adjusting or changing the drugs.
If the user’s physical strength is deteriorating, physical therapy should be prescribed.
The wearing of a wheelchair seatbelt can be deemed as using a restraint. Keep in mind that the user him or herself can simply unbuckle the belt. In addition, some users may fight against the restraint by flailing to escape. This can lead to greater injury. So, the use of a wheelchair seatbelt is not an obvious or easy decision.
The best use of seatbelt restraints are emergencies, such as when feeding or when the user must be kept still. Otherwise, the mental anxiety of being restrained and losing one’s independence can bring about serious anxiety and pain.
Therefore, thought should be given to whether a seatbelt is needed, and alternative options should be discussed.
When you or a loved one uses a wheelchair, you want to make sure that the user is safe. In some ways, the wheelchair is like a car. It needs to be checked on a regular basis.
- Like a car, a wheelchair has tires that can get flat. Check the air content on a regular basis and ensure that the thread have not worn down too much. If you remove the tires for any reason, make sure they are placed back properly on the wheelchair.
- Check your caster wheels, as well. They are the wheels located on the front of the wheelchair. The right type and size caster can make a difference to the user. These caster wheels come in sizes ranging for almost 3 inches to 10 inches. Know the right size for your particular wheelchair.
- Ensure that the casters you purchase can handle all the bumps. If you know your wheelchair has to maneuver through some harsh terrain, for example, choose accordingly. Pneumatic casters provide a smoother rider over bumpy surfaces. Smaller casters are faster, but they can get caught in cracks on the road.
- Seniors using a wheelchair undoubtedly spend a lot of time in the chair. The seat cushion should help bring comfortable support and keep the body from getting pressure ulcers. Ensure your wheelchair cushion does not have holes or other tears.
- Wheel locks need to lock completely, or your wheelchair can still move and slide and place the user in danger of falling.
- This article discusses the importance of seat belts. If you live in a hot climate, make sure that the metal of the belt doesn’t become hot enough to burn fingers. This can happen during a long stay out in the summer heat.
- Check the frame of your wheelchair regularly. Sometimes, screws can become loose or lost. This can make a wheelchair ride very unsafe.
Properly Using a Lap Belt on Wheelchairs
Fitting the lap belt to the wheelchair properly will allow for safe seating of the user and keep him or her from sliding and/or falling. Lap belts may be mostly needed outdoors, when falling and sliding are a special risk.
It is up to the user and a caretaker to decide whether a lap belt is needed indoors. Keep in mind that most users need to be able to unsnap the belt themselves and rise out of it, such as when going to the restroom. When the user has the cognitive skills to make that decision, he or she should be allowed to do so. Sometimes, dementia patients cannot decide for themselves, and a caretaker must become involved.
Wheelchair belts may become necessary for users who are losing mobility, balance, or cognitive ability. It is up to the caretaker to find the best type of wheelchair belt to suit the user for optimal comfort.