Specialist Chairs for People with Parkinson’s Disease
Specifying a care chair or a riser recliner for someone with Parkinson’s can be tough work. It’s a condition that can be presented in so many ways with varying levels of mobility and independence, so finding the right chair can take a little bit more time than usual. To help you specify the right chair, our seating assessors have come up with a few things to think about when it comes to clients with Parkinson’s. To see more hints and tips concerning specifying specialist seating for Parkinson’s, download this free seating eBook.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Let’s begin with a brief definition of Parkinson’s, and how it can affect a person. Parkinson’s Disease causes progressive damage to specific areas of the brain, which in turn can cause uncontrollable shaking and tremors in certain areas of the body, slow movements, and stiff muscles which decreases mobility. By attacking nerve cells in the brain, Parkinson’s prevents the production of a hormone called dopamine, which helps to regulate muscle movement.
Parkinson’s can also cause other symptoms like depression, lack of balance, memory problems, insomnia, and even a loss of sense of smell.
Variable Angle Lift (VAL)
When you’re looking for a rise and recline chair for someone with Parkinson’s Disease, Variable Angle Lift (VAL) is a useful thing to look out for. It is a setting that can be altered on some riser recliner chairs, and give the use a few different ways to be lifted to standing from a seated position. Particularly for ambulant users, VAL gives them a little more support and peace of mind when getting to their feet.
There are usually 3 different lifting options on a chair with VAL:
- One is the regular rise and lift that is used most of the time on rise and recline chairs.
- The middle setting offers a similar rising movement but with less tilt in the seat itself, giving a little extra support to find your feet when coming to stand.
- And the third option is a vertical rise movement which doesn’t tilt the seat at all.
The typical action of a riser recliner will simply tip the individual out of the chair, and if their balance or leg strength is already inhibited, this could cause them to simply fall over. With Parkinson’s, you may find that the middle option or the vertical rise are best-suited to your client. The extra support of the seat will help to find their footing and stand when ready, ultimately preventing falls.
This is usually used more with care chair than it is with rise and recline models, but a raked seat can also help when it comes to people with Parkinson’s. A raked seat is positioned so the back of the seat itself is slightly lower than the front. Funnily enough, if you’ve ever been to the theatre then you’ve probably sat in a raked seat!
People with Parkinson’s often struggle with sliding out of their chairs. Tremors and limited core strength makes it more difficult to maintain a healthy upright position when seated, meaning that those living with Parkinson’s often begin to slump and slide forwards.
Having a raked seat means that the person less likely to slide forwards because their hips and pelvis are cradled in a more stable position against the backrest.
Tilt-in-space is also a useful thing to consider when specifying a care chair or a riser recliner. Tilt-in-space is a particularly beneficial feature on most chairs, but it has its uses specifically for people with Parkinson’s.
Like the raked seat, tilt-in-space will help the user to maintain a healthy posture. By tilting backwards but maintaining the user’s hip angle, tilt-in-space allows the individual to remain in the same position but with reduced pressure on their sacrum and posterior. This will help the client to keep their position despite shaking.
One particular chair that offers incredible tilt-in-space features for those with Parkinson’s is the Le Chair. This riser recliner actually pivots the user from the front of the seat, giving them the ability to attain a tilted position without their feet leaving the floor.
Non-ambulatory and ambulatory people with Parkinson’s may require some extra positioning supports in their chairs. Individuals with Parkinson’s often develop poor posture due to muscle rigidity and stiffness, so getting their chair to be as supportive as possible is key.
People with Parkinson’s Disease are more likely to develop postural problems like a forward-leaning head, rounded shoulders, and a noticeable lean forward. Thoracic kyphosis is more likely to occur in those with Parkinson’s, so positioning supports can help to combat this.
You might to include a built-in support wherever it is most helpful on the client, and you can remove some of the wadding in the backrest around the thoracic area to reduce the chances of pressure injuries occurring.
Lateral supports are also good to include, particularly if your client is leaning or slumping to one side. We would suggest using softer supports, as harder cushions can actually have an adverse effect on the individual’s posture. Something like the Lento care chair is good for this, as it offers an array of positioning support configurations and has built-in lateral supports.
Pressure Relief & Waterproof Fabrics
Particularly with non-ambulatory clients, pressure relief and waterproofing are key things to consider when specifying a care chair. People with severe Parkinson’s can be sat down for hours and hours every day. This makes them much more susceptible to pressure injuries. Wherever possible, we always recommend built-in pressure relief cushions.
Waterproof fabrics are also something to be thought about when specifying for non-ambulatory users. Parkinson’s Disease can often cause incontinence, and so ensuring that the chair (or at least the seat cushion) is covered in a waterproof fabric can be particularly useful.
As mentioned before, Parkinson’s can be presented in an array of ways. It varies massively from person to person, and of course you’ll also find that your clients will vary between needing a riser recliner and care chairs. Whilst specialist seating for people with Parkinson’s should be determined on a case-by-case basis, these are some of our key things to think about throughout your assessment.
Parkinson’s is a disease that varies massively from client-to-client. It’s also progressive, and so will gradually get worse over time. With that in mind, it’s best to choose a chair that offers flexibility and can be altered for changing needs over time.