Hello Friends! One of those major areas of interest for people with mobility disabilities is certainly wheelchairs. To some people, wheelchairs are their legs to get from Point A to Point B. For others, it may be a part-time way of transportation. Still, when it comes to wheelchairs, it is extremely important for the users and caregivers (if present in our lives) to stay on top of this ever-changing industry. To that end, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jill Cacopardo, Clinical Director for Wheelchair Assessment Services at Gaylord Hospital in Connecticut, who will be helping us better understand the clinical process when it comes to our wheelchair needs and accessories.
“Function” is what drives Jill to do the work that she does as one of the people on the front line when someone with a mobility disability is in need of her services. She focuses on helping that person, whether it be a new user or someone with many years of experience using a wheelchair, to function in a wheelchair to the best of his/her ability. This goal of helping each patient reach optimal function is a process steered by a team (provider, patient, caregiver and Jill). Her clinical team at Gaylord has a 30-30-30 system in place that involves an interview with the patient for the first 30 minutes, followed by mat work for 30 minutes in which the patient gets on a mat and has his/her range of motion, balance, etc. evaluated, and the last 30 minutes provides a simulation of what it would be like for the patient if a certain type of wheelchair was in place, a certain type of cushion, etc. After these 90 minutes there is a more customized plan in place to meet the needs of each individual patient.
As wheelchair users, we sometimes are a bit intimidated by the amount of time that it takes to have certain appointments, so in some cases, we simply put off the inevitable. Jill explained that the 90 minute approach involves a lot of asking and answering of questions so that the entire team, including the patient, is on the same page on what is needed to move forward with the process. With any process there are challenges. She emphasized that there is so much time-consuming paperwork for insurance purposes, but fully understands that this part of the process is becoming more streamlined, and is confident that the time will be greatly reduced with new systems that are coming into play.
When patients do some research before attending a session with his/her clinical team sometimes that can reduce the amount of time that is needed to be evaluated. Jill emphasized that patient’s research and participation can only help the process and is strongly encouraged. She normally finds that this occurs mainly with those patients who have many years of experience, but is also pleasantly surprised by those who are new users who have done some research. One of those pleasant surprises was a patient who actually completed an order form for a new wheelchair in advance of her appointment. She and her team appreciated her enthusiasm and while it was not totally completed correctly, they did appreciate the effort and it did greatly reduce the time of her overall visit.
One of the parts of the clinical process that Jill “loves” is pressure mapping. Pressure mapping helps the clinical team determine the weight distribution on one’s buttocks that allows the team to best customize a seating system for the patient. It consists of a patient sitting on a very thin mat that goes on top of one’s cushion, which is connected with a wire to a computer that provides a detailed analysis of where the “hot spots” or areas of concern (too much weight being placed in one or more areas) as well as the cooler areas where possibly more weight could be distributed with an improved seating system.
Lastly, Jill really wants to encourage everyone with a mobility disability and his/her caregivers to make an appointment, routinely, to see his/her clinical team. Be open to the experience as is the case with anything, but especially when it comes to your health because our bodies are changing and technology is changing to accommodate those changes. As always, be your own advocate, ask a lot of questions, and always leave a session with that peace of mind you deserve!
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. Until next time, keep on creating A Nu You and Maximize Your Disability!