Weighing yourself regularly is critical to keeping healthy. More so, for someone who is wheelchair-bound and has limited mobility. If you have been wondering, how to weigh someone in a wheelchair, we have the answer for you. With the right wheelchair scale and technique, you can make sure that you can regularly monitor your weight, even if standing up on a standard weighing scale is not possible.
Why Weighing Is Important
Weighing may seem to be something trivial, but an exact metric weight record of the patient is essential because of the following reasons:
- Medicine doses are prescribed by weight. Accurate dispensing, especially in elderly patients, where weight changes can be frequent, can avoid inadequate/adverse effects
- To calculate BMI (Body Mass Index) and surface area one needs exact weight and height numbers
- Health and nutritional changes in a patient are gauged through weight changes in subsequent appointments
- For maintaining a record of fluid alterations in the body
- For researchers conducting studies in areas allied with weight changes
This seemingly easy task may involve simply standing on a standard commercial bathroom scale for most people. But, what about those with debility and can’t stand? This simple act becomes a herculean task in that case.
The greatest hurdle to measuring weight in emergencies, ICUs, wards, and other set-ups is not only the lack of mobility of the patient but also the lack of appropriate equipment. That being said, the medical staff then resorts to the next best thing, i.e. making an approximate estimate which is definitely not the best option.
How Exactly Is Patient Weight Recorded?
For a patient who can stand – Standing weighing scales
For a patient who can’t stand – In bed (Bed weighing scales), In wheelchair/chair (Chair scales), By a hoist scale
What is a Wheelchair Scale?
As the name suggests, these are large, robust weighing scales that can accommodate patients on wheelchairs for weighing them. They can record both, the total weight of the patient and the wheelchair, or just the weight of the patient alone (the latter also known as Tare function).
Normally, weighing scales run on rechargeable batteries or an AC adaptor and support a wide weight range.
Most consumer and medical scales are made for patients who can stand upright, hence wheelchair scales are required for patients who can’t stand and are confined to wheelchairs.
Pros of wheelchair scales:
- They avoid the unnecessary hassle of moving patients back and forth between chairs and scales
- They save time for the medical staff
- They are comfortable for patients who don’t want to stand or can’t
- They have a wide scope of use – in homes, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and elderly care homes.
You can also our guide on How to Choose a Wheelchair
What Are the Steps to Record Weight by a Wheelchair Scale?
The first and foremost step is to get the patient into the wheelchair. For this, place the wheelchair close to the bed and lock its wheels.
If the patient can move, assist the patient to sit on the chair. Place both feet of the patient on the floor, slightly apart for stability. Face the patient. Place his/her hands on your shoulder. Clasp your hands on his/her back.
Gently lift him/her with your knees slightly bent and lower him/her gradually in the chair. One point to note is that the patient should be holding the handrails when being lowered.
Alternatively, you could lift the hinged handrails of the wheelchair, for ease of transfer. Place one arm under the legs of the patient and the other one behind the back for support. Slowly lift the patient and place him in the wheelchair.
- Turn on the wheelchair scale
- The scale should read 0.0kg initially. If not, press the zero button. This will reset it and it will be ready for use.
- Press Tare (unladen known weight of the wheelchair)
- Check the weight of the wheelchair mentioned on it, and press UP/DOWN buttons or numbers to adjust it and press ENTER to confirm
- Alternately, roll the empty wheelchair beforehand on the scale and press Tare. Now remove the wheelchair, the weight of the wheelchair in minus will be displayed (which will be later deducted on its own from the final patient and wheelchair weight and only the patient weight will be displayed).
- Also, you can use Preset Tare, if you already know the weight of the wheelchair.
- Next, roll the patient and the wheelchair on the wheelchair scale. Lock the wheels to prevent it from rolling back.
- Wait for the scale to automatically deduct the weight of the wheelchair and display the final patient weight.
- Press HOLD to freeze this weight.
- Unlock the wheels. Now, roll the wheelchair down from the weighing scale.
- Document this reading on the patient’s chart
Companies offer varied design modifications in their models of wheelchair weighing scales. Here are a few:
- Most have fold-up hinge design with wheels to roll them in and out of storage
- Additional handrails to support standing
- Optional seat
- Double ramp (a ramp on either side of the weighing scale for easily getting on and off it)
- The indicator on the back of the scale so that only the medic can see it (for sensitive cases)
- Rotate and tilt option of display for ease of reading in any direction.
- White-colored scale base. (This acts as a calming color in dementia patients who are prone to falls due to stress).
- Body surface area calculation feature available
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity for wireless transmission of data to the database.
- Portable Wheelchair Weigh Beams: These beams come with handles and foldable beams. The beams are placed on the floor, correct distance apart as per the wheelchair wheels. The indicator is turned on and the wheelchair is rolled into them. The patient weight can be obtained after deducting the wheelchair weight using the Tare and Preset Tare function. It is a popular choice for home, health visitors, and community nurses because of its high portability
- All personnel handling weighing scales should be well trained to do so
- The scale should be placed on a flat floor surface for proper stability
- There should be no hindrance to a pathway for a wheelchair to enter and leave the scale
- Avoid thick carpets under the scale
- Keep the scales away from areas of vibrations
- Do not place the scales under or in the path of hot and cold air vents
- Do not touch the patient while recording weight (to avoid errors due to additional weight)
- Check Zero scale to ensure the display is calibrated at zero
- Use Tare to also deduct the weight of other additional items and equipment like oxygen tanks, drainage bags, etc
- Lastly, adequate cleaning will ensure the longevity of the scale. Simply disconnect it from the power source and clean with a dry/damp clean, soft cloth. You can use mild soap solution but avoid alcohol formulations to avoid damage to the surface
Depending on the requirements, the following pointers may be considered for ease of selection of the model:
- The needs of the patient
- The sensitivity of the patient and environment
- Workplace and work type requirements
- Wireless connectivity needs
You can also our guide on How to Choose Furniture for a Wheelchair User
Finally, to sum up, in this era of extremely sensitive and sophisticated medical treatments and procedures, the need for following the basic essential protocols like weight measurement is not only ethical but highly warranted.
Hence, the use of correct equipment, used in a precise way, saves not only hours of workload on the medical staff but also ensures high compliance and success in treatments being given to the patient.
A weight measurement of patients and especially those who are non-ambulant and wheelchair-bound is the need of the hour. It will not only improvise but also personalize the patient’s health journey for ease of outcomes for both the patient and the healthcare team.