The living room, often referred to as the sitting room, is an important room in the house and as we age, we tend to spend increasingly longer periods of time sitting down. It’s therefore a good idea to check the comfort of the seats. If your parents are finding it uncomfortable or have issues sitting down or getting up, it might be time to consider some alternative chairs that may better suit their needs.
Many sofas and armchairs are often the wrong shape for a good sitting position; they are designed based on how they look rather than functionality and, as a result, they can be uncomfortable when used for long periods of time or when posture and muscle function decline.
In many cases, the height and depth of the seat is not correct for those who are using them. This may be due to several reasons such as chairs being too narrow or too wide or because the furniture is old and the filling has compacted or distorted over time.
A ‘wrong’ sitting position can become uncomfortable quite quickly and this is more prevalent as we get older. This can potentially make it harder to get out of the chair again as our joints often become stiff or cramped when sitting in an unnatural position. Over time, sitting in the same wrong position could lead to more serious physical problems with posture, balance, and flexibility.
When purchasing a new chair, there are important factors to consider such as the seat height. A higher seat will make it easier to get in and out of the chair but, if it’s too high, it will put too much pressure on the back of your thighs and your feet won’t touch the floor, making it uncomfortable when sitting.
This is where a riser recliner is the perfect solution as these ingenious chairs will gently guide you into a standing or seating position with the use of built-in motors. They are ideal for people who have difficulty standing up or sitting down due to restricted mobility, e.g., MS, arthritis, rheumatism, or circulation problems. Whilst riser recliners are available in several different styles and covers, there are essentially two variations—a single motor or a dual motor.
A single-motor riser recliner, as the name suggests, has one motor which controls all the electric functions on the chair. The backrest, footrest, and riser functions are all operated through a single set of buttons. The chair can be put into a fully reclined position with the backrest reclined and footrest raised, all through pressing the recline button. By pressing the rise button, the chair moves into a raised sit-to-stand position. The backrest will rise while the footrest drops and then the whole chair will rise, all through that single motor. Single-motor rise and recline chairs are generally less expensive and easier to operate with simplistic controls.
A dual-motor riser recliner is where two motors control the chair; one motor operates the backrest whilst the other motor operates the footrest and riser function. Each motor has its own set of buttons and, unlike the single motor variation, the dual motor’s handset control has four buttons on it. Dual motor riser recliners offer more flexibility in determining a comfortable position and as the backrest reclines independently, users can create very different seated positions to a single motor chair.
An alternative to the riser recliner is an orthopaedic high back chair, often referred to as a fireside chair. These chairs ensure we hold a ‘correct’ midline posture as poor posture in seating can have many negative knock-on effects to a person’s health such as leading to the development of recurring chest infections, lung infections, and urinary tract infections. A poor seated position can also lead to sliding and falling from the chair which causes fear, pain, and discomfort for the user. This sliding action can also contribute towards the development of pressure ulcers (bed sores) and poor posture can also negatively affect a person’s appetite and ability to breathe.
Orthopaedic chairs differ from traditional chairs as they keep the user in a stable upright position, which reduces pressure on their bones and muscles. Many chairs are also height adjustable and this ensures the chair can be set at the right height to minimise the effort of rising for Mum and Dad. Orthopaedic chairs are also ideal for people who are recovering from a hip or knee surgery.
If your parents are suffering or recovering from a pressure sore, a pressure cushion may be required to assist with the healing and to prevent sores from occurring in the future. Pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores or pressure sores, are a type of injury that affects areas of the skin and underlying tissue.
Pressure ulcers develop when a large amount of pressure is applied to an area of skin over a short period of time or they can occur when less pressure is applied but over a longer period. The extra pressure disrupts the flow of blood through the skin and without a blood supply, the affected area of skin becomes starved of oxygen and nutrients. As a result, it begins to break down and this leads to the formation of an ulcer.
Pressure ulcers can range in severity from patches of discoloured skin to open wounds that expose the underlying bone or muscle and the severity of the sore is measured in grades. When treating a pressure sore, it is important to avoid putting pressure on areas that are vulnerable or where pressure ulcers have already formed.
A pressure cushion is ideal for such situations and there are several types of pressure cushions available from basic foam to sophisticated alternating air cushions. It is vital for a healthcare professional to determine the grade of the pressure sore and advise what cushion is required. Whilst riser recliners and orthopaedic chairs are designed to minimise pressure, they may not offer enough pressure relief for a pressure sore and a pressure cushion may also be required.
If Mum or Dad are having problems sitting in an upright position or having circulation issues, a specialised foot stool or foot rest may be required. A static foot rest offers extra support to the calves while in a seated position and allow for the even distribution of pressure along the leg, reducing the chances of developing pressure sores. These foot rests are both height and angle adjustable to ensure the thigh is supported correctly on the seat and offer the flexibility to cater to people with fixed postural problems of the ankle.
In situations where Mum and Dad have limited mobility and are dependant on assistance, a portering chair may be required. These multifunction chairs have some of the benefits of a riser recliner as they can be manually titled backward and forward to assist with rising. They are also mobile, so they can be used to easily move Mum and Dad around the house and come with a head rest and elevating foot rest for extra stability and support.
It is always advisable to seek the input of a clinician such as an occupational therapist to help guide you and provide information on the long-term requirements for your Mum and Dad. It is also worth considering how their needs may change over time, so you can factor this into your decision-making process and ensure that you get the right chair to suit their current and future needs.