A guide to care home specialist seating

Rebecca Dunstall, a physiotherapist and clinical specialist at CareFlex, explains why good sitting posture is important for care resident wellbeing and sets out the main considerations for care home seating

Care homes for the older person provide accommodation and personal care for those who need additional support in their daily lives. Personal care might include assistance with eating, drinking, washing, dressing and taking medication.1 If a loved one resides in a care home

or you support individuals in care home settings, then undoubtedly you want to promote the best quality of life possible; understanding and appreciating the importance of good sitting posture can support this objective.

Why good sitting posture is important Posture is directly related to an individual’s wellbeing and quality of life. Posture is the way we hold ourselves or position our body segments in relation to one another and their orientation in space.2 As a person grows and develops, they

learn from and respond to information that is sent from various sources, including visual, vestibular (sensory) and proprioceptive (movement sensations from muscles and tendons) input. Damage to any of these systems, through age, injury, illness or disease, can affect their ability to interact with the information; individuals will find it increasingly difficult to achieve good sitting posture. When identifying individuals who are at

risk of difficulty achieving good posture it is essential to consider those who either lack the physical ability to change position, lack the cognitive awareness to

Head Thorax

Upper limbs (inlcuding shoulder girdle)

Pelvis Thighs Lower legs Feet

know that they need to change position, or lack the communication skills to convey that they need to change position. Posture is considered ‘good’ when it

promotes comfort, facilitates functional movement and enables an individual to engage in activities of daily living. A good sitting posture is energy efficient, meaning that the individual does not fatigue quickly. Good sitting posture can also be determined by a reduced risk of secondary complications and damage to the body systems.3 An older person, especially one who

is weak or frail, sitting in an unsupported and asymmetrical posture for prolonged periods of time can experience pain, dependency, isolation, poor physiological function and ill-health. An inability to sit comfortably can result in the individual becoming confined to their bed with limited social interaction, unsurprisingly impacting on their wellbeing and quality of life.

Care seating considerations Comfort Achieving comfort is the priority. Prolonged and/or abnormal postures can cause tension on the body and

June 2021 •

increase the risk of significant pain; ensuring comfort can ultimately improve a person’s quality of life. Being comfortable and feeling safe can also increase tolerance of a desired seated position and compliance; if an individual is not comfortable then they may not use specialist equipment regardless of the clinical benefits.4

Postural support Postural support can enable individuals to maintain an optimal sitting position and encourage the body segments to work efficiently. Pelvic stability, trunk alignment, foot support, and head control are vital for physiological function, including breathing, swallow ability and digestion.5 Stability and security when seated

can also encourage function by allowing freedom of movement in the upper limbs and management of abnormal movement patterns. Appropriate and timely postural management can reduce the risk of secondary complications such as postural deterioration and deformities.

Energy conservation An unsupported posture can cause fatigue by making inefficient use of the


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