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How Complex Wheelchair Technology Promotes Independence for Patients with ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting a person’s brain and spinal cord, causing it to lose connection with their muscles, slowly taking away their ability to walk, talk, eat, and eventually breathe.

More commonly diagnosed among military veterans, this degenerative disease has an average life expectancy of two to five years and can affect anyone, anywhere, anytime. Unfortunately, no one knows what causes ALS or why it is more commonly seen among military veterans.

With no known cure or treatment to slow ALS progression, for ALS awareness month, we’re bringing attention to this disease and sharing how advancements in adaptive equipment enable individuals with ALS to maintain comfort and independence despite the challenges posed by the disease's limited life expectancy.

Custom Wheelchair Features and Benefits for Someone with ALS

Power Tilt and Power Recline Capabilities

Power tilt and Power recline are innovative wheelchair designs that maximize the person’s independence.

When it comes to power tilt, this feature allows the user to shift their body weight so they can offset body pressure where needed. While tilting backwards, typically the hip maintains the same 90-degree angle while the body weight shifts to the back for support. For power recline, users can fully extend their body to spread the weight of their body. Additionally, for full time users, power recline lets users lie down independently to rest or stretch to maintain muscle spasticity and tone.

Given that most (if not all) ALS patients spend their day in assistive equipment, the risk for developing pressure injuries is high. Having the ability to tilt and recline within the chair allows users to reposition their bodies to offset skin breakdown.

iLevel® Technology for Enhanced Elevation

Recently approved to be covered by Medicare/Medicaid insurance, iLevel technology is a custom feature that allows users to operate their wheelchair while the seat is fully elevated. Since the world doesn’t operate from a seated height, this feature creates a better sense of inclusivity and independence.

Dramatically increasing the quality of life for users, power-operated seat elevation can make life safer. It allows them to access common areas of their home independently and enhances the safety of transfers with its added stability. Additionally, it offers stabilization for safe operation of up to 4.5 mph. This means users can reach items on higher shelves at the grocery store, navigate crowds at eye level, and easily access high-top tables at restaurants.

Programmable Features for Quick Transitions

When grappling with ALS, voluntary movements and muscle controls are limited. Simplistic tasks such as picking up a fork to eat or turning off a light switch can seem impossible. Having the ability to create custom memory seating positions that can adapt to current surroundings can enhance the person’s independence significantly.

Most advanced wheelchairs come with multiple customizable seating positions that use the patient’s positional feedback to recognize corrective seating. Once seat positioning is stored, patients have the option to select between sequential movements or synced movements within each stored seat position.

Sequential movements are when the seat positioning system alternates between various modes to find the ideal position based on the user. Synced movements are when the seat positioning system uses one fluid motion to find the ideal position based on the user. Sequential movements are more adaptive and can bend to the current needs of the user where synced movements create a more static position that will need to be manually adjusted according to the environment.

Custom Mobility Equipment in Action

For those combating the ALS disease, see how our custom advanced mobility solutions have improved the lives of others suffering from spinal cord impairments.

Although custom advanced mobility equipment can help ALS patients achieve a greater level of independence, additional support is still needed to help treat the disease. If you or someone you know is suffering from ALS, please reach out to the ALS Association for additional assistance.


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