Best Tips to Prevent Elderly Sliding Forward From in a Wheelchair


Did you know that 80% of wheelchair users identified at least one wheelchair fit issue, like comfort, hindered mobility, and poor posture? When elderly people start to feel uncomfortable in the position that they have been seated in, they will try to reposition themselves to be more comfortable. For example, elderly users might try to slide down the wheelchair to reduce their back pain, unknowingly causing more damage to their bodies in the long run.

Common seating problems of the elderly when they start to slide down the wheelchair. Source: KARMA Medical

To prevent poor posture on the wheelchair, follow these 4 steps to help your wheelchair user to sit more comfortably. 

1. Use a wheelchair pelvic belt

What is a pelvic belt? A pelvic belt is an important tool that prevents elderly users from sliding down the wheelchair. Once it is in the correct position, the user will not be able to move their pelvic, which will stabilize their posture.

An example of a pelvic belt. Image Source: Seating Dynamics 

How does a pelvic belt prevent the user from sliding?

Most wheelchairs come with a pelvic belt already attached, if not the wheelchair can be customised to include one. When the belt is put on, ensure that it goes across the user’s pelvis and meets at either side of their hip bones. If the belt is too high, there is a risk of injuring the user and them continuing to slide down the chair. 

The left image is the correct position of the pelvic belt and on the right is the incorrect position. Source: KARMA Medical

When the belt is fastened, ensure that the user is sitting as far back on the wheelchair as possible with their back against the backrest. Ensure there is room between the belt and the user of about 1 finger width only. If there is too much space in between, the user will have room to slide down and be left in the incorrect posture.       

2. How to set up the correct position for the footplates

How do the footplates affect the user’s sitting position? 

  • If the footplates are set too high, the thighs will tilt-up, and all of the pressure will be on the hip bones. 
  • If they are set too low, the thighs will tilt down, and all of the pressure will be on the front of the thighs.

The correct position for footplates should be when the user’s thighs are parallel to the seat surface. This way, the sitting pressure is distributed evenly across both thighs. 

If you have elevating leg rests on your wheelchair, you can find how to set up your leg rest here

3. Prevent the user from sliding with a reclining and Tilt-in-Space wheelchair

If the elderly user has to sit in the wheelchair for long periods of time, another way to solve the problem of sliding is to use a tilting and reclining wheelchair. Using the Tilt-in-Space function will transfer the weight from the hips to the back without disturbing the hip angle. This is a quick and easy solution for elderly caregivers to reposition the user into a more comfortable position.

4. What other adjustments can prevent the user from sliding?

  1. Correct Seat Depth – If the depth of the wheelchair is too deep, the user will slide down the wheelchair to find support for their back. Additionally, if the seat depth is too short then you risk the user leaning forward and using their feet to find support. 
  2. Correct Seat Width – If the width of the wheelchair is too wide, the user will lean to one side to find a more comfortable position to support themselves. The negative impact of this is that the user could develop scoliosis. The solution for this is to have lateral trunk supports on the wheelchair or use small wedges between the side of the wheelchair and the user’s outer thigh. 
  3. Height Adjustable Armrests – If a fixed armrests are too high or too low, the user risks leaning to one side and putting unnecessary strain on their neck and shoulders. 

You can read more about how to prevent elderly users from sliding and leaning forward on the wheelchair in our other blogs! 

We’re here to help

If you need further assistance to prevent elderly wheelchair users falling forward in a wheelchair, KARMA Malaysia is always here to assist. Talk to a KARMA representative today! 

Call us: 03-5612 1921 / 010 – 238 1921

Email us: [email protected]