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The manual wheelchair-handling skills of caregivers and the effect of training

      Abstract

      Kirby RL, Mifflen NJ, Thibault DL, Smith C, Best KL, Thompson KJ, MacLeod DA. The manual wheelchair-handling skills of caregivers and the effect of training.

      Objective

      To test the hypothesis that the Wheelchair Skills Training Program (WSTP) is effective in improving the wheelchair-handling skills of untrained caregivers.

      Design

      Within-participant comparisons.

      Setting

      Rehabilitation center and community.

      Participants

      Twenty-four caregivers of manual wheelchair users.

      Interventions

      Caregiver participants underwent the WSTP, version 2.4, adapted for caregivers. Training was individualized on the basis of an integrated testing-and-training protocol that took place on a single occasion (total, ≈50min).

      Main outcome measures

      Total percentage scores on the objective Wheelchair Skills Test (WST), version 2.4, for the pretraining (N=24), posttraining (N=24), and retention (n=9) evaluations. For the skill-transfer evaluation (n=10), we used the questionnaire version (WST-Q), administered by telephone to participants after return to their communities.

      Results

      There were no serious adverse incidents. The mean pretraining total WST score ± standard deviation was 77.8%±12.0%. Posttraining, this increased to 94.7%±7.1% (P<.001), a 22% relative increase. At retention testing, a median latency of 7 days later, the mean value, 94.2%±7.1%, did not decrease significantly from the posttraining level (P=.38). At skill-transfer testing, a median latency of 179 days posttraining, the mean value, 92.5%±8.7%, did not decrease significantly from the posttraining level (P=.73). The greatest improvements were at the advanced skill level.

      Conclusions

      The WSTP is a safe, practical, and effective method of improving the wheelchair-handling skills of untrained caregivers. Skill improvements are generally well retained and transfer well to the community. Such training could play an important role in the rehabilitation process.

      Key words

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