Huntington's Disease Chairs

A Guide to Seating Patients

Huntington’s Disease is a complex and debilitating neurodegenerative disorder, characterised by motor dysfunction, cognitive decline, and psychiatric symptoms.

While there is sadly no cure for Huntington’s, clinical, therapeutic seating – designed to meet the specific needs of patients – can play a pivotal role in managing comfort, posture and mobility, ultimately enhancing quality of life for both patients and caregivers.

FAQs: Huntington's Disease & Clinical Seating

Huntington’s Disease (HD) is a hereditary neurodegenerative disorder characterised by progressive deterioration of physical, cognitive and emotional functions. It is caused by a mutation in the HTT gene, leading to accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain.

Symptoms often start in mid-adulthood, between 35-50 years of age. These begin with subtle motor issues like involuntary movements and eventually evolve into severe motor dysfunction, emotional disturbance and cognitive decline.

There is currently no cure for HD. Treatment focuses on symptom management and support, which can have a profound impact on individuals, their families and carers.

Huntington’s Disease is a complex condition with a wide range of symptoms. These symptoms can vary widely among individuals with HD and will tend to worsen over time as the disease progresses. Early diagnoses and symptom management are crucial in providing the best possible care for individuals affected with HD.

  • Motor Symptoms: These often appear first and include involuntary jerky movement (chorea), muscle rigidity, balance and coordination problems, and abnormal eye movements.
  • Cognitive Symptoms: Cognitive decline is common in HD, leading to memory impairment, difficulties with decision making and problem solving, and reduced ability to plan and organise tasks.
  • Psychiatric Symptoms: HD can lead to emotional disturbances including mood swings, depression, irritability, poor impulse control, and social withdrawal. Some individuals may exhibit obsessive-compulsive behaviours or psychosis in the later stages.
  • Physical Symptoms: Swallowing difficulties may arise, leading to weight loss and malnutrition. Speaking may also become challenging, impacting communication.

Huntington’s Disease can significantly impact seating and the comfort and safety of individuals with the condition.

Chorea, or involuntary jerking movements, can make sitting in a regular chair challenging and uncomfortable, while muscle rigidity can make it difficult for individuals with HD to change position or find a comfortable posture.

Issues with balance, posture and coordination can increase the risk of falls and sliding within regular chairs. This can result in discomfort and potential pressure sores from prolonged periods of sitting.

Over time, individuals with HD may experience reduced mobility, which can affect their ability to transfer in and out of a chair independently.

Seating Matters chairs offer support, comfort and adjustability, with features specifically designed for individuals with Huntington’s Disease.

Benefits of our tailored seating solutions include:

  • Reducing risk of falls and sliding, notably as a result of involuntary muscle movements
  • Helping the individual maintain an upright and balanced seating position
  • Reducing risk of choking, as a result of proper seating and positioning for feeding
  • Improving comfort and reducing pain associated with HD
  • Preventing pressure sores that can arise from prolonged sitting
  • Promoting independence, by enabling the patient to sit, stand and move with increased autonomy
  • Reducing the physical strain on caregivers and family members who are supporting patients with HD.

The first step is to Book a Free Seating Assessment, or request this from the patient’s occupational therapist. 

This personal approach involves testing the range of motion of a patient’s joints, understanding their specific cognitive, behavioural and psychological symptoms, and assessing the standards and impact of their current bed or chair.

On the basis of this assessment and any personal goals of the patient, their family and their care team, a specific Seating Matters chair will be recommended to meet their needs.

Here are a few other tips to remember when seating a patient with Huntington’s Disease

  • Make sure the patient is comfortable and ask for feedback where possible.
  • Opt for adjustable seating, focusing on deep and safe positioning of the patient to reduce sliding and risk of injury.
  • Ensure the chair provides adequate levels of pressure management, plus tilt in space and back angle recline to help avoid pressure injuries.
  • Consider the chair’s materials and fabrics. All Seating Matters chairs are covered with Dartex material, which is multi-stretch, breathable and durable, to reduce moisture, increase circulation, and combat the effects of friction.

Yes, our chairs are available to trial.

The first step is to organise a Free Seating Assessment, conducted by a clinically trained Seating Matters Specialist. This Assessment takes approximately 60 minutes and can be completed at home or hospital.

Based on this Assessment, the most suitable Seating Matters chair will be provided for the patient to trial. This will be adjusted to fit them correctly, taking into consideration things like seat depth, seat width and chair height. Postural supports and further customisations can also be added. 

Huntington's Disease chairs for trial or hire
Quick Facts About Huntington’s Disease

Around 2,160 people in Australia (or 8.4 per 100,000) have a diagnosis of Huntington’s Disease (Monash Uni, 2020)

A child of a person with the expanded HD gene has a 50% chance of developing Huntington’s Disease.

 For over 75% of people with Huntington’s Disease in Australia, the only option is residential aged care. Typically, the age at which someone with HD enters residential care will be between 40 and 60. (AHDA, 2020)

Seating Recommendations: Huntington's Disease Chairs

The Seating Matters Atlanta chair was designed specifically for the needs of people with Huntington’s Disease by Martina Tierney, an occupational therapist and the Founder of Seating Matters.

In cases where movements are more controlled, a Sorrento chair may also be suitable.

Atlanta chair for Huntington's Disease

The Atlanta was designed for patients with involuntary movements, and has benefited those with the motor symptoms of HD, including muscle rigidity, poor balance and lack of coordination. Features include an integrated tilt and back angle recline, which enables the patient to sit deep within the chair, improving stability and comfort.

How can it help someone with Huntington’s Disease?

The Atlanta provides dignity to patients at risk of falling or injuring themselves. The deep seat position and high arm rests create a soothing and reassuring environment to promote relaxation and reduce the risk of pressure injuries. The chair is easy to manoeuvre, which allows users to maintain a degree of independence.

Case Studies & Additional Resources

A Chair for Anne Marie With Huntington’s Disease

Anne Marie has Huntington’s Disease and requires 24 hour care. She was sliding and falling every few minutes from her old arm chair, often ending up on the floor. Not only was this dangerous, it also meant she couldn't be left unattended for more than a few minutes. Swapping to the Seating Matters Atlanta chair had a huge impact on the lives of both Anne Marie and her family - her son, Liam, and his partner, Victoria. In their words, "it's the best chair we've ever had for her". This is Anne Marie's story.

Read More

Considerations When Seating a Client With Huntington’s Disease

Do you have a client or family member living with Huntington's Disease? It is very important to consider the progressive nature of the condition when seating a patient, bearing in mind that symptoms can vary from person to person. Read this article to learn more about the key seating considerations, and the life-changing impact that a Seating Matters Atlanta chair can have on individuals, families and care teams.

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Free Webinar: Huntington's Disease Chairs

Seating individuals with Huntington’s Disease can be a challenge, notably due to involuntary movements (‘chorea’) that may lead to frequent sliding and falling from the chair. 

In this webinar, Martina Tierney explores the various symptoms associated with HD, the essential requirements for a chair used by someone with HD, and the positive impacts that therapeutic seating can have on the lives of patients and their families.

Download Your Copy Of 'The Clinician's Seating Handbook'

This practical guide by world-renowned OT, Martina Tierney will assist you in the prescription and use of therapeutic seating for patients with various conditions. It’s the best place to start.

Download your free copy now.