Seating Patients with Complex Needs

By Martina Tierney, OT

The below information applies to conditions including Huntington’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Motor Neuron/ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, Dementia &  Alzheimer’s.

In a daily case load, each patient we encounter is different. They have individual needs which change and evolve throughout the duration of their medical condition. When seating patients with complex conditions such as Huntington’s Disease, Motor Neuron/ALS or Parkinson’s Disease, these needs can often be more challenging and severe.

Patients with complex conditions suffer from various uncontrollable symptoms meaning they can be more challenging to seat; these symptoms can include but are not limited to:

  • Low mobility.
  • Postural instability.
  • Involuntary movements.
  • Loss of voluntary movement.
  • Low/high muscle tone.
  • Rigidity.
  • Muscle degeneration.
  • Weakness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Confusion / altered mental state.
  • Agitation.

Conditions That Can Prove Challenging to Seat

Parkinson’s Disease

Those suffering from Parkinson’s disease can suffer from arm and leg tremors, rigidity of the muscles, as well as pain in the back, neck shoulders and chest, which need to be considered in seating and selecting the correct chair.

Multiple Sclerosis / MS

Patients suffering from MS endure extreme fatigue, loss of muscular strength, pain, as well as spasticity of the muscles which can lead to uncontrolled movements. These need to be factored into selection of the right seating solution.

ALS/Motor Neuron Disease

Patients with ALS/Motor Neuron Disease often present spasticity of the muscles which can lead to uncontrolled muscle movements, muscle degeneration and weakness which can eventually lead to paralysis of the limbs. Their rapidly changing needs need to be accommodated in one solution and can be catered for in a multi adjustable chair.

Huntington’s Disease

It has been said that having Huntington’s Disease feels like having ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, all at the same time.  One of the most significant side effects of Huntington’s Disease is involuntary movements of the trunk, arms and feet which can result in falls and in the patient coming to extra harm. Comfort and safety are key considerations in selecting an appropriate chair for Huntington’s Disease patients.

Dementia / Alzheimher’s

Patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s can be one of the most difficult patient groups to seat. This client group present a number of complex needs including agitation in the chair, constant moving in the chair which might leave them at risk of falls and sliding from the chair causing injury.

In our experience, these conditions are some of the most challenging patient conditions to seat as they have a variety of symptoms from their neurological condition which need to be accommodated in one seating solution. Quite often these patients are cared for at home by family members or full-time carers, so it’s important that their
seating solution is affordable, reliable, functional, easily adjustable and adaptable to their needs as their condition changes.

Tips for Families and Caregivers 

Get a proper Seating Assessment

Seating Matters have trained Seating Specialists in your area who can support by offering a free of charge, no obligation seating assessment. This can take place at a time and location that suits you and/or the patient. Book yours online now

Make sure the patient is comfortable

It goes without saying that if the patient is not comfortable in the chair, the other functions are rendered virtually worthless.

Know your requirements

Opt for multi-adjustable seating. Know which features are required to accommodate the needs of the patient, and ensure they come as standard on your chair.  All Seating Matters chairs incorporate back angle recline and a footplate as standard. 

Does the patient need postural support? Accessories such as lateral supports can aid postural deformities and can be added at a later date.  

Discover the full range of Seating Matters chairs which are multi adjustable to suit changing needs here

Consider the level of pressure care

Ensure that the chair provides adequate pressure management properties. These patients are sitting for long periods throughout the day and can be subject to risk of pressure ulcers which can be debilitating.  Seating Matters chairs are made with memory foam in the back, seat and calf pad as standard. Tilt in space and back angle recline can also aid in pressure management and loading the body.

Consider chair materials and fabrics

As many of these patient groups are at risk of involuntary movements or altered mental states, they can also move a lot in their chair, be at risk of sliding and falling, and therefore be exposed to further risk from shear and friction which can ultimately lead to pressure ulcers.

All the weight bearing areas on Seating Matters chairs are covered with Dartex material, which is multi stretch, breathable and durable, to reduce moisture, increase circulation and reduce the effects of friction and shear.

Patient dignity

Can the person sit at the table to dine or join others in the family room?  To encourage dignity and independence of patients, these are very important factors to consider when choosing your seating.

Seating Matters chairs are very mobile throughout a home or care facility, and can have powered adjustments for tilt in space and repositioning, allowing users to be more independent.

Seating Spotlight: The Atlanta

The Atlanta is a robust and durable chair which provides a safe and comfortable seat for those with vigorous involuntary movements, which can reduce instability whilst also reducing the risk of falling from the chair. This specialist seating has been very successful for Huntington’s Disease and dementia patients in particular, and for patients at high risk of falling from their chair.


How the Atlanta can Prevent Falls

  • The seat angle adjustment and back angle adjustment on the Atlanta means the pelvis can be lowered low down into the chair reducing the effect of the involuntary movements typical with Huntington’s Disease.
  • The integrated fully padded leg rest is angle adjustable to maintain a secure and comfortable position in the chair and can be used with the seat or taken away if not required.  The high arms and low seat angle position can help keep patients very safe and secure within the chair.
  • The arms are fully memory foam padded to reduce any risk of injury as a result of involuntary movements.
  • The high arms maintain lateral support and stability keeping the patient comfortable and minimising pressure risk.
  • The Atlanta has been successful chair for Huntington’s patients, dementia patients, Parkinson’s patients and those suffering from lower limb odema.


Note: the purpose of this blog is to give an overview of the product with some tips to consider on its use. This is not intended to be a substitute for professional or medical advice, diagnosis, prescription or treatment and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. For advice with your personal health or that of someone in your care, consult your doctor or appropriate medical professional.

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