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We just purchased a nice transport chair which has hand brakes on it as well as the wheelbrakes. I got it specifically because mom's aide has a bad back and I wanted her to have the convenience of hand brakes. We love using the hand brakes to lock the chair in place for when she sits down or gets up. It appears to be very secure when we do this. However, I am hearing conflicting opinions on if this is "safe" or not to do. Some are saying that ONLY the wheel brakes should be used for getting in and out of chair. We use it mostly in the kitchen and only indooors. (Most of the time she uses a walker.) Any thoughts on this? I purchased it specifically for the wheelbrake option.

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Thanks everyone for suggestions, I spoke with the manufacturer (NOVA) and they said hand brakes can definitely be used by the aide to bring the chair to a locked stop. I will observe more closely next time I visit that it still seems secure. Mom is about 110 lbs.
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Reply to caregivingstuff
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Veronica, my back definitely felt the strain when I bent over to lock or release the brakes on my father's wheelchair. I think the difference in back aches that the OP refers to is whether the aide or the sitter activates the brakes. Dad could easily reach over the arm rest while sitting and lock and unlock them; I had to bend over to lock or unlock them while he was sitting.
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Reply to GardenArtist
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Do the handbrakes have to be held to be "on"?
I am not an expert on wheelchairs but everyone I have been moved in have the brakes easily reachable for someone sitting in the chair. Therefor I really don't see why your aide would have to strain her back to put them on.
Could you tell us the make and model of the W/C so those of us interested can look it up.
If your mother needs an aide is it safe to be using someone who has a bad back. That sounds more of a safety issue as questioning whether to us both sets of breaks.
I would say if there are two sets of brakes they are there for a reason not decoration.
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Reply to Veronica91
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I would use the wheel brakes too. The aide shouldn’t have to bend over to set them. None of my husband’s durable medical equipment is without wheel brakes and we use them all the time. He is a big guy and he had a habit of “flopping” into his wheelchair. Handbrakes wouldn’t have held. It’s just a safety precaution.
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Reply to Ahmijoy
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It should be possible for the aide to apply the wheel brakes using her foot. The handbrakes will keep it still while she does this.

Whether or not it's safe for your mother to get out of the chair without applying the main brakes partly depends on how heavy she is; but in general the extra leverage a standard-sized body exerts on the chair when rising could cause it to slip and overbalance the person if the chair isn't fully braked. Better safe than sorry.

How simple to operate are the brakes? It might be worth Googling your model to see if there are any usage tips online you might not have thought of.
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Reply to Countrymouse
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Addressing only the issue of handbrakes, I want to share something I learned at the rehab facility in which my father spent some time.

This was on a wheelchair, but I thought the idea was unique. The wheelchair had some type of steel "stick" which extended from the wheel back to something behind the wheelchair. I think the steel rods interlocked in some way. I can't remember the exact configuration now.

When I asked one of the nurses or aides about those strange pieces of steel, I was told they're an additional braking mechanism to prevent the wheelchair from moving even with the manually operated wheelbrakes on. It was in fact immovable. I couldn't figure out why until it was explained to me.

So, just on the issue of additional precautions, I think an additional brake would be a good safety measure. And I'd ignore what "some are saying" unless they're therapists.

Besides, I think the fact that your mother uses the hand brakes is evidence enough that they're necessary. It's safer for her than reaching over or down to lock wheel brakes.
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