If you run a nursing home, then you know that keeping your equipment in good working order is extremely important for the safety of your patients. Many pieces of nursing home equipment roll on casters, and it is important to inspect them regularly to ensure the wheels and plates are in good shape and the breaks are working properly. One faulty caster on a patient lift, wheelchair, or walker could put the lives of many patients in danger. Here is a guide to the three main components of casters and which options are best for each type of equipment in your nursing home.
Here are a few types of the many caster wheels available and what equipment they are best for:
Rubber Wheels: Rubber wheels range from very soft to firm. Since rubber compresses under weight, the softer the rubber, the less weight the entire caster can bear. The main advantages of soft rubber wheels are that they can roll easily on wooden surfaces and softer tiles due to the natural traction they provide,and they are less likely to damage these surfaces. They are also very quiet when they roll.
Rubber wheels are most useful for lightweight office equipment and small rolling carts, such as your laundry carts and nurses carts. Since they grip the floor so well, rubber wheels are also best for patients' rolling walkers and shower chairs that need as much traction as possible in the potentially wet and slippery patient shower room.
Polyurethane Wheels: Polyurethane wheels also range from softer to more sturdy, but all polyurethane wheels will bear a bit more weight than rubber wheels. Hybrid polyurethane/iron and polyurethane/steel wheels can bear high weights due to the metal reinforcement. These wheels are more resistant to damage than rubber wheels.
These wheels are suitable for standing patient lifts and wheelchairs with low-weight limits.
Steel Casters: If you are looking for replacement casters for heavy equipment that must be sturdy, strong and difficult to damage, such as hoyer lifts, then steel wheels are your best choice. Steel caster wheels can hold the most weight of all casters and are virtually impossible to damage. They are also a good option for your larger wheelchairs used to transport your heaviest patients.
2. Plates or Stems
A caster can be attached to a piece of equipment with either a plate or a stem. Stems always swivel, while plates are available in swivel and rigid variations.
Plates: Plates can bear the most weight, since they cover a larger area than a caster stem. Plates are available in many sizes and are typically welded or bolted directly onto equipment. Plates are a must for hoyers that will be used to lift heavy patients.
Stems: Stems are useful typically when equipment has legs where a plate caster simply cannot be attached. This includes shower chairs, wheelchairs, rolling walkers, and other rolling chairs, such as the chairs your staff sit on. Grip ring stems fit into equipment legs in a socket-style, while threaded stems are screwed directly into the legs of the equipment. When choosing the type of stem, it is best to see what type you are replacing and stick with that style.
It is extremely important to purchase casters that lock and choose the right locks for all of your patient lifting and transporting devices.
Here are three types of caster locks and what types of nursing home equipment they are best for:
Total locking brakes: These full caster brakes are available on plate casters, and they are extremely important to include in patient lifts, such as hoyer lifts and standing lifts. As you know, these devices must be locked before patients can be transferred on or off of them, and total locking breaks are the most secure lock you can choose to ensure that equipment does not move during transfers and potentially put patients and staff in danger.
Brakes (not total locking): Simple brakes are different from total locking brakes, as they only lock the wheel and not the entire caster. This means that if the equipment is on a floor that has an incline, the equipment can still move. When in doubt, opt for total locking brakes for safety, unless the equipment is extremely lightweight, such as a small laundry cart.
Swivel locks: These additional locks only keep a caster from swiveling. A swivel lock will not keep the wheel from rolling. There will likely be times when you don't want your wheels to swivel, but you do want them to roll, so this additional option is a small, yet important part of your casters.
If the casters on your nursing home equipment are old and worn, then replace them before they put a patient or staff member in danger. Learn the components of casters now, and you will know exactly what to purchase every time you need new ones. When in doubt, speak to a caster specialist about what type of caster is best for your specific type of equipment. You can also find more information on casters by visiting a site like http://www.garlandsinc.com/.