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This application claims priority back to U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/799,934 to Patsy F. Breeland, filed on May 15, 2006, and is hereby incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.
The embodiments herein generally relate to seating pads that help prevent a user from sliding off the pad by utilizing an outer surface having a high coefficient of friction covering a flexible inner core having sufficient rigidity such that the pad does not fold up as a user sits on it.
Typical wheelchair and geriatric-chair seats utilize a fabric that has a relatively low coefficient of friction, such as nylon fabric or vinyl. Unfortunately, many users of wheelchairs are either aged or infirmed and have difficulty in maintaining a proper sitting position in chairs having a low coefficient of friction, especially for extended periods of time. Unnecessary injuries can result when a user is unable to adequately control their sitting position. For example, a user can slide off of the chair and fall to the floor. Additionally, a user can hurt their back if they are slouched down in the chair. Caretakers also may strain their back while repeatedly repositioning users. While prior attempts have been made to prevent a user from sliding out of the chair, many of these attempts have disadvantageous features.
One prior attempt involves the use of a form-fitting seating pad. The most popular of the form-fitting pads are made with a saddle horn shaped protrusion that fits between the user's legs. Many patients find these designs to be very uncomfortable as the protrusion puts unneeded pressure on the patient's crotch. In addition to being very uncomfortable and painful for the user, form-fitting pads can be very expensive.
Additional efforts to keep a user in a wheelchair seat involve the use of restraints. Typical restraints function similarly to seat belts, and involve one or more straps fastened across the user's lap and/or shoulders. The straps are designed to bind the patient to the back of the wheelchair seat. Like, form-fitting pads, restraints can also be uncomfortable to the user, especially if they are fastened too tightly. In contrast, if the restraints are applied too loosely they are ineffective at keeping the patient seated properly. Restraints are often discouraged or prohibited by many health care providers.
Further attempts at keeping a user seated in a wheelchair involve the use of a single layer of “non-slip” fabric having a high coefficient of friction. Examples of these fabrics include those described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,911,406 to Sobonya et al, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference in its entirety, to the degree not inconsistent with the teachings herein. Typically, the single layer of fabric is placed between the wheelchair and the user. Unfortunately, a single layer of fabric has the tendency to bunch up or gather into folds as the patient moves around in the chair. The resulting bunching or gathering can be very uncomfortable to the patient and tends to create pressure points which can lead to skin breakdown on the user. An additional problem of single layer fabrics is that they do not provide any cushioning to the patient.
Additional efforts at preventing the sliding of a wheelchair user involve the use of tapered wedge cushions that are used to lift the thighs of the user. This forced position can also be very uncomfortable to the user.
Accordingly there is a need in the art to provide an affordable seating pad for preventing user sliding that has a sufficiently high coefficient of friction, avoids bunching, and does not subject the user to unnecessary discomfort or pain. Additional objects of the invention include providing a secure yet detachable seating pad that has washable components and includes a non-absorbent cushion. Still a further object of the invention is to provide a seating pad that incorporates a means for securing the location of a wheelchair alarm below the pad.
While the preferred use of the seating pads described herein is with wheelchairs, it is expressly contemplated that the pads are fully portable and can also be used with most available sitting apparatuses, non-exclusively including motorized vehicle seats, high chairs, bleachers, stadium seating, outdoor seating, chairs and couches, and the like. Accordingly, the description herein directed to the preferred embodiment of wheelchair seating is expressly non-limiting.
Preferred embodiments herein are directed to a portable pad configured to be placed on top of a seat for a user to sit on, having an outer surface material with a high coefficient of friction that is attached to a flexible inner core having sufficient rigidity such that the pad does not gather into folds as the user sits on the pad. The portable pads described herein can include an outer surface of a polyvinylchloride coated polyester mesh, or other mesh shelving liner, such as those sold under the trademarks SUPER GRIP EASY LINER and WONDER LINER FINE LINER.
The portable pads described herein also include an inner core of thermoplastic-coated fabric. Preferred inner cores include fabrics sold under the trademarks TEXTIILENE and PHIFERTEX. In more preferred embodiments, the inner core includes 2 or 3 sheets of thermoplastic coated fabric. In further aspects, the portable pads provided herein can include a protective strip having a low coefficient of friction and borders the pad.
Further embodiments include portable pads configured to be placed on top of a seat for a user to sit on and include a top layer connected to a lower bottom layer such that a pocket is formed between the two layers, wherein the top layer includes an outer surface material having a high coefficient of friction and is attached to a flexible inner core having a sufficient rigidity such that the top layer does not gather in folds as the user sits on the pad; and said bottom layer comprises a sheet of fabric.
In preferred embodiments, the bottom layer includes a fabric having a high coefficient of friction, such as a mesh shelving liner sold under the trademarks SUPER GRIP EASY LINER or WONDER LINER FINE LINER. Further advantageous embodiments include means for releasably closing the pocket, non-exclusively including a strip of downward-facing loop fasteners on the top layer and a complementary strip of upward-facing hook fasteners on the bottom layer. According to even more specific embodiments, the means for releasably closing the pocket are a strip of downward-facing hook fasteners on the top layer and a complementary strip of upward-facing loop fasteners on the bottom layer. Suitable hook and loop fasteners described herein are readily available and sold under the trademark VELCRO®, for example.
In further embodiments, a cushion, such as a polyolefin cushion, can be positioned within the pocket, between the top layer and the bottom layer. In other preferred aspects, an alarm sensor can also be positioned within the pocket. In further aspects the pads described herein can include means for releasably attaching the pad to the seat, such as straps, for example. More specifically, according to certain embodiments, the straps can include hook and loop fasteners complementary to hook and loop fasteners on the top or bottom layer, or on the straps.
In further embodiments, the teachings herein provide portable pads configured to be placed on top of a seat for a user to sit on, and having an outer surface material having a high coefficient of friction that surrounds a flexible inner core, including a thermoplastic-coated fabric.
It will be appreciated that the drawings are not necessarily to scale, with emphasis instead being placed on illustrating the various aspects and features of embodiments of the invention, in which:
FIG. 1 is a preferred assembled seating pad with a cushion and alarm pad.
FIG. 2 is an exploded view of a preferred seating pad.
Embodiments of the present invention are described below. It is, however, expressly noted that the present invention is not limited to these embodiments, but rather the intention is that modifications that are apparent to the person skilled in the art and equivalents thereof are also included.
Embodiments of the invention will now be described with reference to the accompanying figures, wherein like numerals refer to like elements throughout. The terminology used in the description presented herein is not intended to be interpreted in any limited or restrictive manner simply because it is being utilized in conjunction with a detailed description of certain specific embodiments of the invention.
The seating pads described herein include a top layer 18 comprising a material having a high coefficient of friction for the user to sit on. More specifically, the top layer 18 is made of at least two different fabrics, an outer material 4 having a high coefficient of friction and a flexible inner core 2 that has some rigidity. In preferred embodiments, a first and second sheet of outer material 4 are connected together (preferably tightly) around an inner core 2 that includes 1 or more (e.g., 2, 3, 4) sheet(s) 24 made of an inner material. In further embodiments, all fabrics of the top layer 18 are connected together via sewing, heat sealing or ultrasonic bonding to form one distinct layer. This connection is advantageous in that it further prevents the top layer 18 from gathering in folds.
In preferred embodiments, the outer material 4 includes a thermoplastic coated fabric having a high coefficient of friction, and is more preferably polyvinylchloride coated polyester mesh. In other advantageous aspects, the outer material 4 is durable, non-absorbing, and easily washable. Preferred outer material 4 is readily found in the art, and can non-exclusively include shelf liner, mesh and/or solid fabric, such as that sold under the trademarks SUPER GRIP EASY LINER or WONDER LINER FINE LINER, for example. Other outer materials having a high coefficient of friction that can be used with the seating pads described herein include those described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,911,406 to Sobonya et al, for example. Having a high coefficient of friction on the outer surface 4 is advantageous in that it helps to prevent a user from sliding off the pad.
Unfortunately, a single layer of fabric having a high coefficient of friction, by itself, has the tendency to bunch up or gather into folds as the patient moves around in the chair. To alleviate this problem, it is advantageous to add some rigidity to the top layer 18. The rigidity of the top layer 18 is directly correlated to the number of inner sheets 24 used to make up the inner core 2. While having some rigidity, the inner core 2 is relatively flexible too, such that the top layer 18 of the pad can be folded completely in half with minimum force by a user, but will naturally return to its natural, unfolded state when the applied force has been removed. In preferred embodiments, the inner core 2 includes only 2 or 3 sheets 24 of fabric. It is preferred that the inner core 2 has a sufficient rigidity such that the top layer 18 does not bunch up or gather folds during the normal shifting or movement a user makes while sitting down on the pad 10. Accordingly, in advantageous embodiments, the inner sheets 24 are made of a thermoplastic-coated fabric. In more specific embodiments, the inner sheets 24 are made of durable, non-absorbing, relatively flexible, and easily washable fabric. Preferred material for the inner sheets 24 is readily found in the art, and can non-exclusively include fabric used to make outdoor furniture and awnings, such as the fabric sold under the trademarks TEXTILENE or PHIFERTEX.
In further preferred embodiments, one or more sides of the seating pads described herein can include a protective strip 6 having a low coefficient of friction and is softer than the outer material 4 and the inner sheets 24. For example, the protective strip 6 can be advantageously placed on the front edge of the pad. This is a preferred configuration, as the strip 6 is more comfortable to the user than the formation of the outer material 4 with the inner sheets 24 alone. In other preferred embodiments, the protective strip 6 can border multiple sides (e.g., 2, 3, 4) of the seating pad 10.
In further preferred aspects, the pad 10 can include a bottom layer 20 that is non-releasably attached to the top layer 18 on three sides to form a pocket 22. The bottom layer 20 can include 1 or more sheets of any type of fabric or suitable material such as plastic, and preferably includes a single sheet of outer material 4 having a high coefficient of friction, that helps prevent the pad 10 from sliding on the seat.
In more preferred aspects, the front, left, and right sides of the bottom layer 20 are non-releasably attached to the front, left and right sides of the top layer 18, to form a back pocket 22. Other variations for creating a pocket include attaching three different sides, or only two sides of the bottom layer to the top layer. For example, the back, left, and right side of the bottom layer could be attached to the back, left, and right side top layer to form a front pocket. Likewise, the left and right sides of the bottom layer 20 could be attached to the left and right sides of the top layer 18 to form a pocket having both front and back access.
The pocket 22 formed between the top layer 18 and the bottom layer 20 is highly advantageous. According to one advantageous embodiment, the pocket 22 can be used to insert a cushion 8 for added comfort to the user. Accordingly to certain embodiments, any suitable cushion 8 having soft material can be inserted into the pocket 22, including cushions made of gel, foam, or other types of padding.
In preferred embodiments, the cushion 8 is a single piece of foam. More preferably, the foam can be closed cell polyolefin foam. The term “polyolefin” as used herein is equivalent to the term “polyalkene” and generally relates to a class of readily available polymers produced from a simple olefin, or alkene, as a monomer. For example, polyethylene is the polyolefin produced by polymerizing the olefin ethylene. Polypropylene is another common polyolefin which is made from propylene. Both polyethylene and polypropylene can be used to manufacture cushions to be used with the seating pads provided herein. Polyolefin foam is advantageous in that it is a non-absorbent material; it does not absorb liquids like other foam rubber or sponge material. An additional advantage of polyolefin foam is that it is washable. In further advantages the cushion can be a flame retardant and include anti-microbial properties.
The dimensions of the cushion 8 can be readily configured to achieve a size that is suitable for insertion into the pocket 22. In preferred embodiments the cushion 8 is approximately ½ inch thick, but thicker and thinner cushions are also contemplated herein. In preferred embodiments, the topside of the cushion can include textured cushioning including patterns of small grooves and protrusions, such as an egg crate design. In further embodiments, the cushion can include chamfered corners, such as the front two corners, for example.
The pocket 22 is also advantageous in that it allows for the insertion of a wheelchair alarm sensor pads 23. Alarm pads are readily available and can be placed under a user and include a sensor in operable connection with an alarm that detects the pressure of the user sitting down. When the sensor detects that the pressure is released, it signals the alarm to sound, thereby alerting a caregiver of a potential fall. When used directly under the user, or not otherwise secured in position, wheelchair alarms sometimes signal false alarms because the sensor inadvertently moves out of position due to normal movement of the user. According to preferred embodiments, an alarm sensor 23 can preferably be placed below the cushion 8 inside of the pocket 22. Once properly positioned, the location of the alarm 23 can be secured by the high coefficient of friction material 4 in the bottom layer 20. In other embodiments, such as those for seating pads disclosed herein that do not have a pocket and/or cushion, the sensor can be placed and secured directly below the top layer 18.
In further advantageous embodiments, the pad 10 can include means for releasably closing the pocket 22. Any suitable means for releasably closing the pocket can be used with the pads described herein. A non-exclusive list of suitable means for releasably closing the pocket 22 include: hook and loop fasteners such as those sold under the trademark VELCRO®, fasteners (e.g., snap), buttons, zippers, adhesives, ties (e.g., fabric), buckles, and quick release members, for example. In preferred embodiments, the back of the top layer 18 includes 1 or more strips 14 of hook or loop fasteners, while the bottom layer 20 includes 1 or more strips 16 of hook or loop fasteners that are complementary to the 1 or more strips 14 of hook or loop fasteners on the top layer 18. For example, if the top layer 18 includes a strip 14 of downward facing loop fasteners, it is preferred that the bottom layer 20 has a complementary strip 16 of upward facing hook fasteners. Likewise, if the top layer 18 includes a strip 14 of downward facing hook fasteners, it is preferred that the bottom layer 20 has a complementary strip 16 of upward facing loop fasteners.
The pads described herein are portable, and can be removed from one seat to be washed, or moved to another seat, for example. In further preferred embodiments, the seating pads disclosed herein also include means for releasably attaching the portable pad to a chair (e.g., wheelchair) or other sitting apparatus. According to these advantageous embodiments, a means for releasably attaching the pad to a chair can non-exclusively include hook and loop fasteners such as those sold under the trademark VELCRO®, fasteners (e.g., snap), buttons, zippers, adhesives, ties (e.g., fabric), buckles, and quick-release members, and can be located in any suitable position on the pad 10.
In more preferred embodiments, the pads 10 herein can include 1, 2 or more (e.g., 3, 4) straps 12 that are attached to either the bottom layer 20 or the top layer 18 of the pad 10 or to both the bottom layer 20 and the top layer 18. In even more preferred embodiments, the pad 10 is non-releasably attached to two back straps 12 that each include hook or loop fasteners that can releasably attach to complementary hook or loop fasteners on the pad, such as the strips of fasteners 14 and 16 depicted in FIG. 1, for example, or on complementary hook or loop fasteners on the straps themselves. In preferred embodiments, the straps 12 can be wrapped around a bar, or other part of a wheelchair, seat, or sitting assembly.
The outer material 4, inner core 2, and the protective strip 6 can be assembled by any suitable construction method. In preferred embodiments, the above components are connected by sewing, heat sealing, and/or ultrasonic welding. Likewise, the straps 12, and the means for releasably closing the pocket 22 can be attached to the pad 10 by sewing, for example.
In advantageous aspects, the seating pads provided herein are formed in the general shape of a square or rectangular, and are preferably configured to fit standard available wheelchair seats. In more specific embodiments, the front two corners can be chamfered or rounded off. The pads provided herein can be made to fit most sizes of users. Non-exclusive preferred dimensions for the pads include 19×15, 17×15, 21×15, 23×17, or 25×17 inches for example and can be used with standard size wheelchairs of dimensions 18×16, 16×16, 20×16, 22×18, and 24×18 respectively, for example. Smaller and larger dimensions and different shapes of seating pads can readily be made to accommodate different sized people and/or seats.
In preferred embodiments, the seating pads provided herein are constructed as a single seating plane 10 without a back panel to save on construction costs. In other embodiments, a back panel having similar or the same properties as the seat panels described herein, or otherwise, can be attached to the seating panel.
In other preferred embodiments directed at user comfort, the seating pads described herein are substantially flat, having a substantially planar surface without significant protrusions, such as found in form fitting pads for the prevention of sliding. In further preferred embodiments, the pads provided herein are substantially level, without any significant grade as found in wedge-shaped pads. While preferred embodiments are directed to pads being substantially flat and level, the outer surface and inner core components described herein can be readily used with form-fitting pads, having substantial protrusions and/or grades.
While preferred aspects are directed to seating pads having both a top layer and a bottom layer, it is also readily contemplated that the top layer 18, including both the outer material 4 and the inner core 2, can be used as a seating pad without a bottom layer 20. These embodiments are especially useful for lower manufacturing costs, or for seats that already have sufficient cushioning.
The invention may be embodied in other specific forms besides and beyond those described herein. The foregoing embodiments are therefore to be considered in all respects illustrative rather than limiting, and the scope of the invention is defined and limited only by the appended claims and their equivalents, rather than by the foregoing description.