Title:
Patient mobility system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A patient mobility system. The system includes a patient support assembly with which a user interfaces much as with traditional crutches. The patient support assembly provides handgrips and under-arm support members on either side of the patient's body, as well as a standby seat member upon which a user can transition from waling to sitting at any time while engaged with the patient support assembly. The seat member is detachable from the remainder of the patient support assembly, and configured for reversibly docking with a chair, whereby a user can first sit in the chair, engage the seat member with the remainder of the patient support assembly, and then, under assistance of a wench which raises and lowers patient support assembly, move from a sitting to a standing position for walking or therapy.



Inventors:
Phillips, Brian (San Antonio, TX, US)
Application Number:
10/274819
Publication Date:
04/22/2004
Filing Date:
10/21/2002
Assignee:
PHILLIPS BRIAN
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A61G7/10; A61H3/00; B61B3/00; (IPC1-7): B61B3/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LE, MARK T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DAVID G. HENRY (Woodway, TX, US)
Claims:

I claim:



1. A patient mobility system comprising: a patient support assembly having user support means for supporting a user while walking or standing, and further including a reversibly attachable seat support member positioned, when attached to the remainder of said patient support assembly, for supporting a user in a seated position; patient support assembly suspension means for suspending said patient support assembly from an overhead position relative to said patient support assembly, said patient support assembly suspension means including height adjustment means for alternatively raising and lowering said patient support assembly; a chair; and docking means for reversibly engaging said seat support member with said chair. ns.

2. The invention of claim 1 wherein said patient support assembly suspension means includes an elongate track member from which said patient support assembly is moveably suspended, said track member defining a track path, and further comprising carriage means movably interfaced with said track member whereby said carriage means may move, while remaining securely interfaced with said track member, from a first point along said track path to a second point along said track path, said carriage means being affixed to said suspension/spacer member.

3. The invention of claim 1 wherein said patient support assembly suspension means include a frame having a base portion for contacting and moving relative to a floor or ground surface and a overhead support portion which extends from said base portion to a point sufficiently vertically distant from said floor or ground surface whereby patient support assembly is suspended and positions said patient support assembly at a height for aiding a patient in ambulation while engaged with said patient support assembly.

4. The invention of claim 2 wherein said patient support assembly suspension means includes wench for alternatively raising and lowering said patient support assembly relative to a ground or floor surface.

5. The invention of claim 3 wherein said patient support assembly suspension means includes wench for alternatively raising and lowering said patient support assembly relative to a ground or floor surface.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. Field of The Invention

[0002] Applicant's invention relates to devices useful in augmenting the mobility of the disabled or infirmed.

[0003] 2. Background Information

[0004] Presently available devices for assisting persons who cannot walk without assistance (including “walkers”, crutches and canes) are not wholly adequate to enable all who are not unquestionably confined to wheelchairs (at best) or bedridden. Such presently available devices all share a requirement that a patient have rather undiminished upper body strength. A patient using a walker, a cane or a traditional crutch must transfer to the upper body muscles, particularly arm and shoulder area muscles, much of the work of supporting and stabilizing the whole body during ambulation.

[0005] Patient support/mobility devices have been proposed in the past which devices involve harnesses as the patient interface means, and which resemble “over-grown”, adult sized infant walkers. To the adult user of such a device, the harness would likely be quite uncomfortable (particularly to male users) and would require such arduous work in entering and exiting the device that whatever benefit of independent movement might be realized by such a device would well be offset by the assistance needed to initiate or terminate its use.

[0006] Patients needing mobility assistance devices and who will particularly benefit from Applicant's invention as described hereafter are those who are in an overall weakened condition and who desire independent mobility and/or need assistance in moving about in order, for example, to regain strength lost due to surgery, long-term convalescence, etc.

[0007] Applicant has conducted extensive testing of the various embodiments of his invention with actual patients. In addition, Applicant has interviewed a number of rehabilitation specialists. It is clear from these investigations that there is a compelling need for a mobility system having the precise characteristics of Applicant's system. Rehabilitation professionals contacted have enthusiastically requested units for evaluation and use, and have lauded the unique contribution to be made by Applicant's system to their field of medical care. It appears, therefore, that Applicant's system is quite useful, not only in assisting in mobility for persons who are permanently non-ambulatory, but with persons, such as accident victims and orthopaedic surgery patients, who require rehabilitative work with respect to walking.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] It is an object of the present invention to provide an improved patient mobility system.

[0009] It is another object of the present invention to provide an improved patient mobility system which is particularly useful to patients having limited upper body strength or coordination such that use of traditional walkers, canes and crutches is not feasible.

[0010] It is another object of the present invention to provide an improved patient mobility system which is more comfortable in use than traditional crutches.

[0011] It is another object of the present invention to provide an improved patient mobility system which assists an non-ambulatory user in walking with a normal gait, yet provides, with great comfort and stability, the supportive benefits of traditional crutches or walkers.

[0012] It is another object of the present invention to provide an improved patient mobility system which, because of ease of all phases of use, including initiation and termination of use, facilitates unassisted use by the partially disabled and thereby contributes to independent living opportunities.

[0013] It is another object of the present invention to provide an improved patient mobility system which aids in transitioning a temporarily disabled patient into resumed mobility.

[0014] In satisfaction of these and related objectives, Applicant's present invention provides an improved patient mobility system, a patient support assembly of which supports a patient in a manner somewhat analogous to that of traditional crutches. Unlike crutches, however, Applicant's system obviates the risks of losing balance and falling, because the system itself, not the patient/user, supports the patient from an overhead track to which the patient support assembly is moveably attached, and assures correct orientation of the patient/user, so long as the patient/user remains interfaced with the system. Also, unlike the case of traditional walkers and canes, a patient need not have significant upper or lower body strength or coordination in order to use Applicant's system. Applicant's system assists even the extremely weak in walking in a virtually normal gait, guiding the patient in desired directions with very little physical exertion or consistent directional force being required, thereby allowing a patient to slowing, but safely, gain strength for walking.

[0015] Because a seat support is part of Applicant's patient support assembly, which support is positioned for immediate use if a patient can no longer support themselves by walking, there is little, if any danger that a user would fall and injure themselves while using the present system. The design of the seat support (modeled after an old-style bicycle seat), combined with the swing-away attachment to the remainder of the system, is such that a patient can walk in a substantially normal gait, unhindered by the seat, yet immediately sit when necessary or desired.

[0016] An additional, very important aspect of the present system is that of a docking assembly for moving a user from and to a wheelchair as the mobility system is used. As will be clear from the discussion and figures to follow, a user can sit in Applicant's specially-designed wheelchair (which includes the seat support portion of the system), engage the remainder of the system, and be safely lifted to a standing position for walking (therapeutic or otherwise) after which the user may be safely returned to the wheelchair, all without any significant risk of falling. The patient support assembly is, as mentioned above, suspended from an overhead track via a moveable trolley. An intervening electrical, user-controllable winch raises and lowers the patient support assembly as is needed, not only for raising and lowering a user vis a vis the wheelchair, but also for adjusting for proper user height while walking.

[0017] Another embodiment of Applicant's invention involves, in lieu of the overhead, stationary track which is suspended from a ceiling or stationary framework, a moving support which, while rolling upon floor surface, still suspends the patient support assembly from overhead.

[0018] The patient support assembly is configured to provide crutch-like upper body support members on either side of the patient. Because the patient support assembly is suspended from above, and does not rely at all on balance, stable footing, etc., a user of equivalent strength and orientational stability is far less likely to fall while using Applicant's system than while using traditional crutches, canes, or walkers. Furthermore, the inherently greater stability of Applicant's system, when compared to that of walkers, crutches and canes, enlarges the scope of patients who may enjoy and benefit from walking.

[0019] During use of Applicant's system, a patient/user need not fall or move in any unintended or dangerous path so long as he/she remains engaged with the patient support assembly. This is not difficult inasmuch as a user can, upon losing their footing or orientation, simply sit down on the seat support which is always in ready position.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0020] FIGS. 1a, 1b, and 1c are perspective views of an individual using Applicant's Patient Mobility System, rising from a seated position (special wheelchair not shown) to a standing position under lifting force provided by the overhead winch.

[0021] FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the patient support assembly of the present invention, showing movement of arm support and hand grasping members as allowed in the preferred design.

[0022] FIG. 3 is a partial perspective view of the patient support assembly of the present invention, particularly showing movement of the seat support as allowed in the preferred design.

[0023] FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the seat support of the present invention (detached from the remainder of the patient support assembly), but shown engaged with the docking pan (shown apart from the wheelchair of which the docking pan is a part in the present system).

[0024] FIG. 5 is an exploded perspective view of the components of FIG. 4.

[0025] FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the specially designed wheelchair with docking pan included for inclusion in the present system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0026] Referring to FIGS. 1a, 1b, 1c, 2 and 3, the patient support assembly of Applicant's patient mobility system is identified generally by the reference numeral 12. Patient support assembly 12 includes a master support member 14 which, in the embodiment depicted, is attached directly to an electrical winch 16. Electrical winch 16 is, in the presently preferred embodiment, a battery operated unit which is controllable by a control pad on a coiled cord, and which is reachable by a user when positioned in Patient support assembly 12.

[0027] Particularly with reference to FIGS. 2 and 3, left and right under-arm support 18 pivotally extend from master support member 14, whereby they can move to accommodate users of differing girth. Seat support bridge 20 is attached to both under-arm supports 18, and is adjustable to accommodate movement thereof as just described.

[0028] Pivotally extending downward from under-arm supports 18 are hand supports 22. As should be clear from the drawings and description, Patient support assembly 12 mimics many aspects of a conventional crutch with under-arm support and hand grips.

[0029] Pivotally suspended from seat support bridge 20 is a seat suspension assembly 24. Seat support 26 telescopically and removably engages with a telescopic seat suspension assembly 24 to allow patients to engage and disengage with Patient support assembly 12 while seated in a specially-designed wheelchair 50 as will be described in more detail hereafter. Locking pins 28 are used, both to reversibly secure seat support 26 with seat suspension assembly 24, and to adjust the relative dimensions of Patient support assembly 12 with respect to distances between seat support 26 and under-arm supports 18, in turn, to accommodate users of differing sizes.

[0030] As is clear from an examination of FIG. 3, seat support 26 is freely moveable in 2 axes. Because of the position of seat support 26 relative to the remaining components of Patient support assembly 12, this seat movement allows a user to walk in a substantially normal manner, with seat support member extending behind the user and seat support rod 30 simply extending between the legs. Seat support 26 moves in response to a user's movements while walking, yet seat support 26 remains in position for readily “catching” the user if he or she needs to sit. Experiments have revealed that the presence of seat support 26 in no meaningful way impedes normal ambulation.

[0031] Referring in combination to FIGS. 4, 5 and 6, a significant functionality of Applicant's system lies in its utility for safely assisting users in moving from a seating to a standing position for subsequent walking or therapy.

[0032] As particularly shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, seat support 26 includes a docking post 32. A docking pan 34 is positioned in wheelchair 50 (as shown in FIG. 6) to receive and engage seating support 26 through an engagement between docking post 32 and docking post receptacle 36. Docking pan 34 is contoured (sloped downward toward docking post receptacle 36) as shown in FIG. 5, whereby docking post 32 will “find” docking post receptacle 36 under force of gravity as Patient support assembly 12 is lowered into position for engaging seat support 26 with wheelchair 50. It should be understood that wheelchair 50 could easily be replaced with a stationary chair or other patient support surface—a wheelchair is chosen for the preferred embodiment simply because of the typically preferred mobility associated therewith.

[0033] Referring again to FIG. 1a, in a basic embodiment of Applicant's system, a track member 40 is situated overhead of the area where the system is to be used, and the patient support assembly 12 is carried along the length of track member 40 by an intervening trolley 42. Supporting the patient support assembly 12 from above, and restricting its movement to predetermined path(s), without any reliance on floor support, stable footing, etc., virtually eliminates the hazards associated with loss of balance, slippery floor surfaces, loss of directional control, etc. as is associated with the use of crutches, walkers and canes. The track member 40 can be configured as an I-beam type track as shown, or may be a hollow, slotted conduit—a heavier version of a support conduit as is often used in examination room curtain supports in many hospitals. The trolley member 42 is adapted for use with such variant track types will require design differentiations which will be clear to anyone reasonably skilled in the relevant arts.

[0034] It is intended that a track be routed along desired paths of movement for the patient/user. In a hospital or rehabilitation center environment, this may involve simply affixing a length of track along a straight path, for example, down a hall, or along a straight path in a workout area. In the case of home installation, the track would extend to various rooms, including the patient/user's bedroom, rest room, kitchen, etc. For home installations, I-beam type tracks are recommended because they are more readily provided with “switches” (analogous to train track switches and not shown in the drawings) which would permit deviation from one track path to another so as to reach different rooms or areas within a user's home or apartment.

[0035] An optional feature of Applicant's System involves padding for the under arm support members 18. While standard padding material such as is used to pad the under arm portions of traditional crutches may be used in Applicant's System, Applicant has designed gel-filled pads (not shown in the drawings) which are considerably more comfortable to a patient/user. Each pad consists of an enclosure which is fabricated from rupture-resistant plastic sheeting material (polyurethane, etc.). The enclosure is filled with a viscous gel material. Such a pad (substantially like a silicone breast implant by design and manufacture) much more easily than rubber or similar crutch pad materials molds to the anatomical shape of the user, and helps to relieve pressure points which cause discomfort during and after use.

[0036] A variation of Applicant's system substitutes a fixed overhead track with a moveable support, much as might be thought of as an over-sized IV stand as used in hospitals. Such a moveable support would provide the overhead support which is elemental to Applicant's system, but provide more flexibility in direction of movement. Of course, a very wide “foot” would be required to adequately safeguard against tipping as a patient loses balance.

[0037] Although the invention has been described with reference to specific embodiments, this description is not meant to be construed in a limited sense. Various modifications of the disclosed embodiments, as well as alternative embodiments of the inventions will become apparent to persons skilled in the art upon the reference to the description of the invention. It is, therefore, contemplated that the appended claims will cover such modifications that fall within the scope of the invention.