Wheelchairs can be a tremendous benefit for people with balance or mobility issues. Those issues can be the result of aging, illness, or injury. Before purchasing any mobility assistance equipment, you should be evaluated by a health professional. Once you’re ready to buy a wheelchair, there are many things to consider in the selection process.
Types of Wheelchairs
Basically, there are three types of wheelchairs, each with different options to consider based on lifestyle and other factors. Each type of wheelchair is best in specific situations.
Attendant Propelled Wheelchairs
As the name suggests, attended propelled chairs are pushed by someone else. These are most often used in a controlled environment when there is serious risk of falling or the person in the chair is unable to propel themselves. Most often, these are used in hospitals and other care facilities or at home when there is 24/7 care.
Self-propelled wheelchairs are ideal for people with arm strength and the ability to wheel themselves. Although someone may also push them from behind, it’s less likely to be the case. The chairs tend to be lighter weight, but also sturdy and are somewhat easier to maneuver in tight spaces than the next option – power chairs.
Power chairs are ideal for people who aren’t able to push themselves, but also do not require around the clock care. For example, people with arthritic hands or carpal tunnel syndrome. Power chairs include a small motor and hand control which the patient uses to control direction and speed.
Things to Consider When Buying a Wheelchair
Regardless of the type of wheelchair you need, there are many other features to take into account. It’s likely you’ll be spending a significant amount of time in the chair, so it needs to be comfortable and ergonomically correct.
In order to achieve maximum comfort, look at what can be adjusted on your chair. Foot rests, back rests, arms, and in the case of power chairs, even the height may need to be appropriate for your size and weight.
The seats and arms of many wheelchairs can be firm or stiff and uncomfortable. Look for padded seats and arms or considering adding them as an after-market accessory.
Manufacturers set different maximum weights based on the materials used to build the wheelchair. Particularly in the case of bariatric care, ensure the weight limits are appropriate for your needs.
In the case of self-propelled and attendant propelled chairs, you want a wheelchair that is easy to fold and transport. Lightweight construction and single-hand folding ability can greatly increase independence.
Think about where you’ll be using your wheelchair. Some chairs are meant for only indoor use while others can be both indoors and outdoors. Manufactures use different materials and wheels for chairs that will be used outside.
If buying a self-propelled chair, be sure the wheel grips are comfortable and easy to reach. In the case of an attendant propelled chair, look for handles on the back that are comfortable and easy to grip.
By consider each of these factors and talking with medical care professionals, you’ll be able to find the right wheelchair for your lifestyle.