A Guide to Wheelchair Selection

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Buying a wheelchair is an important task as it’s a device that enables an elderly person to become more mobile and independent. There are many types of wheeled mobility devices on the market, and it’s a good idea to do some research on how to choose a wheelchair or transport chair that best fits the needs of the person concerned.

According to research by the University of California, 2.76 percent of people in the US over the age of 65 make use of manual wheelchairs and 0.15 percent drive powered wheelchairs.  More women over 65 years (3.2 percent) utilize wheelchairs, as opposed to 2.4 percent of men.

Who Is the Wheelchair For?
Before you search for a wheelchair, list these points about the person needing the equipment:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Weight
  • Height
  • Specific disabilities

Once you know these details, you’ll have a better idea of what size and style of wheelchair is required.
Types of Wheelchairs
Manual. Wheelchairs of this type can either be self-propelled or attendant-propelled. Large rear wheels and wheels on an adjustable axis make a wheelchair easier to maneuver. Lightweight chairs that can be folded or dismantled are great if they need to be regularly transported. The average weight of modern manual wheelchairs is from 12 pounds to 45 pounds.
Manual wheelchairs are usually not as expensive as powered wheelchairs. When self-propelled they provide exercise for the user, but they can be tiring to use.

Powered. Modern powered wheelchairs consist of a seat and a power base that comprises the wheels, motors, control module, and batteries. They are available with different drives: front wheel drive, mid-wheel drive, and rear-wheel drive. Each type of drive makes the chair handle differently, so it’s best to try out the various types of chairs before committing to buying one.
Powered wheelchairs are good for outdoor use, but they are quite heavy and awkward to transport. Because they are more sophisticated in design than manual chairs, more things can go wrong. However, they are ideal for people who have very little or no upper body strength as they are so easy to operate.

What Else?
Research on how to choose a wheelchair or transport chair should also include checking the following:

  • Seat and backrest. Check the size, angle, height from the floor, and the material the seat and backrest are made from. Does the seat have seams that may be uncomfortable? Is the seat on the same level as living room chairs and the bed? Some powered wheelchairs have high-tech seating systems, allowing the seat to recline and tilt.
  • Footrests and armrests. What is their height from the floor and how are they moved out of the way?
  • Width. Can the chair go through doors and around corners in the rider’s home? Is it wide enough for the rider to sit in comfortably for hours on end?
    Get advice from a physiotherapist or doctor as to the best type of wheelchair for an elderly person, and then ask vendors for suggestions.

Difference between Wheelchairs and Transport Chairs
Whereas wheelchairs are designed to either be pushed by a caregiver or self-propelled by the rider, transport chairs are only suitable for attendant-propulsion. The rear wheels are much smaller than those on wheelchairs, making transport chairs similar to strollers.
If you’re choosing a transport chair, look for these things:

  • Lightweight. You may need to lift the chair in and out of the car, up and down stairs, and slip it round tight corners.
  • Foldable. To fit a transport chair into the trunk of a car, you have to be able to fold it up.
  • Wheels. Although the wheels on a transport chair are smaller than those on a manual wheelchair, they do come in various sizes. Larger wheels (over 7 inches in diameter) make for a smoother ride over bumpy pavements or rocky paths.

Another important advantage of getting a new wheelchair includes a warranty, up-to-date technology and design, an operating manual, and after-purchase service. Wheelchairs are expensive items so it’s necessary to know how to choose a wheelchair or transport chair so that an elderly rider can get the most out of the wheeled mobility device.

For more information, or to view our full selection of wheelchairs and transport chairs, visit Martin Avenue Pharmacy at 1247 Rickert Drive, Naperville, IL 60540