Saturday, April 7, 2012

How to find the Right Wheelchair

The good wheelchairs cost more than some automobiles, but competition has brought down the cost of basic manual models. It's an intensely personal choice, with many features to think about. Instructions
  1. Seek a physical therapist or nurse's advice on special features that would enhance your quality of life. 
  2. Check your insurance coverage. Medicare covers electric wheelchairs nowadays, but don't assume any insurer does. Factor in what you can spend out of your own pocket and decide what your budget is. Keep in mind that popular powered models go from $5,000 to nearly $30,000.
  3. Determine how you will control a motorized chair. For example, if you have C-7 tetraplegia, you may use a joystick as the input device, but the top of the joystick may need to be modified to accommodate for your lack of grip. 
  4. Decide what kind of back height and support you require. Criteria include head control, trunk control, upper extremity function and propulsion, as well as personal preference. Therapists generally recommend that people with little or no upper body strength need a chair that tilts back 45 degrees to avoid bedsores. A range of cushion options are available such as visco-elastic memory foam which provides unparalleled relief from seat pressure as well as great back support. Air cushions are equally effective for other people. Take a test drive before you decide. 
  5. Research different foot and leg supports, as well as armrests and attachments such as trays. The style you want or need might determine the specific wheelchair frame that you will order. For instance, a fixed tapered front-end cannot be ordered on a lightweight wheelchair frame. 
  6. Obtain measurements of potential environment obstacles, such as doorframes, hallways, and desk clearance, and compare these to the chair's overall width, overall length, turning radius and seat height from the floor. There's nothing worse than buying a new chair and finding out the hard way that it can't make the tight turn into your bedroom. 
  7. Compare weights. Manual chairs range from 4 to 30 lbs. (1.8 to 13.6 kg), so the strength of the wheelchair wrangler--be it you or an aide--is a big consideration. Motorized chairs can top out at 250 lbs. 
  8.  If you'll only need help getting around or are fatigued easily, give a scooter, or personal mobility vehicle, a test-drive. Three- and four-wheel models are available depending on mobility requirements and terrain. * 11 Look into a custom-made chair. Some models have a dozen different seat widths and even more colors.