When the time comes to make the move to a wheelchair, there can be a number of difficulties that caretakers are faced with. There are many varieties of wheelchairs for different purposes. Finding the right chair to meet the particular needs of your loved one is a challenge that can seem overwhelming. To help ease concerns during this transition in life, here is a breakdown on a few of the most popular wheelchair options that can help you find the best fit.
Manual wheelchairs are less expensive than electric options, and come in many varieties. They require either someone to push them, or for the user to be able to move the chair themselves. If your loved one has good stamina and upper body strength, a manual chair might be a good choice to avoid some of the costs of electric counterparts. A manual chair might also work as a temporary option if your loved one only requires a chair for a short time, or as a back-up chair to an electric wheelchair.
Electric chairs are powered by a battery, and don’t require the amount of labor that a manual chair does. They tend to be bulkier and sturdier, and are more expensive. However, they are also more permanent and offer loved ones a higher range of independence as they don’t require a caregiver to push them or monitor their energy. Electric wheelchairs are great for people with disabilities as well, granting people who struggle with mobility the freedom to move around without assistance. If your loved one is moving to a chair permanently, an electric chair might be the best choice if it fits within your budget.
Rear, Mid, and Front Wheel
Electric wheelchairs have three choices for where the power drive comes from, and selecting the right one for your loved one is another thing to consider in the process of picking the correct wheelchair.
- Rear Wheel. The rear wheel drive chair is the fastest of the options, and is a great choice for people who live an active lifestyle or want to keep up with family. These chairs are often very sturdy, and are not as likely as other chairs to tip over and cause a loved one to fall. However, these chairs sacrifice maneuverability for speed.
- Mid Wheel. These chairs are made to maneuver through tight spaces and make quick turns. They are not as fast as the rear wheel drive, but are good for seniors who live in apartments or smaller living conditions. They are not the best option for a loved one who often goes outdoors, as they become unstable on uneven ground, and they are not as speedy as the rear wheel drive.
- Front Wheel. Front wheel drive chairs are the best for very tight corners and allow for the best control over difficult movement. They can offer very smooth rides both indoors and outdoors, and might be a good choice for a loved one who spends time both in and out. However, they are the slowest of the three, and depending on the placement of the power battery, can become unstable.
Portable chairs are a good choice for a loved one if they frequently travel to visit family and friends, or go to appointments and need a chair to travel with them. Portable chairs are easy to lift and load. Many models can even disassemble to fit into transportation easier. However, as an extremely lightweight chair, they are not always good for stability.
Choosing the right wheelchair can seem like a minefield, but keeping in mind the lifestyle and needs of a loved one can help caretakers narrow the field to pick a chair that best fits their circumstances. Encouraging your aging loved one to choose the style of chair and have as much input into the process as possible can help them understand the benefits of having a wheelchair, such as the benefits to health and the reduced risk of falls when in a chair. They can be invaluable during an emergency and even allow for more independence if a lack of mobility is slowing your loved one down. As a caretaker, the most important thing is ensuring the wellbeing and confidence of your loved one, and picking the right chair will help in both efforts.