What to consider when purchasing a wheelchair.
Who is going to operate the wheelchair?
The most basic thought process when buying wheelchairs is whether the patient (Self Propelled) or carer (Attendant Propelled) is going to propel the wheelchair. Self Propelled wheelchairs have larger rear wheels with rims to allow the patient to manoeuvre with ease and are not as lightweight or portable as its kin although represent a better option on rougher terrain.
An Attendant Propelled wheelchair is totally in the hands of the carer and often used for short outings to the shops or the doctor and are also known as transit wheelchairs, and have better manoeuvrability. Some also have hand breaks to assist the carer in stopping. Some wheelchairs are built for the larger person in mind, however due to the increased weight capacity, these are often heavier and less portable.
Weight and weight capacity
As wheelchairs vary greatly in weight, why wouldn't we opt for the lightest one! As design and materials progress in the background, the range of lightweight wheelchairs increases dramatically. Anyone who can manage a small suitcase can swing one of these into the back of a car. Most fold down to a great storage position also making it a breeze for transport.
The heavier the person the larger they become. If you have a broken leg/ankle and you need to elevate, then there are 'elevating leg rests' however you will require more room to manoeuvre. Be sure to check the manufacturers weight capacity when buying wheelchairs to suit and this can range anywhere between 100kg to 450kg.
When sitting in a wheelchair, the patient should have a degree of space between the hips and armrests and should be easy for ingress and egress. Any narrower could cause friction with subsequent skin deterioration and discomfort and are should be regarded as important when buying wheelchairs.
If you are going to be sitting in the wheelchair for long periods, then a seat with enhanced stability, padding and high enough back rest would be best. Over and above that, you can add a foam, gel or air cushion to provide further comfort and eliminate the possibility of 'sores'.
A quality wheelchair will have adjustable foot rests and should be set to have your thighs and upper body at 90 degrees. Some seats are adjustable in width and depth. Most wheelchairs today also have removable or swing away footrest which makes the chair lighter and easier for access for the patient.
Most people would not be aware that armrests can be: Fixed – can not be moved; Adjustable – height adjustable; Removable – completely; Flip Back – moved out of the way. These options are essential to consider if sitting at table, transfer sideways to a bed or chair or transferring with a hoist and sling.
Look to see if the wheelchair comes with accessories or if they can be fitted. For example an Intravenous Drip Pole or Oxygen Bottle Holder. So when buying wheelchairs, these options may assist in your level of comfort.