The hurdle of using a wheelchair is a big step emotionally, but when the obstacles can (and sometimes must) be overcome, wheelchairs can help to maintain or bring back a portion of independence.
Our local classifieds are full of listings for wheelchairs that read “never used” or “rarely used” or “brand new”. They reinforce my belief that equipment companies and insurance companies work together but often leave the patient’s needs out of the process. As a consumer and an insurance beneficiary, you must be aware of what is being ordered to end up with what you want.
What I didn’t know 5 years ago:
There are many options for footplates and footrests, armrests, seating and headrests, but there are two main options.
a. Regular – Has bigger back wheels that can be moved by the user if hand and arm strength are sufficient. Folds up, is heavier to move than a transport chair.
b. Transport Chair – Lighter (all small wheels). Good for traveling because they are lighter and smaller. Someone must push the chair for you.
2. Electric – These have batteries that use a charger to run on electricity. There are many different brands, models and options. What you will use the wheelchair for will determine wheel placement. Research the three wheel positions and make the best choice for you. Although there are many other ones, here’s a good link to help with that: http://www.spinlife.com/spintips/details/k/Drive%20Wheel%20Differences%20on%20Electric%20Wheelchairs/a/249/c/3
If you are in need of a wheelchair and have no insurance coverage, you can have your pick of those left behind in the wake of well-wishing people who hoped for better mobility. Be aware of the following:
– Most have been sitting unused for years leaving batteries to die after not recharging themselves from use, so expensive batteries may need to be replaced. It’s possible that just the battery cells inside can be replaced, which would be less expensive. It would be to your benefit to research the cost of batteries before buying a used wheelchair.
– For comfort, it’s important to find a chair that was made for someone of similar stature.
– Which is your dominant hand – is the chair set up to capitalize on your strongest side?
– Test drive before buying.
– Ask for a manual or for serial number and look it up online.
– Check reviews on product advertisements and on special wheelchair review websites.
– Do an internet search for “how to buy a used wheelchair”.
For new owners and seasoned owners, what advice do you have?