Wheelchairs Part 1

Wheelchairs Part 1.  For anyone looking for a wheelchair for the first time, the choice can be so confusing.  Lots of factors decide which way you need to go but let’s take a look this month at temporary users.  People in this category can be the elderly and infirm, convalescing or temporarily incapacitated after an accident or operation.  For these people the choice should be easy but many still choose the wrong chair, only because they have not been educated by the service provider who hasn’t asked the correct questions in order to advise them properly, or, they have gone to one of the large stores who keep wheelchairs as a sideline and know nothing about them. 

One very important question to ask yourself and this is the first one we ask our clients.  Do you do a lot of travelling in vehicles?  If the answer is yes, then the best advice is to look for an aluminium wheelchair as they are +/- 10 kgs lighter than a normal base model steel chair which weighs 25 kgs.  25kgs is a lot of weight to keep putting in and taking out of the boot or back of the car.  I know from firsthand experience of delivering these chairs & believe me, my back takes strain.

Many aluminium wheelchairs come with quick release wheels which means, at the push of a button the wheels come off so the chair is very easy to stow in the boot and it becomes feather light.  Aluminium chairs will be in the region of R4,500 but make sure you get one with quick release wheels and removable footrests as this makes life so much easier.  We’ve had clients come back to us to purchase a lightweight when they realised we were right after all, as they found they were avoiding travelling because the chair was just too heavy but they bought on price, not on need but in the end paid even more.

Chair sizes in the economy range are either 16” or 18”.   Bariatric sizing is from 22” to 26”.  Hopefully you won’t need bariatric as the 22” is the largest that will fit through any doorway and they are much more expensive.  Normally adults will need either a 16” or an 18”.   Sit in the chair and it should fit you snugly, if there is lots of room on either side the chair is too large, so choose the smaller size. The steel chairs I’ve mentioned are the same ones we supply to hospitals, nursing homes and airports.  These chairs are very durable, fold easily but, as I said, are heavy and really only suitable if limited travelling is involved.   If that is the case then a steel chair is a good choice.

They are also the most economical wheelchair you can purchase and will be in the region of R1,800 for a chair with fold back armrests and adjustable, removable footrests.  Please make sure that whoever you buy from is able to supply you with a full spares and service facility and be aware of very cheap chairs from chain stores that seem like a great buy but in fact are usually the wrong axle size, can be weakly made and in 6 months you need to replace a part but can’t get any as they are a mass import!

Temporary users usually never have to worry about pressure care as the chair is used for only part of a day, so it’s not necessary to spend a lot of money on chairs with axle & backrest adjustments unless the user is extremely tall.   Often a pressure care cushion is not even needed but this will depend entirely on the user & their risk of pressure ulcers (this is another full column on its own!).

Knowing the type to buy and what to look for is crucial in purchasing wisely.  Please feel free to email me with any queries – info@mobilitysolutions.co.za   Lorraine Petterson, Mobility Solutions.

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