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Wheelchair Buying Guide for the Holidays - Standard or Power

Posted by ROLAND REZNIK on November 13, 2015. 0 Comments

Do you know a close friend or family member that needs a new wheelchair? Since wheelchairs can be expensive, some wheelchair users are not able to replace their old one easily. The holiday season is approaching quickly and purchasing a wheelchair for a loved one is an excellent gift idea. You may not be familiar with wheelchairs or which one is best suited for your loved one - standard or power. But, this wheelchair buying guide will help you to choose the right kind to determine if you should buy a standard or a power wheelchair for this holiday season. 

Consider the Receiver

You will always want to take into consideration the type of wheelchair the receiver of the gift already uses. Do they seem comfortable? Is it meeting their needs? Or, is there a change or upgrade required? You can always choose to tell the receiver ahead of time that you would like to purchase a wheelchair as a holiday gift for them and allow them to pick it out themselves. If you would prefer to surprise them, you may want to ask casual questions such as, “What would your dream wheelchair be?” Generally they would explain and you would take notes on their specific desires and needs for a specific type of wheelchair.

Questions to Ask

There are a variety of questions that you may already know the answers to, if not, you need to seek the answers from the wheelchair user.

  • Is the wheelchair needed indoors, outdoors or both?
  • Will the wheelchair need to fit in a standard size car, SUV, bus or train?
  • Is a manual or power wheelchair needed?

The answers to these questions will help you determine which direction to go in, manual wheelchair or power wheelchair.

Standard Manual Wheelchair

Standard manual wheelchairs are ideal for indoor, outdoor and short or long term use. They generally fold easily to fit into the car, have large rear wheels and can be pushed by the wheelchair user or a companion.

The seat sizes are available in a variety of measurements. It is best to consider the size and current weight of the wheelchair user. The standard seat height is 20 to 21 inches off the ground. This height is generally best for those who are 5 feet or taller. Wheelchair users shorter than 5 feet may have a difficult time exiting the wheelchair. If this is the case you will want to choose a wheelchair with a shorter seat height.

Leg Rests

Manual wheelchairs have two types of foot rests, the elevating and swingway, both are removable. The elevating leg rest allows the user to raise their legs 90 degrees. Leg rests are often included in the price of the wheelchair.

Armrests

There are three types of armrest, all provide shoulder and arm support. The full length arm rest is 15 inches and run the length of the seat. Desk length armrests are shorter and measure 11 inches, which allows the user to get closer to tables and desks.

Seating

Manual wheelchairs come with a 1 ½ vinyl or fabric seat. If the user sits in the chair for more than 2 hours per day, you will want to invest in a seat cushion to make it more comfortable. There are a variety of seat cushions to choose from including gel, foam and contoured.

Power Wheelchairs

Power wheelchairs are a great benefit to those who are not able to independently push a standard manual wheelchair. Power wheelchairs provide improved mobility, new found independence and options to customize. Power wheelchairs have more elements to consider compared to manual wheelchairs. The details below will help you choose a suitable power wheelchair for your love one.

Wheel Drives

Front wheel drive provide exceptional turning capability and is able to move at a lower top speed than the rear wheel drive. The Mid-wheel drive has the tendency to become slightly unsteady during starting and stopping. It best used on even surfaces. It also has the best turning capability when compared to the other wheelchair drives. The most common choice is Rear-wheel drive because it allows the wheelchair to go fast. Although the speed is exceptional, it has poor turning capability when compared to the other wheel drives.

Batteries

Power wheelchairs require batteries. It is the main power source and requires regular maintenance. There are a variety power wheelchair batteries to choose from including the ones listed below.

  • Lithium-Ion Battery – This type of battery is the favorite of many power wheelchair manufacturers. The batteries provide long lasting power and can store up to six times the energy than a lead-acid battery which only stores 25 watt hours per kilogram. Lithium-Ion batteries are non-hazardous and safe.
  • AGM Battery – This no-maintenance battery is spill and leak proof, plus it’s shock resistant. The cost is generally high due to the convenience it offers the user. This type of battery has an absorbent glass mat sandwich between the plates which reduces the chances of battery damage due to vibration and jarring.
  • Gel Battery – Gel batteries require no maintenance and have a longer life cycle than wet batteries. They work well in low temperatures and are often approved for air travel.
  • Wet Battery – This type of battery requires maintenance and is the least expensive compared to all other power wheelchair batteries. The battery needs to be filled with distilled water from time to time. Wet batteries also are not approved for airline travel due to their ability to leak easily.

Armrests

The power wheelchair armrests options are the same as the manual options listed above. Armrests are essential for wheelchair users because they are used as support and rest for the arms, as well as a stable surface to push off of when exiting or shifting seating position.

Joysticks/Controllers

A power wheelchair will not move unless it has a controller or joystick. The wheelchair user directs the chair to begin and stop, as well as controls the direction and speed of travel. The Modular controller option has separate components for a wide range of elements and functions. An Integral controller is the least expensive option and has all required components in one housing.

Leg Rests

Swollen legs are something that a large amount of wheelchair users experience. Adjustable leg rests are required on every power wheelchair for comfort and maintaining good health. The leg rests can be adjusted to perfectly fit the user and can even be positioned straight outward to help reduce swelling and for other purposes. Leg rests generally come with a padded area for comfort.

Seating

Generally power wheelchair users spend plenty of their time using their chair. Comfort is essential and the seating area can cause plenty of issues and discomfort. Choose supportive and comfortable seat and back cushions that provide comfort. Seat cushions are often easy to wash and care for, but need to be replaced often due to excessive use.

Wheels

There are two options of power wheelchair wheels to choose from. Pneaumatic tires, also known as air-filled tires, are a popular choice and are known for their ability to travel smoothly on a variety of surfaces including bumpy and uneven terrain. Air-filled tires need regular maintenance and have are prone to getting punctured.

The other power wheelchair tire option is Foam filled. These tires don’t require regular maintenance and lack the risk of puncturing. They are created with polyurethane, which don’t rupture or leak air. These hassle free tires have excellent power drive ability, however the ride can be uncomfortable and bumpy on rough terrain.

This holiday season provide the gift of a wheelchair and give your loved one their freedom and independence for many years to come. Carefully choose the best type of wheelchair for their specific needs. If you are choosing a power wheelchair as a gift, consider the lightweight power wheelchair from KD Smart Chair

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