Last month we looked at the basic wheelchair for temporary users and sizing of all wheelchairs.
This month, it’s all about permanent users and the important of choosing the right chair wisely.
First, you need to ask questions and some examples of these are: Do I need a rigid frame or a folding frame? Am I going to put this chair in a vehicle on my own or is someone else going to do it for me? Do I intend using this chair for sporting activities as well as daily use? OR, what kind of electric chair do I need? Will I require one of the specialist tilt in space and recline or will a normal power chair suit my needs?
There are a host of other things to look at as well, depending on your own personal requirements but we will go into the basics only in this article.
Paraplegics, in most cases, require a rigid frame, lightweight chair as many are fully independent and are able to transport their own wheelchairs as long as they are light enough.
Rigid or fixed frame are always neater than folding frame. Weights vary enormously, from light to super light. A rigid frame is normally the choice of a para as in most cases they have good upper body strength and these kind of chairs quickly become their ‘legs’. These chairs are available in many ranges and can be custom built to exact measurements of the user but these are very expensive as they are manufactured overseas. On saying that, there are a number of local & imported chairs that are often just as good as these expensive makes and are available at a fraction of the price. Granted, they may not have the same specifications as the top of the range but when budget dictates, the lower priced chairs can be just as comfortable and durable.
I personally have a favourite ‘para’ chair that has loads of adjustments, from axle, to seat, footrest and armrest that sells at a very reasonable price, has the ‘bling’ of the expensive chairs and is highly durable. At the end of the day, it boils down to personal taste and budget as to what chair is preferred.
Folding frame chairs, as explained last month, range from steel through to super lightweight and again, like the rigid frames, they are available in a huge range of styles, price and adjustability to suit everyone. These are used more for people with neurological diseases and some low level quadriplegics (or, they can be used by anyone with the addition of specially adapted push assist wheels, such as “E-motion” which, with a simple push of a button, gives enough power for the user to push themselves) These are truly incredible but very expensive and out of the range of most normal budgets.
Then we move on to bariatric wheelchairs which are sized from 22″ through to 26″ but remember, 22″ is the largest that will fit through doorways so if you are very big, you need to take this into account for the home as then adaptations will be needed.
Another chair used by the airport companies and some hospitals is called the Porter chair and this means that the brakes are on the push handle/s instead of the wheels to give the pusher the responsibility of braking. Normally these chairs come with smaller back wheels.
These range from the basic model electric chairs that have a joystick control on one side, through to the specialised chairs that can accommodate severe injury or neurological diseases, many with chin control, tilt in space, recline and power adjust seat plus stand ups and 4 x 4’s. All electric chairs give a level of independence to those who otherwise would have to rely on a carer to push them.
Models range from basic models, through to luxurious comfort and again, it all depends on what you can afford and personal preference. These chairs are not made for every day folding, they are bulky and extremely heavy and can be folded but usually only when making a long trip as they are heavy to transport.
These include – Positioners; Recliners; Tilt in Space; Stand Up & 4 x 4’s.
Specialist chairs can be an absolute godsend to many users. A manual positioning chair is normally used for children but we do have a range of positioners that suit adults as well. Manual positioners provide for tilt in space and recline and this alone will assist in pressure care. A positioner is used mainly for users who require positive postural control changes.
Electric tilt in space & recline chairs are used by older children and adults with poor posture control and those at high risk of pressure sores. Top of the range models often have power seating adjustments as well as elevating leg rests, with the option of chin control.
Then we have the amazing and highly effective stand up chair, both electric stand and manual push and full electric stand and push (that was a column on its own a few months ago). These chairs have huge, ongoing benefits to the user, aside from allowing for a stand up position.
Top of the range and used by a very small percentage of people in SA is the 4 x 4 wheelchair that enables the user to go places no ordinary wheelchair can visit, such as hilly regions.
Lastly, we have specialised Sports chairs and these cover wheelchair rugby to tennis and many other sports such as cycling. What better way to get and stay fit than playing your favourite sport? It’s inspiring to see these sportsmen and women playing and the levels of fitness and endurance are amazing. If you’re not into high intensity sport and just want recreational sport, there is no better than looking to hand cycling. This is a growing sport in SA and one that we at Mobility Solutions participate actively in and travel around the country assisting hand cyclists in the many cycle events throughout the year. Hand cycles are an affordable way of keeping fit and one that can be highly recommended.