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Wheelchairs: Choosing the best
Easy mobility is very vital to people living with a disability. They must choose their wheelchairs carefully and circumspectly. Their wheelchair is their dignity of some sorts and it also enables them to be less dependent on others. This article will assist you in the course of wheelchair selection.
This option is good for those who need a wheelchair more often than not, to move around. The design of this wheelchair requires the use of physical strength. A lot of it, particularly with the arms which are used for self-propulsion. This wheelchair has large back wheels with an outer rim for pushing and controlling the chair. It is suitable for people who can walk with the aid of a walking stick or a frame for short distances that may be in the house but require a wheelchair when going out of the house. If the user is unable to cope with self-propulsion, an attendant propelled wheelchair should be a perfect alternative. This chair has push handles behind in which case the user has to get to someone to assist in pushing. Most self-propelled chairs now come with push handles too should the user require assistance in pushing at any time. These wheels make the chair bulkier, which may be less easy to pack into the boot of a car. For this reason, in choosing a self-propelled chair, look for one with quick-release wheels, now readily available. Attendant-propelled wheelchairs have smaller back wheels, so they are often lighter and easier to transport.
Electric or powered wheelchairs
Power/electric-assisted wheelchairs are the best for users who don’t want to propel themselves physically or don’t have the stamina to do so and don’t want an attendant for assistance. They are three (3) categories of powered wheelchairs:
Outdoor: most suitable for outdoor movements with its larger wheels and suspension designed for moving on uneven terrain. It can be used indoors but a house with a lot of space and exceptionally wide doors.
Indoor portable: Easy to fold and transport wheelchair. Fitted to move in the home with the best performance on smooth floors.
Indoor/outdoor: This category is more like a balance of features between outdoor and indoor portable wheelchair. It is not too bulky and heavy neither too light nor small. Class 2 powered chairs can be used for pavements while Class 3 chairs are suited for both pavements and roads. Overall, they are a lot heavier than manual wheelchairs because their frame has to be stronger to support the battery and motors. Bear this in mind when considering portability.
The drive controls on an electric wheelchair are more often than not, a joystick arrangement mounted on one of the armrests. In case the controls are too quick or too slow to respond, it can be adjusted to suit your preference. No need to worry about it.
Batteries and ‘Parking’
The wheelchair should be parked or kept next to a socket so the batteries can be charged through the night. Some larger outdoor-type wheelchairs may need to be kept outside the home – in a garage, for example.
For wheelchairs that will be used in houses having steps leading up to it and small ground-level changes inside. You have stepped up to your house or small changes of level inside, portable ramps are essential. They come in various materials, widths, and lengths, depending on your requirements.
Maintaining your wheelchair whether at home or in the hospital is easy if the user has the required information on how to keep your chair in excellence. Highlighted below, are some maintenance tips that would help the user.
Manual Wheelchair maintenance tips
- Store the user’s manual safely. You’ll need it for future reference.
- Use car wax on the chair frame to make cleaning easier. Keep tools in a container attached to the chair in case of emergency maintenance.
- Learn how to change your tires.
- Buy a tire “patch” kit and carry it about with you.
- Buy a hand-pump to inflate tires. Carry it always with you.
- Cleaning should be done with a damp cloth.
- Lift footplates before getting in or out of the chair.
- Keep thigh cover and loose objects away from the wheel spokes.
- Always lock the brakes before getting in and out of the wheelchair. It is a safe practice.
- Inspect wheels. Spokes from the axle to the rim must be intact, and not bent.
- Inspect front casters for wobbling, excessive play, and alignment.
- Clear axle housings of any debris.
- Check tire pressure.
- Ensure wheel locks/brakes are secured tightly to the frame and are easily activated.
- After each extensive cleaning, use a car wax on the frame to make the next cleaning easier.
- Check for loose nuts and bolts.
- Ensure the integrity of your wheel alignment.
- Check for easy release and if there be a need for replacement of removable leg rests, footrests, armrests, and backrests.
- Inspect chair frame for cracks.
- Ensure that quick-release axles remove quickly.
- Check the folding function of the chair. Ensure that it opens and folds easily. Lubricate folding mechanism where necessary.
- Lubricate all pivot points.
- Lubricate ball-bearings.
Tips for Maintaining an Electric (Power) Wheelchair
- Always turn the wheelchair OFF before getting in or out of it.
- NEVER allow your batteries to run down totally. Always charge your batteries and if they have difficulty sustaining a charge, service your chair or change batteries as soon as possible.
- Clean seat and frame with a dry or slightly damp, soft cloth: minimize dust and grime.
- DO NOT allow moisture and spills of any kind to come in contact with electric parts. Clean them up IMMEDIATELY. If fluids come in contact with the electrical parts significantly, the use of a wheelchair should be discontinued immediately. Contact a qualified technician immediately.
- Keep protective plastic covers (“shrouds”) in place: Shrouds give a boost to the aesthetics of your chair while protecting your electronics and electrical components from exposure to moisture or fluid spills. If the shroud becomes damaged it should be replaced.
- Inspect upholstery covering for rips and get them replaced where necessary.
- Check for effects of fluid exposure e.g. Corrosion.
- Replace any damaged electrical component due to corrosion IMMEDIATELY
- The wheels should be checked for cracks and wear and should be replaced where necessary.
- Inspect seat-positioning strap for any signs of wear.
- Confirm buckle latches and hardware that attach strap to frame is secure and undamaged. Strap must be free from tears or fraying. Replace if necessary. Inspect electrical components for apparent signs of corrosion. Replace if corroded or damaged.
FAQs about Wheel Chairs
What are the available sizes?
There are several sizes of wheelchairs for kids of all ages and adults alike. There is a variety to choose from but consider weight capacity and maneuverability when choosing for purchase.
What are the different types of manual wheelchairs?
There are several types of manual wheelchairs to give users options to choose from. Chairs with large back wheels, equipped with a tube patterned ring, allow users to maneuver their wheelchairs without assistance. Also, there is the type of Manual wheelchair designed to be pushed by a second person. This type is lighter in weight, with push handles behind and made to be user-friendly.
What should I look for when considering portability?
Look for wheelchairs with detachable parts. Look out for wheelchairs with light frames. A good number of wheelchairs feature lightweight frames with the ability to fold easily for placement in the trunk or backseat of a car. Larger rear-wheel-propelled chairs can also be folded for storage, but are weightier than other designs and may be difficult to load into a vehicle. Some manual wheelchairs have removable armrests and wheels, allowing them to fit into small spaces. Assess your portability needs or requirements when comparing manual wheelchairs.
What important safety features should I consider?
There are key safety features every manual wheelchair should have which include brake locks for the rear wheels and retractable leg and footrests. Brake locks keep the wheelchair stationary when required, while the retractable leg and footrests keep the user comfortable and safe. Some models feature a seat belt or a seat harness for individuals with specific support needs. Also featured are seat cushions made from gel or weight-absorbing material which may reduce the development of sores and enhance comfort.
Hopefully, this article has equipped you with relevant knowledge to facilitate your choice of a suitable wheelchair and maintenance of the same.