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How Do I Choose the Best Electric Wheelchair?

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  • Written By: Sandra Koehler
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 March 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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When choosing an electric wheelchair, also known as a power chair, many factors come into play, the most important ones being the reasons for use and the physical capabilities of the user. Other factors include the usage time and environment. It is best to consult with a qualified physical or occupational therapist and a professional wheelchair specialist when choosing an electric wheelchair.

Electric wheelchairs vary from lightweight versions to indoor and/or outdoor use. Some can even be modified for special activities such as sports and beach usage. Most often, a power chair is needed when physical capabilities are insufficient to push a manual style wheelchair.

Electric wheelchairs make use of a battery and motor setup and are controlled using a joystick. Modifications can make it possible for a person with limited upper extremity use or total lack of upper body mobility to maneuver a power chair through head controls or the sip-and-puff, a way to control the wheelchair using air pressure.

Electric wheelchairs vary from travel and folding to heavy duty. Scooters, often seen being used by the elderly population, are cumbersome, but have a good turning radius and are very easy to control. Other variations can include different suspensions, drive systems and wheels.

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The most important features of the electric wheelchair are safety and comfort. Every wheelchair should have, at minimum, a sturdy frame, a lap belt and good brakes. Comfortable, proper body positioning should be maintained. For instance, the hips and knees should be positioned at a ninety degree angle or as close as physically possible, and the entire body should be supported. Body weight should be distributed evenly to avoid pressure sores. For prolonged use of an electric wheelchair, reclining or tilting backs may assist to shift body weight to avoid pressure buildup. A special seating system may also be necessary.

Proper support of the legs is also a necessity. Positioning legs too low may cause pressure and nerve damage to the back of the knee. Legs that are too high can cause unstability and swaying of the legs. Elevating leg rests are a good option if circulation of the legs and feet is diminished.

An electric wheelchair can cost anywhere between $3500 US Dollars (USD) to $12,000 USD, and choosing the best option can be a daunting task. Always make sure the wheelchair company is a licensed supplier and reputable manufacturer. It is better to consult with professionals to ensure proper fitting and appropriate features to allow for maximum mobility.

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Discuss this Article

indemnifyme
Post 2

@JaneAir - You're right, safety is important. However, I think it's extra important to get an electric wheelchair the user can actually operate!

As the article pointed out, people who use electric wheelchairs have a varying range of mobility. Some can walk a little bit, while others are partially paralyzed. Obviously a person who is paralyzed will need a different kind of electric wheelchair than a person with some mobility.

Anyway, I had no idea that there were electric wheelchairs that could be operated by head movement. I think this is really cool and of course makes total sense! Obviously someone who can't move their arms would need another way to operate an electric wheelchair.

JaneAir
Post 1

Electric wheelchairs are expensive, but I think this is one time when it's better not to be cheap! After all, if something goes wrong with a power electric wheelchair, the person using it could be seriously injured (and could also probably win a lot of money in a lawsuit, but it's always better to be safe).

Also, I feel like a wheelchair that costs a bit more will probably have more comfort features too. Most older people who use these sit in them for extended periods of time. So I think it's really important to get an electric wheelchair that can be adjusted so their weight is distributed evenly and comfortably.

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