1. Health


Tips on Selecting the Right One


Updated October 30, 2011


Powerchairs are an alternative to manual wheelchairs.

Powerchairs are an alternative to a manual wheelchair. A manual wheelchair is difficult for many disabled individuals to use due to a lack of upper body strength, joint disease or simply because they tire easily. A powerchair gives users added mobility and independence. In addition, they are small enough to be used indoors and powerful enough to be used outdoors as well. If you’ve been pondering purchasing a power chair for yourself or someone you care for, the following tips on selecting the right one can help you decide on the most comfortable model.

  1. Choose a powerchair that has the most comfortable seat available. After all, you’ll be spending a lot of time sitting in it. There are several basic seat options: a typical seat like a manual wheelchair, a captain’s style chair without head rest and a high-back chair with head rest. There are also models available with an extra-wide seat for added comfort. Check for models that have adjustable arm rests as well.

  2. Look for an adjustable foot rest. For your comfort, you will want a foot rest that is easily adjustable so that anyone can move the foot rest into a comfortable position as the day progresses. Some powerchair models come with extra wide foot rests for added comfort.

  3. If you’re in the market for a high-back chair, look for a model with an adjustable headrest. This is of special importance for individuals who are small in stature as a standard, unmovable headrest can become very uncomfortable after sitting in the chair for an extended period of time. Look for a headrest that can move up and down as well as tilt to various angles.

  4. Choose an easy to move joystick with a long warranty. The joystick is one of the most important parts of the powerchair, but it needs to be easy to move for the user. When possible, test drive one at a store location to see how the joystick handles. Some users with impaired hand mobility or joint disease may have difficulty with some models of joysticks. In addition, look for models with the longest warranty on electronics as the joystick is used repeatedly during the course of a day.

  5. Choose a model that has easy to access batteries. Many new models have easy to access batteries at the rear of the chair, and most chairs use 2 batteries. Older model chairs may have batteries that are difficult to access and can cause removal problems for users with joint disease or lack strength in their hands.

  6. Look for a model that has a range that accommodates the more active user. The range refers to how far a power chair can go before it needs to be recharged. Many new models can go approximately 12 miles, depending upon terrain, before they need to be recharged. If the user needs to travel more than that per day, consider mobility scooters .

  7. Choose a model that offers a variety of add-on accessories. Depending upon the manufacturer, there are often a variety of accessories that can enhance the usability of a powerchair. Accessories can include backpacks, oxygen carriers, cane or walker holders, saddlebags and more. Be aware that adding some accessories can affect the width of the power chair, which may cause problems getting through smaller doorways.

Purchasing a Powerchair

There are several options when it comes to buying a powerchair for yourself or someone you are caring for. The first option is buying one outright. Most businesses offer great deals both in-store and through online stores. The second option is financing one and making monthly payments. Each manufacturer or local store has different credit criteria. Financing the purchase usually requires the buyer to submit a credit application, which is subject to approval. The last option is to use Medicare or other insurance to pay for it. Medicare usually pays 80 percent of the price, while the other 20 percent can be paid either by additional insurance, credit card, check or cash.

If you would like to have Medicare or other insurance pay for it, a doctor’s recommendation is required. A primary care physician or specialist will have to recommend in writing that the chair is necessary for the user’s mobility. The paperwork required from the physician for insurance coverage is provided by most businesses selling mobility chairs and scooters.

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