Help me buy a wheelchair

Please help me shop for a wheelchair. I’ve poked around on the Intrawebs, but most of the information about models and options I’ve found seems to be based on the assumption the buyer knows what she/he wants in a chair.

So, how does one figure out what kind of wheelchair one needs? I don’t know which of the following details will help with deciding which model to buy, but here goes:

The user wants to propel the chair by hand, that is, rolling the wheels using the circular bar attached to the wheels. If the user self-propels the chair, then the “attendant’s handles” (is that what they’re called?) for pushing/steering can be omitted. Yes?
The user has good balance and doesn’t want high arm-rests. Low-profile ones are preferred.
The user wants to be able to prop up one leg and support it on a “calf rest” (not a footrest).
The user wants to be sit low enough to the ground to be able to put one foot flat on the floor, when desired. How does one measure a chair (the user?) for this?
The user is not overweight.
The user is not necessarily looking for a “sport” wheelchair, but will definitely consider one if that’s the best fit. But do sport chairs come with foot/leg rests?
The user wants a chair that can be folded, so it can fit in a car trunk.
Is an adjustable back rest/support available on styles other than the fully reclinable models? Is it advisable to have one?
From having tried (cheap) rented chairs, the sling-style seats do not provide the user with enough support, resulting in a back ache after use. What kind of seat gives proper support?
Some sort of under-seat tote/storage would be very useful. Is that available?
Is a seat belt advisable for any chair user, or just ones with muscle weakness/balance problems?
What other factors need to be considered when shopping for a wheelchair?

Thanks in advance!

Can the user find a physical therapist to help? That’s who ordered wheelchairs for our patients when I worked with people with spinal cord injuries. Wheelchairs are so specialized and so expensive it seems a shame to do it without professional help.

Believe it or not, wheelchairs have to be ‘fitted’ by a professional. Things you wouldn’t think of aside from the height are actually measured - like the depth of the seat, width and height of the handrails, etc. Do NOT omit the back handles. They are needed in various situations, not least of which is moving the empty chair around as needed when storing it or whatever. Many durable medical equipment providers will come to someone’s house to do the fitting and help order the right chair. The wrong chair can actually cause physical problems such as decubitis ulcers, aggravate knee problems, etc.

Many places that deal in second had medical equipment, for home use, (hospital beds, air mattresses, tray tables, lifts, etc), do not deal in wheel chairs. I was surprised by this when I came upon it, I mean, they literally have every other thing you could need.

It was explained to me that these days, wheelchairs are so specific to the injury, that anyone ‘getting by’ with something, almost suitable, they got second hand, is very likely to cause the patient additional injury. They want no part of that, and do not want to encourage people to pursue this avenue so strongly they don’t carry any at all. Nor did any of the other places in town.

Doesn’t the Dr, PT and OT determine what’s needed for the patient? That’s how it’s done where I live, anyway.

How do you expect to use Para Transit, or get any help with loading the chair/patient if it has no handles?

What is your relation to the user of this chair? What is their injury? These things would all help us answer your question.

That did not occur to me. Thanks!

No Dr/PT/OT involved here. See explanation under “injury”.

Not a problem; user has own vehicle.

Not a problem; user is ambulatory.

Good question. Would this still be a problem given own vehicle and ambulatory?

Procrastinating relative without insurance and no clue how to shop for these things.

Patient developed osteoarthitis secondary to a joint injury. Surgery was recommended to decrease pain, but the procedure has only a ~50% chance of reducing pain while definitely decreasing bone mass in the joint, thus probably necessitating more surgery in the future. (Reconstructive surgery/artifical joints not available for this condition.)
Patient is ambulatory and active, but limited in duration of activity due to pain after walking/standing more than 4 hours on hard surfaces.
Patient wishes to increase mobility and activity by having a wheelchair available when patient knows he/she will be engaging in an activity requiring standing or walking for a long time, especially on hard surfaces. (E.g., attending fairs, watching a parade, waiting in line for tickets for a very popular event.)
Patient has no interest in acquiring right to park in handicapped spots, and only wants to be able to take the stress off the joint while still being (somewhat) mobile.

Thanks for the info! Please tell me more!

Consult a Dr or PT or OT.

The wrong wheel chair will only exacerbate the issues, not ease them. And these issues, they have now, will only progress. Why not invest your money in something that will also have use, when the surgery is needed, the recovery, further decline arrives?

Chairs aren’t cheap, get one now that will meet your future needs too.

Seriously, consult someone who can actually help you make a wise choice.

(They may have their own vehicle now, and not require paratransit. But the future may be otherwise, including recovering from surgery, and any future decline. There is a reason virtually all chairs have push handles, think about it!)

Advice noted and will be relayed to patient.

Good advice. Just as a BTW, the patient isn’t looking to buy the cheapest chair, just needs to know what’s out there that will help him/her maintain mobility when the joint needs to be rested. The patient has tried cheap rental chairs in the past, and this has been a mostly effective solution. The patient believes the cost of purchasing a chair will be less than renting one (even a cheapie) on a frequent basis, so now wants to invest in one of his/her own.

This is what the patient is hoping to forestall. Wants to minimize wear and tear on the joint without having to give up participating in many activities. (Orthopedic surgeon recommended surgery, and while waiting for surgery, strongly advised patient to not put weight on the affected joint, and to limit walking/standing to a few hours a day, including walking around the house, doing routine things, never mind attending an event where seating is very limited, or not provided.)

Rolling around in a chair will rest the joint after the patient reaches his/her limit. Crutches are an option, but require holding the leg off the ground, which can be tiring, and prevents the hands from being able to hold drinks, sports programs, museum catalogs, field glasses, checkbook and pen, protest signs :eek:, etc. The patient could buy a small folding stool to rest on, but then he/she would be immobile from that point on. This would prohibit him/her from going to museums, art galleries or zoos, where attendees are expected to move from exhibit to exhibit.

But, your point about consulting an OT or PT is well taken, as they work more closely with wheelchair users than most GPs or orthopedic specialists.

Thanks, and regards!

I can appreciate that. But it doesn’t change the immutable laws of the universe. All our futures hold decline. The future is coming, be ready.

Go here and ask, http://sci.rutgers.edu/index.php? you’ll find answers to questions you haven’t even thought of yet, and happy motoring.

Hey thanks, a bunch! I think that forum will be right up the patient’s alley, especially this thread. :smiley:

Don’t forget the rocket launchers.

Where’s Jamie McGarry?

I don’t know whether things are different down there than up here, but the salesman had a **LONG **talk with me about what I wanted when I got my wheelchair. I was in fact obligated to have an OT involved in authorizing the purchase due to rules about funding, but it was the salesman that did all the measuring and discussing; the OT just added his signature on the appropriate forms and wasn’t really involved in decision making.

If the person in question does not have a PT/OT/MD, at the very least have them discuss with the salesman what they need and want (need and want may be two very different categories, given how much good wheelchairs cost). If the salesman doesn’t seem to be doing **lots **of discussing and measuring I’d be very leery of that salesman.

Seriously, you WANT the handles (I don’t think they would make a chair without them, anyhow). I can’t imagine trying to push/stow/move an unused chair out of the way without them. They are also necessary to help steady the chair safely when someone is transferring into or out of it, no matter how ambulatory they actually are. (Non-motorized wheelchairs, even with the brakes on, do not weigh enough to stay completely in place when someone gets into and out of them. This is a device that’s meant to be light enough to roll. And it will unless someone is holding it secure.) Also, the owner of the wheelchair can use the chair from behind as a walking assist device using the handles if needed - similar to a walker. Those handles are there for a variety of very good reasons that aren’t all immediately obvious.

All foldable wheelchairs are sling-seat. That’s the main design feature that allows them to fold. You deal with that with specialized removable cushions, depending on the medical needs of the person using the chair. Wheelchairs are not meant to be used for any length of time without one.

The idea of talking to a medical expert, such as a PT, about what wheelchair features the user would find most safe and helpful, how they intend to use the device, and the possible effect on their medical condition is a good one. Sometimes, what seems like a good idea for a particular health condition is actually not such a good idea after all.

I don’t get anyone to hold my wheelchair when I get in and out of it, and I don’t think I am at all unusual among regular wheelchair users. However, you are right that a novice (particularly if they are not otherwise in reasonably good shape) would need a hand at least the first few times. By the way, they do make wheelchairs that don’t have convenient handles to grab on to, but you’re right in the sense that those would be much sportier than the OP is likely interested in.

I’m curious. The OP says that they want a folding chair to fit in a car, but not the kind with the sling-style seats. What other sorts of folding chairs are there, that don’t have the sling-style seats?

Nope. JATO!!!

I was so tempted to ask, but chickened out.:smiley:

Patient consulted GP, then orthopedist, then orthopedic surgeon. Surgeon advises surgical intervention, but patient wants to put that off for as long as possible (for reasons I’m not going to get into here, so please be understanding).

I see your point, truly, it’s just that a walker won’t work for getting the weight/stress off the joint. Also, using a walker will occupy the hands, which prevents holding things, as mentioned upthread.

Patient would definitely consider a sport-type chair, if it’s the best solution for the problem.

Thanks for pointing that out. I had figured as much, but my our ignorance of the subject caused some confusion, which is why I’m asking for info/advice.

Agreed, which is why I’m trying to research this option.

Don’t know. That’s what we need to learn. Flip-ups? Removable and stowable? We just don’t know. :frowning:

Thanks for the ideas, suggestions and advice. Please keep them coming!

Missed the Edit window. It had not occurred to us to consult a PT/OT, and the patient will definitely look into that.

It’s not an outrage thread, just someone asking for help. shrug

Yes, this is completely untrue (that manual chairs must be held onto when being transferred into). I never have anyone holding onto my chair.

And actually, I have no handles on my chair. They get in the way of getting my chair in my car. That and they serve no purpose for me. Nobody needs them (I do all the grabbing of the chair) and they only serve to get in the way for things that I need to do with my chair.