All you need to know when choosing a powerchair

August 28, 2018 11:02 am
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When it comes to choosing powered wheelchairs, there are practical considerations that factor in the decision. Choosing a powerchair will provide you with that much-needed independence and excitement for new experiences. Due to the nature of the chair, there are a number of options to choose from – all with unique features and add-ons. As such, you need to choose powered wheelchairs that will suit your needs and ensure comfort when travelling. Speaking of which, we’re sharing the practical considerations for the various types of power wheelchairs.

As mentioned above, there are hundreds of powered wheelchairs for sale, but not all will meet your requirements and offer the practical functionalities.

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Storage 

Before purchasing powered wheelchairs, you must consider storage. Mobility electric wheelchairs need to be stored in secure, dry places and, of course, with access to a power source to ensure the chair is properly charged before use. However, when storing the powered wheelchair – make sure it is not a trip hazard.

For those who are looking to store powered wheelchairs outside, we strongly advise you get a waterproof cover. You will also need to consider the use of a ramp to access the chair, as well as the power source.

Communal properties may offer better storage, but you will need to speak to your landlord or housing association. In large communal properties, it is often prohibited to leave powered wheelchairs in communal areas, as they are considered an obstruction for any fire exits.

Batteries

There are three main types of batteries for mobility electric wheelchairs: lead acid, gel cell and AGM. When testing and trialling the various types of power wheelchairs – speak to the supplier regarding the battery, and the best methods to maintain and charge. If you are purchasing a second-hand wheelchair, ensure you receive the manufacturer’s instructions. For those obtaining the powerchair through wheelchair services on the NHS, they will advise you as to how to properly maintain the powerchair batteries.

It’s likely within 12 to 18 months the powered wheelchairs batteries will need replacing – particularly for those travelling long distances. When you do need a new battery, wheelchair services and even local authorities can help advise on what is best to suit the needs of the various types of power wheelchairs.

It will depend on the distances you cover in your electric wheelchair as to how often you need to charge. The terrain you drive over in your motorised wheelchair will also impact the charge, as will the weight and age of the batteries. Overnight charging is the easiest option for those using the day, but ensure you do not run the battery all the way down.

Maintenance 

If you have an NHS powerchair, the maintenance will be covered through wheelchair services. However, for those that have opted to purchase their powered wheelchair, there are a number of things you can do to maintain your chair:

  • Always aim to keep powered wheelchairs dry
  • Keep motorised electric wheelchairs clean – especially if there is any mud or dirt on the wheels. As a general rule of thumb, avoid particularly muddy areas
  • Check the tyres regularly and ensure they are maintained at the optimal pressure
  • For those with road-worthy powerchairs, you must make sure the lights are continuously in working order
  • Aim to book your powered wheelchair in for a service every 12 months

Getting powered wheelchairs into cars

Lighter powered wheelchairs are able to fit into cars, and many folding electric wheelchairs are also brilliant for travel on public transport. If you do have a car and are looking to travel with your powerchair, we suggest looking into purchasing a ramp, hoist/lift or even wheelchair accessible vehicle.

For those who are looking for compact powerchairs, folding electric wheelchairs are your best option; also boasting removable features.

Tyres

When considering powered wheelchairs for sale, you must always look at the tyres – especially for those who will be sitting in the chair for several hours at a time. Larger wheels, generally, provide greater comfort, as they handle and manoeuvre better over bumps and outdoor terrain.

Drive

Speaking of tyres, there are various options for the wheel positioning of your motorised wheelchair. For instance, rear wheel drive powered wheelchairs are more suited to those who regularly travel outdoors. Durable, rear wheel drive powerchairs are equipped with powerful suspension, speeds and control systems, with the position of the wheel enhancing the handling on outdoor terrain. The weight-bearing wheels also provide that much-needed reassurance and security for users.

Mid wheel drive powered wheelchairs are extremely responsive and offer comfortable driving, both indoors and outdoors. The mid wheel positioning provides great stability when turning and the central wheel ensures better indoor accessibility.

Powerchair controls

Powered wheelchairs offer a huge number of control systems to suit a range of disabilities. You must speak to your supplier or wheelchair services regarding your requirements, and they will provide a powerchair suiting your needs. The various controls include:

  • A joystick mounted on the armrest is the most common powerchair control, but it does require you to have reasonable arm control, flexibility and movement. You will also need the grip and strength for the joystick, however, smaller joysticks require less grip from the users. It’s important to note the powered wheelchair joystick does not only need to be controlled by the hand, but can also be done via the chin, for instance.
  • Finger control systems are another option for those with the ability to move their hands. The powered wheelchairs are controlled via small finger movements, such as moving in the direction you wish to travel.
  • Touchpads are brilliant for those without the grip and strength to control a joystick. However, be aware that those with hand tremors will not suit a touchpad.

We suggest you speak to your supplier regarding controls and what will provide the utmost comfort for you.

Customisable features/accessories

Powered wheelchairs come with the ability to add features and accessories. For instance, elevating leg rests are ideal for those with heart conditions, such as Edema, and allow users to lift the legs above the heart. Adjustable armrests also help prevent issues with posture, particularly as you may have to slouch to rest your arms. Similar to the above, the headrest is essential for those that require high levels of support for their spine and neck.

Powered wheelchairs must, above all things, prove comfortable and supportive for daily use. A huge bonus to the various types of power wheelchairs available is the recline and tilt options. If you are regularly using the powerchair for long periods of time, you could suffer pressure sores and other problems. However, with comfortable seating and tilt in space, you will significantly reduce the risk of further complications.

Another option for those that are long-term users is the elevating seat and sit to stand mechanisms. The stand mechanism is operated by the user through the controls and involves the seat and backrest flattening to help to user to standing level.

Ultimately, there are a number of practical functions available and you must consider all options before opting for your powered wheelchair.

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This post was written by Karma Mobility

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