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How to choose a power wheelchair

Power chairs (also known as electric wheelchairs or EPWs) are a great option for anyone with limited mobility, or individuals with disabilities or long-term illness.

They can offer significantly increased independence thanks to their electric motor and easy to use navigation controls. In this blog we’ll explain:

–       What a power wheelchair does, and how it could benefit you

–       Things to look for when choosing a provider or mobility shop

–       How to pick a power chair that suits your needs

Power chairs offer a great way to get about for anyone with mobility issues or disabilities. Her we share tips to help you decide whether a powerchair is right for you, and how to choose a model that best suits your needs.

What is a powerchair?

Power chairs are a type of wheelchair incorporating an electric motor or battery for ease of use. They also feature a highly manoeuvrable ‘joystick’ for easy operation. They are offer a valuable alternative to manual wheelchairs and can be used both outdoors and throughout the home.

As they require minimal mobility and effort to steer and operate, they are well suited to individuals with limited use of the hands and arms.

What’s the difference between power chairs and mobility scooters?

Mobility scooters and power chairs are very similar – so it’s easy to get mixed up between the two.

Mobility scooters

–       Are designed differently to power chairs – they look like scooters and have two or three wheels.

–       Can be customised to suit your needs and preferences

–       Feature a swivel seat and handlebars

–       Require stability, balance and strength to operate.

–       Are not easily foldable or portable

–       Can be used outdoors but are generally not suitable for indoor use

–       Are powered by rechargeable batteries

–       Are easy to assemble and use

–       Are quite nippy and speedy compared with other wheelchair types

–       Are heavier compared with other wheelchair types

–       Not suitable for travel

–       Can be expensive compared with other types of wheelchair

–       Are better suited to those with limited mobility and the capacity to walk a few steps

Power chairspower wheelchair

–       Have a variety of seating options available

–       Are stable and secure – suitable for individuals with poor balance and very low mobility

–       Can be used to travel for long distances

–       Flexible and foldable – can be easily fitted into the boot of a large car or adapted vehicle

–       Have different modifications available including a variety of battery choices, wheels and more

–       Can handle rough terrain

–       Can be used outdoors and indoors

–       Handles with just the touch of a button

–        Have a tight turning radius, allowing you to take narrow corners easily

–       Lightweight models are available

As you can see above, mobility scooters are like a lower specification version of electric wheelchairs or power chairs.

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What types of people are power chairs best suited to?

Power chairs are best suited to individuals with significant mobility issues, severe disabilities or debilitating illness. They are best for if you need to be able to get around the house without assistance.

Here is a good video sharing 7 tips on travel with a power chair.

Things to look for when shopping for a power wheelchair

When shopping for a power wheelchair there are a few things you should look for. With so many mobility providers to choose from it can be difficult to know which company to go with. Things to look out for when shopping include:

–       Reputation and reviews: Unfortunately there is a lot of money to be made in the mobility industry – which means there are some unscrupulous companies out there. Your safety is a priority – so you want to make sure that your provider is selling genuine products that have been properly checked and sourced from reputable suppliers.

The best way to determine this is to look for impartial reviews and testimonials – you can usually find these online. You could also ask family and friends for advice – it’s best to go for companies you have a word of mouth recommendation for from someone who has previous experience with them.

–       Price: Price is naturally important – and if you have a set budget it’s not productive to go and search in places that don’t cater to what you can afford. Prices are generally cheaper online – but it is best to go and look at the wheelchairs in person to get a real feel for them and sit on them. If you find a selection of models you like online make a note and head down to a mobility shop in person to take a proper look before making your decision.

–       Range of products: Choice is important – and specialist mobility shops will have plenty of it. It’s best to choose a specialist shop that knows and understands the importance of finding a good match and a wheelchair that perfectly suits your needs.

–       Aftercare: Aftercare is key – as it’s best to have complete peace of mind and know that if something goes wrong it can be fixed easily. Most electric wheelchairs have a guarantee or warranty from the manufacturers themselves, but retailers sometimes provide their own plans. These may be available for a fixed yearly fee. It’s useful to be able to take your wheelchair for servicing and check-ups at one central location, too.

–       Gut feeling: Gut feeling is massively underestimated when making big purchases. How do you feel about your chosen retailer? Was the salesman pushy? Was the place clean? If it’s an online shop – is the website clear and easy to understand? Is it professional and well designed? These t

hings matter – so if you’ve got a bad gut feeling about a place or site it’s better to steer clear.

Click here if you want to see the price of some of the best value chairs in the market today.

What should you consider when picking a powerchair?

Once you’ve chosen a mobility shop you feel you like and trust, it’s time to go about purchasing your powerchair. Key things to consider include:

–       Specify your needs: Consider your mobility needs and what you’ll be using the wheelchair for. How do you cope currently? Perhaps you use a stick or a frame at home and a mobility scooter when you’re out and about. Ensure compatibility with your current situation – especially if your home is very small, or you live in shared accommodation.

Things such as the radius of corners, width of doors and height of your bed and chairs could dictate the model of wheelchair you go for. You may like to ask your specialist, general practitioner or healthcare professional for help with this.

–       Determine affordability: It’s important to determine your budget early on. How much do you have to spend? Knowing your budget allows you to shop flexibly and without worry over affordability. Before settling on a figure, do some research to make sure that it is realistic in line with your needs.

Remember that this is a significant investment and should be something designed to last several years.

–       Decide on specification: Various power base placements are often available – including rear-wheel, front-wheel or mid-wheel drive. The type you choose will depend on which is most comfortable and easy for you to control – but also your preferences.

For example, a rear-wheel drive is better for faster speeds, medium-wheel drive is ideal for tight turns and small spaces. Front-wheel drives are slower but handle rough terrain better. You may need to try out a few models to help you decide.

–       Choose the right seat for you: Comfort matters. You’ll likely be sitting in the seat of your power wheelchair for some time, so it’s important to ensure that the seat is perfectly suited to you. Various cushion and backrest materials are available including gel padding, contoured foam and air flow. Some are specially developed to reduce pressure sores for those spending a lot of time daily in their chairs.

–       Customisation: If you have special or advanced needs there are customisation options available, such as voice control and size. This is important to consider should you need it now or if there’s a possibility that you will require customisation in the future.

–       Ask for additional advice and support: If you’re unsure about anything, ask friends and family for their advice and support. You may also like to consult a different healthcare professional or your GP if you haven’t done so already.

–       Size: Various sizes of wheelchair are available. These accommodate different weights and sizes to suit a range of needs.

–       Battery life: Different power wheelchairs will have varying batteries and capabilities, therefore each one will have a slightly different battery life. The type you choose will depend on the daily use you have planned for your wheelchair. Will you be using it all day, every day? Or will it be reserved for trips out shopping or general activities? The level and amount of use will dictate the size of battery and wheelchair type you opt for.

Where can I go for more advice?

If you’re still feeling confused about which type of wheelchair is right for you and how to choose the best option to suit your needs there are several places you can go for advice and support.

Your first port of call is your general practitioner, specialist, healthcare professional or social worker. They will be able to advise you and can help you to understand how a wheelchair may benefit you. Your prognosis is also important – as it may be best to invest in a more advanced model now if it’s likely your needs will change in the future.

Looking for a power wheelchair? Check out our mobility shop for specialised items at accessible prices

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Did you find this article helpful? If so, please share so you can help others.... Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestEmail this to someone