Having your ability to move limited can be a source of significant stress and anxiety, but a good mobility aid can help lessen these feelings.
Finding the right wheelchair can help you feel mobile and safe. This helpful wheelchair guide will walk you through the different types of wheelchairs and wheelchair accessories available to you, as well as some tips for finding the one that fits your needs.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Types of Wheelchairs for the Elderly
Types of Cushions for Wheelchairs
Types of Ramps for Wheelchairs
Types of Wheelchair Carriers
Buyer's Guide: What to Look for in a Wheelchair
Conclusion: Wheelchair Buying Guide
Types of Wheelchairs for the Elderly
Wheelchairs for seniors should be lightweight, making it easy both to push yourself and be pushed by someone else. Ideally, they should also be easy to climb in and out of, and comfortable enough to sit in for the majority of the day.
Seniors may be using a wheelchair for short-term medical purposes, but it’s more likely that wheelchair use is or will become permanent. This being the case, a wheelchair for the elderly must be versatile. A wheelchair loses its usefulness when it cannot fit into a certain space or safely roll on a surface.
The best wheelchair for seniors can help them stay independent and take care of their day-to-day needs, not simply roll from one hospital room to another. A good wheelchair will help you feel a bit more free compared to living without it, not less.
The Drive Medical Cruiser IIIis a very nice, lightweight manual wheelchair that should serve many seniors well. It’s a rudimentary wheelchair, but it has everything needed for the basic needs of a senior. It is easy to push, foldable and has flip-back arms that make it easy for a caregiver to lift a person out of the chair safely. Finally, it can be upgraded with custom backrest and cushion inserts, so any senior can feel stable and comfortable.
That, however, is just one example of a wheelchair option for the elderly. It may not fit the needs of every person, and there is more than just one type of wheelchair. Let’s discuss more categories of wheelchairs, and take a look at some great examples of each!
Types of Transport Wheelchairs
Transport wheelchairs, sometimes called transport chairs, aren’t like the typical manual wheelchair that has very large rear wheels and smaller front wheels. Transport wheelchairs are designed for you to be pushed by someone, not to push yourself- it’s impossible to push yourself in a transport wheelchair.
Transport wheelchairs are great for short trips and medical purposes. For example, if you typically use a mobility scooter or electric wheelchair that won’t fit in the place you need to go, a transport wheelchair can allow someone to help you get there.
They’re also used for people who cannot use a traditional wheelchair, such as Lou Gehrig’s Disease patients or those who’ve lost the use of one or both arms. If you think that a transport wheelchair might be right for you, you’ll find that they are lighter and sometimes more affordable than a traditional wheelchair. Let’s take a look at one:
Types of Manual Wheelchairs
Manual wheelchairs are what most people think of when they hear the word “wheelchair”. You propel yourself by pushing on the rails that are on the outside of the large wheel. Having large wheels makes the pushing relatively easy, but they can still wear you out quickly. A manual wheelchair is best for short distances, such as going from the car to the house or office; they’re not the best for longer trips, since your arms will tire too fast.
A manual wheelchair has been shown to lead to a significant increase in quality of life, as well as helping users participate in the economy. For people who might not qualify to receive an electric wheelchair and cannot afford the expense on their own, a manual wheelchair is quite a satisfactory alternative.
These wheelchairs take a bit of time to learn how to use safely since they can tip if you move too quickly or go up a steep incline. However, once you learn proper wheelchair techniques, they are quite safe and few risky situations present themselves.
Make no mistake, using a manual wheelchair can be hard. Pushing yourself all day is not something your arms will be used to doing. When you first use a manual wheelchair, you can expect to feel quite sore at the end of the day. This muscle soreness and exhaustion can be hard to overcome, and it leads many people to consider a different type of wheelchair. Overuse of a manual wheelchair can even cause injuries. Depending on your needs, a manual wheelchair may not be the way to go; it is tiring and depending on your having the complete use of both arms.
Using a manual wheelchair, while it can be tiring, is actually a great way for seniors who’ve lost lots of mobility to stay healthy. Pushing yourself in the chair stimulates your muscles and heart, improving your respiratory health. Being able to move and get your blood pumping can also have positive impacts on your digestion! The CDC recommendsexercise for wheelchair users, too!
While you may not want to use a manual wheelchair 100% of the time, these health benefits cannot be ignored and should be a reason for you to consider using at least some of the time. Do you think a manual wheelchair could be a benefit to you? Consider this affordable, lightweight option:
Types of Electric Wheelchairs
Electric wheelchairs are the second most common type of wheelchair. True to their name, they rely on electric motors to provide power, rather than the user or a caregiver’s arms/legs. Electric wheelchairs are great not just for convenience, but also for people who have severely limited mobility to engage in daily life.
An electric wheelchair is a vital part of life for people who have cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, or are similarly limited. The wheelchair is controlled with a joystick that is much easier to use than a delta tiller (as found in mobility scooters) or handlebars. Many electric wheelchairs are also equipped with things like safety belts that help users stay comfortably seated in the chair and prevent nasty falls.
Powered by large batteries and powerful motors, electric wheelchairs are the heaviest by a long shot- many weigh more than 100 pounds. This is just the nature of the beast, however, and electric wheelchairs are best judged by their speed, range, and comfort- not speed.
Electric wheelchairs are also great for people who need a wheelchair to travel longer distances, a situation in which a manual wheelchair simply wouldn’t be practical. Many electric wheelchairs have a range of several miles, some are even capable of traveling 16 miles on a single charge!
There are many companies that make electric wheelchairs, and they seem to group into two subcategories. Some have a heavy medical focus, while others are made more for range and comfort as alternatives to manual wheelchairs. For that reason, we’re going to take a look at two different electric wheelchair options, one from each subcategory:
Types of Cushions for Wheelchairs
Wheelchair cushions are a crucial part of the impact a wheelchair can have on your life. If the cushion works, the wheelchair will be a valuable part of your life and keep you on the go with comfort. If the cushion doesn’t work, odds are that the wheelchair won’t get much use and you’ll stay inside, in a stationary chair, more often than you would care to.
If the cushion on your wheelchair is uncomfortable, you aren’t out of luck! There are many different cushions you can purchase to either replace or supplement your current wheelchair’s cushion. This can be beneficial not just for simple comfort; having a supportive wheelchair cushion is helpful for your posture, for relieving soreness and even bruising that can occur as a result of wheelchair use.
The most common materials that a wheelchair cushion will be made from is gel and memory foam. These foams are softer and more comfortable than standard cell foams; they disperse your weight differently and your body feels like it is settling in rather than sitting atop the foam.
Types of Ramps for Wheelchairs
If your front door has steps, a wheelchair ramp is going to be an absolute must if you want to keep regular use of your home. Wheelchair ramps can be built with lumber by a skilled contractor, but you can also purchase pre-made aluminum wheelchair ramps that lay over the steps.
Even if your home doesn’t have steps, it likely has a 3 or 6-inch rise at the front door that your wheelchair cannot handle alone. In that situation, a shallow aluminum ramp is all you need to safely make it into and out of your house.
The home isn’t the only place to use a wheelchair ramp. There are many folding portable ramps that can help you access places that may not be fully accommodating to your needs. You can bring a small ramp along on a road trip and have your spouse or caretaker set it up when you know you’ll need it. Portable ramps are also ideal for home use, where they can be set up and removed quickly to make it more convenient for others in the house.
Many wheelchair ramps you can purchase online come in one of two varieties, and it all comes down to the surface material. Most every wheelchair ramp is made of aluminum, and some have a bare aluminum surface, while others have a course, traction-heavy surface laid over the aluminum. For most people, the bare aluminum will provide enough traction that you’ll never have to worry about slipping on the ramp. In rainy or snowy climates, that extra traction is definitely better than having nothing!
Types of Wheelchair Carriers
Some electric wheelchairs can fold up tight enough to fit into the back of your car, but not all of them. Even the ones that do fold can be hard to lift and take a long time to fold up and then unfold for use. Sometimes, it makes much more sense to get a wheelchair carrier that will affix to the trailer hitch on your vehicle. When you have one, you’re able to simply roll the wheelchair right up the ramp, secure it, and be on your way!
A good wheelchair ramp saves you the expense of having to get a wheelchair lift van. Of course, a wheelchair lift van is the only option for many. But, if you have the choice between a carrier and a lift van, the wheelchair carrier is the simpler and cheaper (by thousands) option.
Wheelchair ramps aren’t for everyone; they require the help of a spouse or caregiver to use. Some people don’t have that kind of help and won’t be able to use a wheelchair ramp safely. For people who do have a couple of helping hands, a wheelchair ramp makes everything easier when it comes to transportation. Here’s a great wheelchair ramp for you to consider:
Buyer's Guide: What to Look for in a Wheelchair
When you start shopping for a wheelchair, you need to know what to look for. If not, you might get sidetracked by features and gimmicks that you don’t need. The best way to choose a wheelchair is by following these pieces of helpful advice:
Consider Medical Needs First
It can be tempting to get a lighter, faster wheelchair for convenience. However, neglecting whatever medical needs you may have will result in you having a chair that is uncomfortable and may even negatively impact your health.
If you have more serious physical limitations, opt for the safest and most supportive chair you can find. It’s better to have a wheelchair that is healthy for you and sacrifice some convenience than the other way around!
Consider Your Daily Routine
Do you like to spend lots of time outside? Are you an avid shopper who still wants to take trips to the store once in a while? Or, are you a homebody who is more than content indoors? Answering these questions will help you decide whether a certain wheelchair is right for you.
If you spend most of your time inside, it’s likely that all you’ll need is a simple manual wheelchair. It will fit better in the hallways and tight corners of your home, and is much more affordable. If you’re more of a social, out-of-the-house person. Look for a durable electric wheelchair that will keep up with your lifestyle!
Paid for by Medicare/Medicaid
Wheelchairs, transport chairs, and electric wheelchairs fall into a category of Durable Medical Equipment (DME) that is covered by Medicareand Medicaid. If you are a participant in one or both of these programs, you can have a doctor prescribe you a wheelchair that you may not pay a single cent for! Medicare and Medicaid have different rules, but you must always go through an approved doctor and supplier to get your wheelchair covered!
If you can get a free wheelchair, that is great; however, not everyone will qualify for a wheelchair when they feel they still need one. In that case, you’ll be buying out of pocket, where budget considerations may play a large role in your decision making. The advantage of buying out of pocket, though, is that you won’t be limited to approved suppliers and you can get any wheelchair you want!
Conclusion: Wheelchair Buying Guide
Wheelchairs are a valuable and necessary part of life for many seniors. Manual wheelchairs are cost effective and simple. Transport wheelchairs are great for people who require lots of assistance, and electric wheelchairs provide lots of freedom and safety for all types of seniors. What type of wheelchair and wheelchair accessories do you use or plan to buy? Let us know in the comments section below!
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Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers power-operated vehicles (scooters), walkers, and wheelchairs as durable medical equipment (DME). Medicare helps cover DME if: The doctor treating your condition submits a written order stating that you have a medical need for a wheelchair or scooter for use in your home.What is the easiest wheelchair to push? ›
The two easiest wheelchair types to push are transport chairs and travel wheelchairs. These wheelchair styles are specifically designed to be pushed by a companion, and both rely on a lightweight frame, simple construction, and narrow seat to make them easier to maneuver while pushing.What type of wheelchairs are available? ›
- All Terrain Wheelchairs. ...
- Beach Wheelchairs. ...
- Electric, Motorized & Powered Wheelchairs. ...
- Hemi Height Wheelchair. ...
- Lightweight and Ultra Lightweight Wheelchairs. ...
- Manual Wheelchairs. ...
- Pediatric Wheelchairs. ...
- Recliner Wheelchairs.
Medicare benefits cover manual wheelchairs, power scooters, and power wheelchairs. It's important to verify that your doctor and your medical equipment supplier are both enrolled in Medicare before you get a wheelchair.How often will Medicare pay for a wheelchair? ›
Medicare only covers a wheelchair or scooter replacement once every five years except in limited circumstances. Medicare covers wheelchair and scooter repairs. When you're renting, there's no extra charge to you for repairs because they're part of the rental agreement.What is better than a wheelchair? ›
Scooters have 3-4 wheels, a tiller for steering, and a seat that swivels. A powered wheelchair has 4-6 wheels, a drive system, and a stationary seat. Mobility scooters are the better option for individuals who: Have some ability to stand and walk.
Mechanical advantage – A large wheel can be pushed by the wheelchair occupant easier than a small wheel. > It requires less force for the large wheel to roll over an obstacle than a small wheel.What can I use instead of a wheelchair? ›
- A Cane Or Walking Stick. ...
- Crutches. ...
- Knee Walkers. ...
- Seated Scooters.
1. Manual wheelchairs. The manual wheelchair is the most common type, where the user propels the chair forwards and backwards using their arms. This type of chair also comes with handles which allow a second person to push the chair from behind.How much is a nice wheelchair? ›
The average cost of a new wheelchair is between $500 and $1,500, but it really depends upon what kind of wheelchair you're shopping for. You can find manual wheelchairs priced as low as $100, while the cost of a power wheelchair can be as high as $30,000.
There are several factors that should be taken into account before deciding on a wheelchair for the elderly. Such things to consider are the weight, if it is foldable, or should it be a power chair. These are all important things to think about, as there are many wheelchairs out there to choose from for each user.How do you get a wheelchair if you are disabled? ›
Ask a GP, physiotherapist or hospital staff to refer you to your local wheelchair service for an assessment. You'll need to do this before you can get an NHS wheelchair. The local wheelchair service will decide if you need a wheelchair and, if so, what type. You might be able to get a voucher.What is the difference between an electric wheelchair and a power chair? ›
Electric wheelchairs are sometimes smaller and lighter than power chairs but lack the durability of power chairs which can be driven outside, across lawns, dirt, sidewalks, and more. Finally, power chairs generally have more features and options than electric wheelchairs.What are the qualifying diagnosis for a group 3 power wheelchair? ›
Group 3 power wheelchairs are reserved for the severely impaired patient afflicted with diseases such as: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), spinal cord injuries resulting in quadriplegia, stroke (CVA) with hemiplegia, late stage Parkinson's, late stage Multiple Sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy or Muscular Dystrophy.How do I ask my doctor for a wheelchair? ›
If you think you need a wheelchair, talk to your doctor or your physical therapist. They will refer you for a wheelchair assessment. Several things should be considered. An assessment will help make sure a wheelchair is right for you and help you figure out which type you should use.How long does the average wheelchair last? ›
A wheelchair generally has about four good years of life in it, depending on how often it's ridden and what terrain it's mostly used on. Normal wear and tear will happen during that time, but once the first signs of repairs are present, you'll need to closely examine the potential repair costs.Does Medicare pay for walking? ›
Summary: Medicare generally covers walkers as part of “durable medical equipment” (DME) when medically necessary. DME can also refer to canes, blood sugar meters, hospital beds, oxygen supplies, and other items.Can you still get hard in a wheelchair? ›
The nerves that control a man's ability to have a reflex erection are located in the sacral area (S2–S4) of the spinal cord. Most paralyzed men are able to have a reflex erection with physical stimulation unless the S2–S4 pathway is damaged.Is it better to push or pull a wheelchair? ›
Always push rather than pull the wheelchair, whenever possible. When going over small bumps or a floor transition (a threshold or into/out of an elevator), use downward force on the back of the chair to ease pressure on the front.How do I know if my wheelchair is too small? ›
Check that the wheelchair user is sitting upright and then slide hand between the cushion and the back of the knee, there should be a gap large enough to admit two fingers. There may be a bigger gap for wheelchair users with long legs, up to 60 mm is acceptable.
A standard manual adult wheelchair drive wheel size is 24” (approximately 61 cm); A standard power wheelchair drive wheel size is 18” (approximately 45,7 cm); Caster wheels for manual wheelchairs start from 3” (approximately 7,6 cm), but much more common and practical for everyday use is 4” to 6”.Why I use a wheelchair if I can walk? ›
Some people do need their wheelchairs because of paralysis or other conditions that make walking impossible. Others use them because of fatigue, chronic pain, balance problems, or other conditions that make it impossible to walk long distances, even if they are capable of standing and walking to some degree.What is a regular wheelchair called? ›
1. Manual wheelchairs: Designed to be self-propelled by the user or pushed by a companion or caregiver. They are available with a wide variety of colors and features.What is a passive wheelchair? ›
Passive Wheelchairs. Non-self-propelled manual wheelchairs are those that require a companion to push the wheelchair. We offer a large selection of models for all needs: steel, aluminum, positioning, transport, etc.What walking aid is good for poor balance? ›
Tetrapods: Quad Canes And Tripod Walking Sticks
They are particularly useful for those who are more unsteady on their feet, as they can help maintain balance. Both tetrapods and quad canes come in two main styles: wide and small-based.
Type 5 wheelchair models do not fold and feature swing-away footrests, quick release axles for easy servicing and transport, anti-tippers and adjustable-height arms that can be removed. These wheelchair types are highly customizable for individuals with very limited mobility.What is a standard wheelchair size? ›
The plan view of a person using a wheelchair shows the following: width of the wheelchair measured to the outside of the rear wheels is 26 inches (660 mm). Length of the wheelchair is 42 inches (1065 mm) measured from the back of the rear wheels to the front of the footrests.What is a Class 3 wheelchair? ›
Class 3 are the only types of mobility scooter or powered wheelchair that can be used on the road. They must have the following features: a maximum unladen weight of 150kg (or a maximum unladen weight of 200kg when carrying necessary user equipment, for example, medical supplies) a maximum width of 0.85 metres.What is a basic wheelchair? ›
A basic standard manual wheelchair incorporates a seat and back, two small front (casters) wheels and two large wheels, one on each side, and a foot rest.What is a Class 4 wheelchair? ›
Group 4 bases are designed for stability to accommodate greater amounts of anterior tilt, seat elevation, and standing. Group 4 suspension is designed for multiple terrains and can decrease the transmission of bumps and vibration to the person in the wheelchair. Group 4 bases typically have a higher speed motor package.
Broda is a wheelchair company that traditionally offers tilt-in-space positioning chairs with the Comfort Tension Seating® system which prevents skin breakdown through reducing heat and moisture for people in any type of healthcare setting, but commonly used in long term care/skilled nursing facilities or home care.What is the price of premium basic wheelchair? ›
Black Basic Premium Wheel Chair, Model Name/Number: MEPBBC1 at Rs 5798 in Bhubaneswar.Why are some wheelchairs so expensive? ›
This requires extensive testing to meet certain standards relating to quality, durability, and product-life. Taking all these things together it's easy to understand why electric wheelchairs cost so much more than manual wheelchairs: They're expensive to buy primarily because they're expensive to make.Why are manual wheelchairs so expensive? ›
Most common wheelchairs manufacture focus in providing comfort for the users who at times spend many hours on a chair. With the ability to only produce and sell an average of 20,000 a year, this doesn't allow for lowered prices.What is a geriatric wheelchair? ›
Geriatric Wheelchairs (or Geri Chairs as they are often called) are a comfortable, fully reclining chair with wheels so that they can be used for mobility.What is the difference between a standard wheelchair and a lightweight wheelchair? ›
Standard wheelchairs are commonly steel, weighing 15kg+ and are sometimes foldable but with limited adjustability beyond size. Lightweight wheelchairs are made of aluminium or steel alloys, weigh 13-16kg, are often foldable and offer adjustable features, such as removable armrests.What is a Hemi wheelchair? ›
FOLDING FRAME WITH ONE ARM DRIVE
The Start M2 Hemi is a configurable, high-quality wheelchair that has been specifically designed for stroke patients with Hemiplegia or Cerebral Palsy. A wide variety of selectable options for all of the Start range are available.
Many wheelchair users can walk and stand. Portraying it as a feat of inspiration when a wheelchair user stands up, walks, or dances perpetuates the false idea that wheelchair users can't move their legs at all and that it's always an extremely difficult task for a wheelchair user to get out of their chair.Can I buy my own wheelchair? ›
Buying your own wheelchair. Personally funding your own wheelchair is also an option, but due to their high cost, it's unfortunately not a realistic option for many people. The cost of wheelchairs will vary depending on what you are looking for.What happens at a wheelchair assessment? ›
What happens at the assessment? The clinician will introduce themselves and explain what will happen. They will need to ask you many questions and take your measurements. They may need to assess your range of movements and physical constraints, and may ask you to demonstrate your abilities.
Toilet frames are placed around the toilet and can be used by a disabled person to support themselves as they lower down to the toilet seat, or as they rise back up again. Toilet frames are made from materials such as aluminium or steel, and some are fixed to the rear wall, while others are freestanding.What is a transport wheelchair vs standard wheelchair? ›
Transport chairs have 8”-12” rear wheels that cannot be reached while sitting in the chair. Wheelchairs, however, are built with larger 18”-24” wheels topped with an easy-to-grip, rotating handrail that allow users to propel themselves forward.What is a transport wheelchair vs manual wheelchair? ›
A transport wheelchair is designed for caregivers to push, while manual wheelchairs are designed for the person in the chair to navigate themselves. Transport wheelchairs have four small wheels, while manual wheelchairs have 2 smaller wheels in front and 2 larger wheels in back.Who needs a transport wheelchair? ›
Transport chairs are intended for those who are still independently mobile. If you don't quite need a full-time mobility chair but may tire out during an outing and need a little push (literally!) to keep up with the pack, a transport chair may be best for you.Who would use a transport wheelchair? ›
Transit wheelchairs. Transit wheelchairs (also known as transport chairs) have much smaller wheels and lighter frames. Essentially, they are lightweight wheelchair which requires a transit attendant and they are very easy when it comes to pushing mobility-impaired passengers from one place to another.Can you use a transport wheelchair as a regular wheelchair? ›
Transport chairs are used to move people around who cannot propel themselves using a standard wheelchair. A second person is required for mobility. For those who find a regular wheelchair too big or heavy to move around, transport wheelchairs are a great alternative.Can you use a transport wheelchair by yourself? ›
Transport wheelchairs are lightweight mobility chairs that combine the function of a wheelchair with the portability of a rollator. They are meant to be pushed by a family member or caregiver, as their small wheels make it impossible for the user to propel herself.Which is easier to push a wheelchair or a transport chair? ›
Wheelchair users exert more energy when pushing a transport wheelchair than a self-propelled wheelchair. This is likely because of the larger size and weight of transport wheelchairs. Transport wheelchairs are also less maneuverable, making them harder to push in tight spaces.Should I get a manual or electric wheelchair? ›
Electric wheelchairs have many advantages over manual wheelchairs. They are easier to use and require less effort to operate. They are also more comfortable and offer more support for the user. Electric wheelchairs are also faster and can cover more distance than manual wheelchairs.What is a Type 3 wheelchair? ›
These lightweight wheelchairs offer a modular design with clean modern lines and configurability. It provides you with a personalized fit and superior performance. Most models in this category can conveniently fold to fit into small spaces and vehicle. View manual wheelchair type 3 models.
Most insurance companies will cover the cost of a transport wheelchair if it is deemed medically necessary. However, some out-of-pocket costs may be associated with the purchase, such as a copayment or coinsurance.What is the best way to transport a wheelchair? ›
- Wheelchair Trailer. A wheelchair trailer is a possible solution. If you have a power wheelchair, you will have to consider its weight and purchase a trailer that can accommodate it. ...
- Hitch Lift. An outside lift will transport any kind of wheelchair or scooter. ...
- Chair Topper.
Standard wheelchairs are commonly steel, weighing 15kg+ and are sometimes foldable but with limited adjustability beyond size. Lightweight wheelchairs are made of aluminium or steel alloys, weigh 13-16kg, are often foldable and offer adjustable features, such as removable armrests.What sizes do wheelchairs come in? ›
Standard wheelchairs widths are 16″ (narrow adult), 18″ (average adult) and 20″ (wide adult). For children and small adult sizes as small as 8” are available. Adults with wider body frames can get seats from 28” and wider.What equipment can help someone in a wheelchair? ›
- bathing aids.
- walking frames.
- bed levers.
- toilet frames.
- stair lifts.
- hospital beds.