Different Types of Wheelchairs for the Elderly
Do wheelchairs look and feel clunky and cumbersome to you? There are wheelchairs and there are wheelchairs. When I first had to get a wheelchair for my mum who had a stroke and could not move around on her own, I just walked into the nearest elderly care shop and asked for one.
Hey! What’s the big deal, I said to myself, a wheelchair is what it is? Looking up wiki and it gave me this “A wheelchair is a chair with wheels, used when walking is difficult or impossible.” A simple explanation that succinctly gets the point across.
It soon then dawned to me that wheelchairs are not all made the same and not many people are asking what a wheelchair is – we all know that. What people are asking is what are the different types of wheelchairs that are available? What kind of wheelchair is right for my circumstances? I belong to the elderly category.
No simple answers here as there are tens if not hundred of types of wheelchairs on the market. Every wheelchair user has his or her own needs and circumstances. We need to find something that will work better in our environment and be easier to handle?
Before we dive in, a piece of advice for the family caregivers - do consider the pros and cons of each type of wheelchair before purchasing one for your loved one. Where possible, the loved one should accompany the primary caregiver to help choose their own wheelchair.
Many wheelchairs come in different styles, and seniors might enjoy picking the style of their wheelchair since they will be using it daily to get around. This will give them the independence which is needed for their wellbeing and to know that they will be able to live their life like they used to.
What are the Types of Wheelchairs for the Elderly?
If your loved one is a senior and has limited strength, then lightweight electric wheelchairs are the most favoured ones. With a motor, it is a lot easier to move around without using all their energy.
On the other hand, if they have still a lot of strength, the manual ultra-lightweight wheelchair might still be an appropriate option and has received good reviews from the elderly across the world. A lightweight, mobile, model is still the best choice for promoting independence.
The question then arises. To rent or buy a wheelchair. If your elderly loved ones want to travel for short trips together, or need a wheelchair for temporary use, for example after being discharged from hospital or users that need dialysis treatment, then renting a lightweight wheelchair is their best choice.
A lightweight wheelchair can fit into the car trunk easily. Those users with heavier wheelchairs often feel discouraged to even leave their homes.
So, it’s good to be informed of the right and correct kind of wheelchairs for the elderly and senior citizens and be guided by what we have presented below.
1. Standard Wheelchairs
Let’s look at the standard wheelchairs first, and these are probably the ones that come to mind for most people. The simple design features a fabric seat, large wheels for propelling and controlling the wheelchair, small wheels for balance, and arm and footrests.
They can typically be folded for storage. However, because these must be propelled with your own hands, these wheelchairs do require a strong upper body.
So, if your upper body is quite fit, a standard wheelchair might work well for you, and they’re a popular choice for those with a more temporary mobility issue, such as a broken hip or leg.
However, if you’re concerned about your ability to control your wheelchair throughout the day, it may not be the best option, as you would need to rely on others to push your chair for you.
2. Power Wheelchair
Choosing a power wheelchair then becomes the most common choice for the elderly as they do not require someone to push the wheelchair around constantly. Being safe and independent are important considerations when choosing a wheelchair.
Seniors who are in a wheelchair temporarily might prefer a manual wheelchair because they cost less, but power chairs are a better long-term solution as they are faster and can be operated with less energy.
3. Rear Wheel Wheelchairs
Another popular wheelchair with seniors is the rear wheel wheelchairs because they can achieve slightly higher speeds than other wheelchairs which makes them ideal for those who are still working and work in a fast-paced environment and need to get around quickly.
Not so much for those with serious mobility issues but those who want to be able to keep up easily. They are sturdier than other wheelchairs and are more durable and it keeps the seniors and elderly from falling out and getting hurt.
4. Mid-wheel Power Chairs
Mid-wheel power chairs are also very common, and they are great for seniors that need to manoeuvre through small spaces as they have a smaller turning radius than other chairs do, so this type of chair is ideal for seniors who live in apartments or smaller homes.
For those seniors and the elderly who still have the travelling bug, the portable power wheelchair is best as they be easily lifted and loaded into the car for travel. Some brands even disassemble so that those who are still having trouble lifting the chair can take it apart and move it more easily.
6. Wheelchair with a Tiling Seat
In the same manner a wheelchair with a tilting seat is helpful to the elderly especially If your older adult needs help from two or more people to get in and out of bed or onto the toilet. The difference is that the Tilt-in-Space wheelchair doesn’t change the angle of the user’s body.
Only the seat is tilted backward. By shifting the pressure away from the hips onto a larger surface area, the caregiver does not need to constantly readjust the user into the seated position. This also helps the user to reduce the risk of developing bedsores and avoid back pain.
7. Transport Wheelchairs
Transport wheelchairs, also called transport chairs, are lightweight wheelchairs designed for portability. This type of wheelchair is intended to be used for only short periods of time. They are ideal for daily errands and day trips. Transport wheelchairs are lightweight and portable, so they can easily be placed in your trunk when you're ready to go!
Transport chairs eliminate barriers for users who face a range of mobility challenges. They are of good quality, well worth the investment, ready to use out of the box, easily fits into a car after unhooking the basket and removing the padded push bar and the simple design makes it easy to use.
8. Extra Wide Wheelchairs
If the elderly are of a bigger frame than the Extra wide wheelchairs are ideal for them to support their weight. Say for example, if you’ve tried a standard-sized wheelchair and felt like it pressed into your hips, thighs, or other parts of your body, then an extra wide wheelchair is recommended.
You can prevent your loved ones in getting pressure sores with this choice. Worth the extra cost as comfort is the aim here.
9. Hemi Height Wheelchairs
Hemi Height Wheelchairs - what are they really? They allow the user to put their feet down if desired, so that they can propel themselves forward in this way. That is if they haven’t completely lost the ability to use their legs and feet. This would be a good choice.
It allows you to exercise your legs and choose to use your leg muscles when you are able, and to rest them and use your hands to turn the wheels when you’re not. The height is also typically adjustable, so that if you know you won’t be using your feet that day, you can keep them off the ground at a standard wheelchair height.
Comfort becomes a critical consideration when buying a wheelchair for daily use and the key determinant of comfort is the seat. What is the seat made of is the most common question - Is it made of vinyl, nylon?
A wheelchair cushion is a must if you are sitting for more than 4 hours and there is also the risk od pressure sores and a skin protection cushion is necessary. The standard seat widths for wheelchairs are in the range of 16 inches, 18 inches, and 20 inches.
The overall considerations are to investigate are the depth of the seat, seat to floor height, armrest height and the backrest height.
Another important element is to check the wheels and if they are pneumatic or solid. Solid tires are puncture-resistant but offer a relatively rougher ride. Although pneumatic tires are excellent shock absorbers, they are more susceptible to punctures than their solid counterparts.
Most rear wheels can be removed quickly to reduce the overall size and ease transportation of the wheelchair. If you intend to use your wheelchair on slippery surfaces, the traction of the tires is something you don’t want to overlook.
There is a need to pay special attention to the footrests, of which most can swing outwards while some can turn both inwards and outwards. Swing-away footplates give you room to stand in front of your chair without stepping over the plates.
Elevating footrests are essential if there’s a need to keep your legs straight or raise them for a more extended period.