Updated: Jan 6
In my experience as a physical therapist most patients are not aware of their wheelchair needs. Patients come out of rehabilitation/inpatient with a manual wheelchair that is very much inappropriate for their needs. For some patients it is adequate, they are coming home post-surgical for knee replacement or other joint surgery and they need a wheelchair for a limited time and maybe a tweak here or there, a basic cushion and then they are comfortable until they get back on their feet again.
For others who may have a more permanent or progressive condition having the right wheelchair makes a huge difference in quality of life and mobility. The right wheelchair can mean increased independence over the long term which helps mentally and physically.
When considering a wheelchair some things to ask:
-What vendor will we be working with?
-Will it be billed to insurance? Some insurances pay for wheelchairs more than others. Medicare can be 15% out of pocket, most commercial insurance may cover in full.
-How much customization do I need? Seating is huge there are customization items that can make the difference between skin breakdown and staying out of the hospital, greatly improving comfort, independence and improving mobility/activities of daily living.
-Manual vs Power? If you still have UE strength perhaps a light weight custom manual chair is a better option, if strength is an issue a power wheelchair may be the best choice, power wheelchairs can be as custom or as simple as needed.
-How much time do you anticipate using the chair?
-How active will you be?
-What is your level of caregiver support?
-How much room do you have to maneuver in your home?
All of these are very important questions to answer or be prepared to answer as you work with the wheelchair vendor and your physical therapist on finding the most appropriate wheelchair that fits your needs. If you are in a hospital or rehab setting preparing to go home it is important to ask questions about wheelchair options before they send you home. Patients often get stuck with a poorly fitting wheelchair which can lead to skin breakdown, falls, and worse mobility than if the appropriate chair is measured and established from the beginning.
Measurements that are typically needed for getting the appropriately sized wheelchair include:
-Back height for proper support
-Arm rest height
-Also range of motion of knees, hips and trunk are important and could dictate whether a wheelchair becomes more custom seating.
-Also, choosing the right wheelchair seat cushion is vital if an extensive amount of time is going to be spent in the wheelchair. If the wrong cushion is used skin breakdown can occur resulting in wound care needs/infection.
All of the above items can be discussed with your physical therapist. Your physical therapist can be a great advocate in getting the appropriate wheelchair vendor in place and insuring that you make the right choices for your medical and physical needs.
Book a free consult to see if our custom wheelchair services are a fit for you today! Or learn more about coming one of our providers.
A special thank you to Concierge Orthopedic's very own Dr. Michael McCoulf. Dr. McCoulf is one of our providers offering wheelchair fittings and much more. Email for more info today!