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Problem Solved: How to choose a wheelchair?

"It's finally time for a wheelchair for my dad, but there are so many options, bells, and whistles. How do I even compare the different choices and what's actually important to look for?”

Getting a wheelchair is a major decision since the person may be using it for an extended amount of time. There are a lot of factors to consider but the very first is how you would like to acquire it: through insurance or pay out of pocket. This makes a large difference in the process of getting the chair. To help you make that decision check out this post for the process of getting a chair through insurance.

If you do get a chair through insurance, one benefit is that an occupational or physical therapy evaluation will be required to help determine what features are medically necessary for the wheelchair user to have in order to help them be the most functional. This takes a lot of stress out of the decision-making and knowledge required on all the bells and whistles.

If you decide to pay for the chair out of pocket it will help you acquire it much more quickly but you will need to do the legwork on your own. Therefore, the rest of this article will be directed towards the features available to those buying the chair out of pocket.

How do you mainly want to use the wheelchair?

This is a big consideration because the type of device you need is based on where and how it is going to be used. If it is for checking the mail in the apartment building and getting to activities, a power scooter could be best since it has a basket for holding items and is great for distances since it does not have to be manually pushed.

If it is for getting around in the community like at the doctor's office or the grocery store then consider a portable power wheelchair or scooter that can come apart into pieces and be put in the trunk.

If it is for inside the home and short distances a lightweight manual wheelchair may be best for independence with pushing the chair and a narrow width is needed for getting through bathroom doors.

If you are only going to use it for transporting to doctors appointments and other community outings and someone is always going to be available to help then you might consider a lightweight transport chair so that it is easy to put in the car and take with you.

Who will push the chair?

If a helper is going to push the chair be sure the chair has push handles if it is a manual chair or an attendant controller in the back if it is a power wheelchair. If the wheelchair user is going to push themselves ensure the seat height is low enough for the pedal with their feet. Also, consider appropriate push rims based on the patient’s ability to grasp the rims and push. If pushing will be too challenging but they want to be independent consider a power wheelchair that can be driven with a joystick.

How long will the user be sitting in the chair at one time?

If it’s just for getting from point A to point B then a cushion might not be needed at all and just may get in the way of folding the chair up frequently. But if this is going to be the main place for the person to sit all day then a pressure-relieving cushion will be needed to help decrease the risk of getting a pressure-related wound. Changing the angle of the back can also help decrease pressure so it may be wise to get a manual or power wheelchair that can be reclined.

If you are overwhelmed with the choices, don’t worry! Instead, get a wheelchair evaluation done by a therapist in your area and use their expertise to pick out the best features to pick out the right device for your loved one.


Proud to be your aging-in-place resource in Kansas City and Wichita for wheelchair ramps, shower chairs, and everything in between!

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