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Getting the right size and type of wheelchair.
Getting the right size and type wheelchair.
There is more to ordering a wheelchair that just picking out one that looks good from a name brand manufacture. There are several important measurements that you need to take into account before placing an order.
The first is wheelchair seat width. This is the inside distance between the arms. When you see a 18" Wheelchair that is the seat width. If the chair is too narrow it will be tight and uncomfortable for the user. If the wheelchair is too wide for the user then it will be hard for them to stay positioned correctly. The best way to get a good width is to measure a chair that they are currently happy with and fits them properly. This can be a wheelchair, but also a favorite office chair or recliner can be used to determine a proper width for the user. Just measure the distance between the arms and this is the width that you would want to order. Typically a 16" chair is good for petite and youths, an 18" chair is good for an average adult and the 20" and wider chairs fit larger users. This is all dependant on their body size and type.
The second important measurement is the seat depth. This is the distance from the front to back of the seat. This is determined by the height or length of the users thigh. If the chair is too shallow too much of the users legs will hang off the front of the seat. If the chair is too deep this will prevent the users back from going all the way to the seat back causing them to sit in the chair slumped which causes back pain. Again the best way to get a proper measurement is to measure an existing chair that fits them properly.
You also have a lot of other options that you will need to think about.
Front rigging. Footrest or Legrest? Basically a legrest simply adds an elevating action to a footrest and adds a support pad behind the users calf. This can aid in comfort and circulation. If there is any doubt order the chair with the legrest. It will be slightly heavier but will allow you to elevate the users legs which will increase comfort. The legrest will still function just like the footrest, but get the added benefit of them being able to raise their legs up.
Reclining wheelchair. Most chairs are available in reclining models. A reclining wheelchair has a taller / longer back that reclines back. The longer back is there to support the users head when in this reclining position. I would recommend a reclining wheelchair for a person that spends a large amount of their time in the wheelchair as this just increases the position available to them. Most reclining wheelchairs come with legrest front riggings. The drawback is the reclining mechanisms, taller back and legrest add weight to the wheelchair.
What size wheels do I want? This is a personal choice as they will all perform the same function. Larger wheel sizes will weigh more but will roll over steps, bumps and other obstacles easier. Wheel size can also affect the height off the floor if that is a consideration.
One other option to think about is do you need a self propelled wheelchair. Transport wheelchairs are a smaller lightweight version of wheelchair that depends on a companion to push them because all four wheels are the small wheels rather than having the large "drive" wheels on back. Most of these chairs backs also fold down making a small lightweight package that will easily fit behind the seat of most cars.
So, if the user spends a lot of time in the wheelchairs consider a reclining chair with elevating legrest. If the chair is just used moderately around the house and short trips then a standard chair with footrest or legrest will suffice. If you only use the wheelchair to transport the user from room to room occasionally, or maybe trips to the doctors office then a transport chair may be all that you need.