Getting a new wheelchair headache

Photo courtesy of y.accesslab

“Come on down! You’ve just won a wheelchair on the Price Is Right.” If this were to happen, it would be the worst idea ever. Getting a new wheelchair is so not the equivalent to getting a new car. You can’t just get in one and roll away (I wish it were that easy). It’s a long and messy process.

And if you’ve been through it, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

First, you have to choose the chair you want, or need rather, which can be two very different things. The smart thing to do is to first write a list of what you need in your wheelchair – special seating, gel-filled tires, elevator seating, tilt, the right color, long enough arm rests, the list goes on and on, and you won’t think of everything (mark my words). It’s impossible. Always be prepared to add things to your chair after it arrives.

And of course you have to take your insurance into consideration – will they cover the chair you want? If you’re on a state insurance, you can’t get just any chair you like. You need to shop smart. On my insurance for example, getting a Permobil chair (fancy Swedish-made powerchairs) was definitely out of the question. We have to be prepared for a selection of limited options.

I ended up choosing a newer version of the powerchair I got in 2005 (which was an Invacare TDX MK5) and got a TDX SP. When it doubt, it’s good to go with a brand you have experience with. I’ve had a good run with Invacare chairs. After choosing your chair, the next step is to order it, and oh man is this a complicated process. Having a rehab specialist help you with this is a must. They’ll take all the necessary measurements that are needed (some 30+ measurements), which saves you time, and the worry of measuring the wrong thing.

And next is seating. Seating is huge when it comes to chairs and there are more options than ever. I’ve been using custom seating since college and I love it and will never go back (it’s saved my bony butt many a time). Jay cushions and Roho cushions are popular straight-from-the-manufacturer cushions you can purchase too, and they work quite well. Just know that it’s imperative to shop around for your seating options.

Also, think about getting a pressure mapping of your butt when you get your new chair, to make sure there are no new pressure points to worry about. Elevated knees that are higher than your butt for example are a huge no-no and can cause skin problems down the line (before it’s too late).

When my new chair finally arrived after 3 months later (about average), I discovered many things I forgot to look at – the floor to seat height and getting things from the floor (and driving from your van). Being too high can really put a dent in your whole home life – knees hitting tables, harder time going under counters, etc. I also found a bunch of other smaller things (shorter push handles, there’s a bar behind my seat that gets in my way). They can get fixed, but they’ll take at least a month to get squared away. A process? Yes indeed.

It’s a necessary evil, getting a new chair, but as someone who’s still in the thick of it, remember your best weapon is to know exactly what you need, remain adamant about what you need and don’t quit until you get it. Your wheelchair is way more important than a car. You’re in it all day. It deserves to be tailored to you perfectly.

Have you gotten a new wheelchair recently? What did you learn during the process?

Photo courtesy of y.accesslab

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