The most common form of mobility aid for those who need help getting around is with a wheelchair. While this may seem pretty straightforward, the options available are bountiful and can be tailored to each individual user dependent upon their mobility limitation or handicap. Longer distances can present a greater challenge to those with limited mobility. Due to an injury/illness or just aging in general, fatigue can be a major problem. Wheelchairs (both manual and powered) and even scooters can make these greater distances much easier to tackle.
1. Manual Wheelchairs:
These are considered possibly the standard type of chair available. Pushed or wheeled by hand by the user, they are manually manipulated and can often be incredibly portable since many can be folded and transported to where they may be needed. To maximize the benefit of their portability, many models are made of lightweight materials to minimize weight. The beauty of modern wheelchairs is the ability to customize it to fit your specific needs. Features such as tilt in space, reclining backs, tailored armrests, and a plethora of headrests help fit each chair to its user. You can even find manual chairs that allow you to participate in a variety of sports or even tackle tough terrain like a sandy beach. Using the bathroom or shower in your home may be a challenge due to limited mobility. Bathroom/shower chairs allow us to safely utilize our toilets and showers in a safe manner. Let’s face it, there are few definites in life but expelling waste from our body is one of them and showering on a regular basis helps with overall hygiene and skincare.
2. Bariatric Wheelchairs:
Many times those affected by obesity may feel like prisoners in their own home, but these chairs allow users to become more mobile and therefore more social. These chairs are basically designed similar to other wheelchairs but utilize a heavy duty design that can safely support the user’s larger weight and bigger body. Much like other chairs, they are available to the public in both manual and powered versions. Besides the ability to support greater weights, these chairs are designed with wider seats and wheel bases. This allows members of our population that may be overweight or obese to still maintain independence and mobility.
3. Pediatric Wheelchairs:
We would not allow our children to have some of our adult items, so why would we have them use adaptive technology designed for adults? Children with mobility issues need to have equipment specifically designed for their smaller bodies. Unfortunately, wheelchairs are not a one-size-fits-all piece of equipment. Many of these chairs designed for children can tilt in space, therefore minimizing their footprint in a room and pressure on their delicate derrière. Smaller children may not require a full wheelchair and can utilize a stroller that is designed to help with mobility issues. You should always consult a physical therapist before deciding on what piece of equipment is appropriate for your child. These strollers can vary from what looks like an everyday toddler’s stroller to a more robust, almost wheelchair appearance. From a young age, our children develop through interaction with the world around them so maintaining their mobility can help their development at a crucial young age.
4. Power Chairs:
For those who might have the need for assistance over a longer period of time or distance, an electric powered wheelchair may solve many problems. This allows those with diminished stamina or medical conditions that minimize their ability to get around the freedom to be more independent and mobile. These chairs can offer a wide variety of specifications and features from basic to even collapsible and standing models. You should be evaluated by a physical therapist to determine what features would be appropriate to overcome your cause of mobility limitation. With many adaptable options available, your therapist may opt for a curved back for added trunk stability or maybe leg extensions to allow the user passive range of motion as well as minimizing pressure points on susceptible areas of the foot. Some options include rear wheel or center wheel drive, chairs that can stand up the user, portable power chairs for travel, or even chairs that fold up.
5. Standing Chairs:
Believe it or not, this style of powered wheelchair affords the user the ability to stand. This can have amazing benefits to the user. Just think, you would no longer have the need for assistance reaching that box of cookies on the counter!! Besides the obvious benefits of being able to reach items that would normally be too far away, the ability to stand helps with muscle tone and spasticity. Other benefits include improved bowel and bladder function as well as positively affecting blood pressure. Torso control or at least torso security is something that must be addressed with your doctor or therapist before using a standing chair.