Choosing Mobility Equipment
Wheelchairs are excellent at providing greater independence both indoors and outdoors, for both long and short distances. You can buy a wheelchair that is either manually operated or motorized, but don’t call it electric unless you’re talking about a chair at the end of death row. Manual wheelchairs are best used by those who can independently push their own wheelchairs or just use them for short spans. The greatest advantage of a motorized wheelchair is that it does not require extensive effort. Motorized wheelchairs are powered by a built-in motor and run on batteries.
Before purchasing a wheelchair, and after speaking with a health care professional, ensure that the seat is aligned and comfortable to sit on. A misaligned seat can cause more problems, such as bad posture, back pain, hip misalignment and pressure sores. Luckily, many wheelchairs today can be tailored according to the needs of the user. Check with a reputable mobility equipment dealer for your options.
If you find you need a scooter rather than a wheelchair, make sure you can get on and off of the scooter safely, that the seat supports you well and that you can navigate under tables and desks as needed. Scooters take a bit more practice to drive around. They use a motor and sometimes handle bar lever controls for acceleration and braking. Many come with a seatbelt or one can be added to keep you stable as you go over bumps and uneven terrain. Most people who use a scooter also stand or walk, even if only for short bursts or distances. For someone who uses crutches or a cane, both wheelchairs and scooters can be fitted with a carrier or strap to hold crutches while you are rolling or zipping around.
If you are more likely to walk and stand, you may want to check into crutches. Or, you might consider the use of a cane or walker. It depends on the level of mobility, stability and balance you need.
Some crutches fit under the arms, while others fit with a cuff around the forearm and a grip for the hands. Make sure your crutches are the right length for your height so you aren’t too hunched over or not standing to straight and stiff. The crutch tips used for crutches, canes and walkers will depend on the surfaces you walk over most and your climate. There are tips for safe maneuvering over slick, rough and uneven surfaces.
Canes need to be adjusted for height as well, so you aren’t hunched over extending the cane out too far will make walking difficult as well. Canes are typically used on the opposite side of a limp. In other words, if your injury or limp is on the left, place the cane on your right side to steady your gait.
Walkers can have wheels in front, in back, front and back, or no wheels at all. It depends on how steady you walk and how much weight is placed on the walker to guide you. Ask your doctor or physical therapist which type will keep you safest and most mobile. Some walkers also have a seat in them, so that you can turn the walker backward and use it as an impromptu seating option, particularly if you are standing in line a long time and need to rest.
Whether you plan to walk or sit while being mobile, take into consideration all your options, as well as the level of independence you want to achieve.
Some people may find a scooter to navigate, while others will prefer a motorized chair, or the independent control of a manual chair. If walking or standing is still an option, crutches, canes and walkers may be your best bet.
You may even want to consider some combination of the above to best help you. Ask others in your condition to compare ideas, talk with your doctor and a reputable dealer before making the commitment.
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