A motorized wheelchair is ideal for elderly who are unable to self propel a standard wheelchair - either just for longer distances or all the time.
This could be due to decreased strength, endurance and/or coordination.
Maybe they use a light weight wheelchair in their home and want to use a motorized wheelchair outside the home when they go to the mall, downtown or other locations in the community.
Or maybe their health prevents them from using a standard wheelchair at all and they will benefit from having a battery powered version.
This is sometimes the case for elderly with respiratory and cardiac issues.
Whatever the case, a motorized wheelchair can enable some elderly to be safe and as independent as possible.
A motorized wheelchair is also referred to as an electric wheelchair and/or power wheelchair. It's battery powered with 4-6 wheels depending on the model/style.
They are mainly used by elderly who have limited strength in their arms and torso, and thus need a wheelchair that is propelled by an electric motor.
They are typically controlled using a joystick that is located at the end of the armrest. However, for elderly who cannot drive using a joystick (ex. spinal cord injury, etc) they can use a breathing device or headrest style controls.
Many have a control for setting the speed of the wheelchair. When using the chair indoors, it is recommended that you use a low speed. A higher speed may be more appropriate outdoors.
They are available in four main designs: rear-wheel drive, mid-wheel drive, front-wheel drive and travel/portable styles - all of which are discussed below.
They are an excellent choice for people who are unable to propel themselves in a light weight wheelchair. This could be due to decreased strength, coordination, balance, endurance and many other health issues affecting the elderly.
Power wheel chairs allow seniors to be as independent as possible, since they do not require someone to push their chair. They are very manoeuvrable and can be used both indoors and outdoors.
That being said, it is usually better for a senior's health to use a standard wheelchair if they can propel one. Elderly can lose their strength and endurance if they start relying on a motorized wheelchair when they do not need one.
They are also only appropriate for elderly with good safety awareness, judgement, and mental abilities.
A motorized wheelchair is not the same as an elderly scooter
A scooter is better for outdoor use to go to the grocery store, visit friends and attend community events. Seniors who use a scooter will need to be able to walk (with or without a mobility aid) as they cannot be easily driven indoors.
A motorized wheelchair is better indoors, can also be used outdoors and can be used a primary means of mobility.
Elderly who use a motorized wheelchair typically have significant difficulty walking safely.
Elderly with poor cognitive abilities, safety awareness and judgement are not appropriate for using a motorized wheelchair as it puts themselves as well as others at risk.
There are a wide range of different makes and models. Some are superb outdoor performers, but are too bulky to easily maneuver indoors. Others can be disassembled to fit into the trunk of a large car, but generally have restricted weight limits. Others can navigate your home's narrow hallways, but are unsuitable for heavy outdoor use.
The main advantages/disadvantages of each design are described below:
Lightweight Indoor/Light Outdoor Motorized Wheelchairs
A motorized wheel chair has better maneuverability than a typical elderly scooter. It has a smaller turning radius so you can make quick, tight turns in confined spaces.
Power wheelchairs accommodate more functions for seating and postural support than a scooter, including recline and tilt options. They have tire, wheel drive design options, and can handle more terrains - indoor and outdoor.
They are also better for people with shoulder or hand strength as you just need to use a few fingers to propel a motorized wheelchair joystick. For a scooter, you have to hold your arms and shoulders up for long periods of time.
A scooter is great for those who are walking in their homes (with or without a mobility aid such as a walker) but want a way to go to the grocery store, get the mail and other short trips in the community.
However, a motorized wheelchair is great for elderly who are not safely ambulating in their home and want something battery powered they can use in their home and in the community. They will also need to be able to customize the seating as they will be spending extended periods of time sitting in it.
Scooters for elderly are ideal for outdoors as they can be faster and have more options for carrying items (trailer, basket, etc).
There are a number of questions you should consider, including:
It is very similar to buying a car. There are compromises that need to be made. A motorized wheelchair that is great indoors that is smaller, can turn on a dime and is narrower MAY not be as good outdoors as it doesn't have the same power, big wheels as other chairs designed for excelling outside. It's choosing the best wheelchair that suits their lifestyle and needs.
A good motorized wheelchair will have:
Fit is extremely important if the senior plans on using the motorized wheelchair as their primary means of mobility. Depending on where they are living and their ability to transfer to other seating (recliner chair, bed, etc), they may be spending hours sitting in the chair. This can be a potential issue for skin breakdown if the proper cushion and backrest is not in place.
There are three basic measurements used in fitting a reclining wheelchair.
How to measure (use a soft sewing measuring tape or a string and measure string with measuring device):
They can be easily customized to meet the senior's specific needs:
More information on accessories: Power Wheelchair Accessories
They range in price from $1,600 to well over $10,000, depending on the features and customization needed.
There are several other types of wheelchair including:
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