Electric Wheelchairs - The Basics
Electric wheelchairs, also known as power chairs, help increase the mobility of the elderly by providing them an easy way to get around that doesn't require extreme range of motion, strength, or coordination.
Power wheelchairs offer seniors with disabilities or those recovering from injuries or medical conditions the freedom to move without requiring the help of someone else to push a wheelchair, or to carry them from one place to another.
Individuals using a power wheelchair don't have to physically exert themselves to get from point A to point B. Many individuals, including those seniors diagnosed with arthritis, may have weak upper body strength. Manual wheelchairs require a certain amount of upper body and arm strength and coordination to propel the chair from one area to another.
Many seniors are also unable to manipulate or maneuver manual wheelchairs from indoor to outdoor locations, and have difficulty traversing any type of incline, curb, or sidewalk level variations with a manual wheelchair.
Electric wheelchairs or handicap scooters come in a variety of sizes and offer a number of accessories and styles, depending on the need of the user. Electric wheelchairs are powered by batteries, and will need to be charged on a regular basis for optimal function. Some wheelchair styles offer longer ranges or battery life than others.
When looking for an electric or power wheelchair, choose one that will fit your needs now and in the near future. Anticipate a certain amount of weight gain and purchase an electric wheelchair that is capable of holding the senior even if he or she gains an extra 20 pounds or so.
When comparing wheelchairs or handicap scooters, ask questions that will help you determine how to choose the right wheelchair to best suit their needs. For example:
There are many different types of electric wheelchairs out there, including center-wheel drive, heavy duty, rear-wheel drive and folding power wheelchairs. Visit online wheelchair suppliers and manufacturers to get an idea of the styles and functions of popular wheelchair brands, or visit your local medical supply outlet and ask to see a catalog. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about advice regarding the functions most needed by the person who will be using a wheelchair.
Weight capacities of these type of wheelchairs may range up to or over 400 pounds, depending on need. In addition, the width of power wheelchairs also varies, from 23 inches to 26 inches or more. Accessories or other features of common power wheelchair brands includes options for power elevation of the seat, the type of handles or joysticks available, and the possibility of elevated leg rests, rehab-style seating, full-recline seating, and custom seating widths.
Pricing on wheelchairs or handicap scooters will depend on manufacturer, model, and style. Wheelchairs can cost as much as $7,000, depending on the type of accessories and features offered, while basic styles may average less than $2,000.
Medicare does cover electric or power wheelchairs, but individuals must be prepared to show that the chair is a medical necessity and that the chair will be used primarily for getting around the home. Individuals billing Medicare for a power wheelchair must also show proof that a doctor has prescribed the equipment, and documentation in your medical records must be signed and dated by your doctor, clearly explaining the reason for the equipment.
If you have Medicare, and after your annual deductible has been met, you can expect to pay 20% of the Medicare approved amount for the power wheelchair rental, purchase, as well as ongoing maintenance costs. However, make sure your wheelchair provider accepts Medicare assignments before purchasing!