Read these 18 Power Wheelchairs Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Wheelchairs tips and hundreds of other topics.
Just as there are different types of power wheelchairs, there are also different types of batteries to power your motorized chair. The earliest type of battery available for powered wheelchairs was the “wet cell” battery, which is related to an automobile battery. These batteries charge relatively quickly and work well, but can leak acid when broken or cracked. For these reasons, most companies now recommend a gel-cell or dry-cell battery – these are sealed and can't leak when being transported. Additionally, they have a longer life span than traditional batteries. Be aware, however, that you can't just switch battery types, you will need to get a new charger and adapter as well.
There are a few different types of power wheelchairs available for patients who need to use a wheelchair for mobility reasons.
Electric wheelchairs are very often paid for by your health insurance company. If you have a qualifying condition that makes you unable to walk, or to use a manual wheelchair, health insurance or Medicare will cover the cost of an electric wheelchair to help you be mobile again. Many electric wheelchair providers will even help you to apply for benefits to cover your wheelchair, or prequalify you, so that you will know how much (if any) you will have to pay out of pocket. Medicare may have different requirements (such as needing an electric wheelchair for even very short distances in your home) for approval than private insurance companies, so be sure to consult your doctor as well as your insurance provider for details.
A power wheelchair is not a tool or machine that should be taken lightly. It's very important to follow a few simple powerchair safety tips in order to make sure that both the rider and the chair are kept in good shape. Be sure to service and clean your chair regularly; like any motorized item, it needs upkeep. Don't be tempted to ride your powerchair at high speeds (even if the chair will accommodate them), and if you're planning to use your powerchair at night, install (or use) headlights to make yourself visible outside.
There are two basic types of wheelchairs available to disabled individuals: manual, or self-powered, wheelchairs and power wheelchairs. Power wheelchairs are chairs that have a motor attached, so they don't need to be pushed or manually wheeled. Power wheelchairs are often used by those people who are unable move their wheelchairs on their own, but have enough range of motion that they can use the controls needed to direct their power chair. Power wheelchairs are available in a variety of styles, such as heavy duty power wheelchairs (for larger individuals), folding power wheelchairs (for portability) and customizable power wheelchairs for those who might have specific needs for head or leg support. Sometimes included among types of power wheelchairs are mobility scooters, but they are typically used by less disabled individuals.
When you are traveling with an expensive piece of equipment such as a motorized wheelchair, it's important that you have enough insurance to cover any accidents, theft or loss of your wheelchair while traveling. Of course, problems with your motorized wheelchair can also happen while you're at home or near your home, so you'll need to find out whether your health, homeowners or automobile insurance would be liable for replacing your wheelchair in different areas. If you're traveling on an airplane, the Aviation Consumer Protection Agency has made a ruling that airlines must pay for replacement of your wheelchair if lost or damaged, but their liability is capped at $2,500 for checked baggage on domestic flights and $9.07/pound of checked international baggage.
You're not on Medicare, and your insurance won't cover a brand new electric wheel chair. You need some electric wheelchair tips. What can you do? Or you think you should avoid the headaches of insurance, electric wheelchairs and Medicare. You heard that your best friend's cousin's friend wants to unload his electric wheel chair, best offer. You're tempted. Before you go lemon shopping, here are some suggestions:
• A used wheelchair won't be tailored to you. It's designed to fit the original owner. True, you can customize it, but if you have specific comfort or motor needs, you could be in for a greater headache than filling out insurance claim forms.
• If your claim is denied, keep rattling someone's cage. Squeaky power wheel chairs get the most grease. Keep calling the underwriting department, or change insurance if possible. Enlist your doctor's support.
• Can you trade in your manual or electric wheel chair for a new chair of equal value? Some electric wheel chair stores may allow you to do that.
• Can you afford not to get the best wheelchair you can? It's more than a means to get around. It's part of your life.
If you're still determined to buy a used wheelchair, buy from a reputable dealer such as ScooterLink, which offers like new power wheel chairs and electric wheelchairs at reduced prices, with custom upgrades available. If you're in an economic bind, you can also look up service organizations in your area that provide used electric wheelchairs. If you're buying from a private seller, ask about potential defects and why your best friend's cousin's friend wants to sell his chair.
Wherever you buy used electric wheelchairs, ask about defects and get at least two price quotes. Ask to try before you buy.Those insurance and Medicare forms don't seem so daunting after all.
As if we didn't have enough warnings about driving while talking on cell phones, here's another: Don't use your cell phone while driving your electric wheel chair. It's not that cell phones will distract you from properly operating power wheel chairs (although they will). You regularly turn off your cell phones, PDAs, handheld games and other devices when flight attendants tell you to. Just as with aircraft, electric wheelchairs start acting up under the influence of cell phones. If you don't want to feel as though you're in a Stephen King novel with a possessed chair (especially if you name your wheelchair "Christine"), turn off the electric wheel chair when you want to call your buddy in Hong Kong. And tell him in Chinese to turn his off too.
Any portable electronic device can interfere with the power supply and guidance system in power wheel chairs—you remember basic science classes. If your chair stops and starts for no reason turn off that Blackberry or Game Boy immediately. If your cell phone is turned off and you still stop and start, you may be running low on power. Charge the battery on your electric wheel chair. After all, we can't blame cell phones for everything.
Your child frets, "I don't want to use electric wheelchairs! I'd like a scooter—they're cooler and more stylin'." Or if you need the electric wheel chair, you think the same thing. Why? Scooters such as the Buggy or the Pioneer lightweight models just seem cooler for you.
Unfortunately, your kids just have a choice of recreational scooters and stander power wheel chairs that look interesting if not particularly scooter-like. You, on the other hand, can choose a wide variety of scooters, assuming you don't need to remain in a wheelchair all the time. Remember, electric wheelchairs add mobility if you're bed-bound or wheelchair-bound and can't operate a manual chair. If you need to be in a wheelchair much of the time, a scooter isn't your best bet.
It's hard to say no to your kids. It's even harder to say no to yourself. But you have to if you don't need and can't afford an electric wheel chair with all the bells and whistles—and do you need them anyway? You just need a powerful transport. Fortunately, electric wheelchairs come in affordable, sophisticated styles like the Jazzy 1103 Ultra or the Merits MP3F High-Performance Power Base with front wheel drive. Select an electric wheel chair with zip and style that help you to feel zippy and stylish too.
You're just driving across the street in your electric wheel chair. It's 1 a.m. and you're coming back from your neighbor's after a late dinner party. No problem, you think. The street is deserted at night. I've got wheels. Then, out of nowhere, the teenage kid down the block who just got his driver's license narrowly avoids hitting you. You're as much of a target as a bicyclist or motorcyclist...oh, and you're wearing dark clothing (boy, did you ever forget to read up on your electric wheelchair tips). Don't count on power wheel chairs to get you out of harm's way: Reckless high speeds could cause a worse accident.
To avoid trouble at night, wear light-colored clothing and attach a brightly colored flag to your electric wheel chair (this is useful in daytime too.) As with bicycles, you can decorate electric wheelchairs with headlights, reflector tape, or flashing taillights. Carry a flashlight.
Other tips for users of power wheel chairs:
• Dark clothing is a no-no, unless that little black dress has more sequins than the Oscars.
• Make sure your brakes work in case you do need to avoid an oncoming car.
• Don't cart heavy loads on the backs of power wheel chairs that could make you tip over at night.
• Consider asking someone at that dinner party to be a "designated walker" to see you home safely.
You love the nightlife, you've got to boogie...but do it without risking your life. The teenage kid down the street will thank you. He may even ask you for driving tips.
You've named your manual wheelchair "Daisy." It's almost like a family member. But this relative is giving you a backache. You can't operate your manual wheelchair without feeling stiff and sore every minute. You want to give up the manual wheelchair that Medicare paid for. You're determined than an electric wheel chair will give you more independence. The question is, will Medicare cover a change, and is it too early to start shopping for electric wheelchairs?
Medicare says yes, but you have to toss out the manual wheelchair that Medicare now covers. Not literally—you just have to return it if it's a rental, or give it away (many hospitals and nursing homes will welcome this donation). Power wheel chairs and Medicare will work together once you've gotten rid of the manual wheelchair.
You and your manual wheelchair have been through everything. It won't be easy saying goodbye. That said, you're ready for the next phase of life...ready to say goodbye to pain and stiffness. While letting go isn't easy, Medicare reimbursements make life in a wheelchair a little simpler. You can christen your electric wheel chair Daisy II and start your new life together.
Confused by motorized electric wheelchairs versus power wheel chairs? Is it a debate as fierce as Coke versus Pepsi? And which is best for you? Refer to the cheat sheets below for some guidance.
Power Wheelchairs are:
• Propelled by electricity
• Available in gear vs. belt drives (belt drives wear out faster)
• Not cheap for high-end models and can go as high as $7,500
• Versatile with front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive and mid-wheel drive options
• Not as useful for varied terrain
• Best at tight turns if you choose mid-wheel drive
Motorized electric wheelchairs are:
• High-end with spring suspension and can cost as much as $7,500
• Smooth-riding with more features compared to power wheel chairs and scooters, such as power tilt, elevation and recline
• Versatile and can be used as a car seat
• Controlled by a programmable joystick (like a stick shift with more power)
• Available in front-wheel, mid-wheel and rear-wheel drive, like power wheelchairs
• Able to handle more varied terrain and tighter spots
• Best at tight turns no matter if it's mid-wheel, front-wheel or rear-wheel drive
Unlike the Coke vs. Pepsi debate, the question of power wheel chairs versus electric motorized wheelchairs is an important one. To a degree it's a question of lifestyle and personal taste. Some questions to ask:
• Am I going to be using this electric wheel chair mostly at home and on flat surfaces when I'm out and about, or will I go for a run in the park over grass?
• If this is an electric wheel chair for my child, does it offer him or her ease of use?
• Do I want the option to sit, stand, recline, or tilt, which might be better for my muscles, not to mention my child's if she's the one needing the electric wheel chair?
• Do I need to be mostly stationary in my electric wheel chair?
• How much power or "zip" do I want?
• How durable does my chair need to be and can I get by with a lightweight model?
• How easy is it to transport my wheelchair in my car or truck? Do I want the option to use my electric wheel chair as a car seat?
• Do I want a jazzier, more high-tech model to make the transition of being in a wheelchair easier?
• Am I going to need to turn abruptly in small or tight spots in my home or office?
The next time someone asks you about Coke vs. Pepsi, you can ask them which they prefer, motorized electric wheelchairs or power wheel chairs. Now if we could just get celebrities to launch multimillion-dollar ad campaigns.
You've seen the Google ads. "Get an electric wheel chair at no cost to you if you qualify." You think that sounds great, especially if you need one of the high-end electric wheelchairs such as the Pride Jazzy 1400. Then you hear that Medicare covers 80 percent of the cost as long as your doctor approves the chair. Which do you believe? Is it Internet hype about electric wheel chairs and Medicare? Should you call the Better Business Bureau? Actually, not just yet…
You can get away with both 80 percent coverage and a free ride on the remainder, especially if the power wheel chairs you are considering come from a Medicare-approved manufacturer. Typically, secondary insurance covers the 20 percent Medicare doesn't, but Medicare must be your primary insurance. If you don't have and can't afford secondary insurance, makers of power wheel chairs can pay the remaining 20 percent, provided you qualify. Be wary, however, of any manufacturer that charges fees to evaluate you, or any hidden fees whatsoever. Legit manufacturers usually offer a no-obligation evaluation. Also, some companies such as Electric Mobility, maker of the Rascal Scooter, have run afoul of the Better Business Bureau, so do your homework. There's a reason Medicare doesn't give its stamp of approval to all manufacturers and you know by now not to believe everything that's on the Internet.
You heard horror stories from your neighbors about HMOs and insurance companies, and now Medicare, refusing to pay for needed medical equipment. You're not asking for coverage of a tummy tuck, you're asking Medicare to help out with your electric wheel chair. You may already have been denied coverage for an electric wheel chair you already have, or you may be looking at electric wheelchairs while worrying about Medicare. If you're in the second situation, the old saying goes, "Don't put your power wheel chairs before the horse." At this point you may feel like buying a horse.
There are other options. Stores such as U-Scoot have Medicare, insurance and workman's compensation experts to deal with your questions and concerns about electric wheel chairs and Medicare. If your coverage won't reimburse for power wheel chairs, U-Scoot lets you keep your electric wheel chair as long as you've pre-qualified for one.
U-Scoot has a handy questionnaire to determine if you qualify. To automatically qualify, you must:
• Be bed-confined and chair-confined without the use of a wheelchair
• Have severe weakness in your shoulders and upper arms
• Be unable to operate a manual wheelchair
You may need to provide the consultants with more detailed information if you answer "no" to any of these choices. Scooterlink makes Medicare referrals when you buy, say, a Pride Mobility Pride Jet 2 HD from their store. You should always consult your policy and be sure to talk to the Underwriting department of your insurance company.
Medicare.gov provides information to Medicare users. You can download "Medicare Coverage of Durable Medical Equipment - 11045" in Adobe Acrobat format. In order for Medicare to cover your electric wheel chair, you must:
• Have a doctor's diagnosis as to why you can't use a manual wheelchair.
• Lack capability to push a manual wheelchair.
• Be unable to safely move on your own around your house without electric wheelchairs or with manual wheelchairs.
You're ready for a power wheelchair with some Force. "Power of wheelchair in you is," says Yoda. And while you're not tempted by the Dark Side, you'd like a little more oomph when dealing with Sith lords.
Out of all the wheelchair manufacturers and wheelchair brands, you bypassed the Sunrise Medical wheel chair and the Invacare wheel chair. You went straight for the Pride Mobility Jazzy wheelchair. But finding a wheelchair brand shouldn't be a snap decision, which Jazzy model will rev your motor and summon up the Force?
Most Jazzy wheelchair models have:
• Top speed of 5-6 MPH
• On board battery chargers
• Height adjustable seats/ high back-seat option
• Multiple seating options
• Wide turning radius of 20-21 inches
• Weight capacity of 300 pounds, customizable to 400
• Low center of gravity for a smooth ride
If you want more speed, the Jazzy 1122 Standard Power Wheelchair offers ActiveTrac suspension that increases top speed to 6 MPH. If you're driving on variable terrain (in the Death Star or on Naboo), the Jazzy 600 Standard Power Wheelchair lowers its OMNI-Casters to deal with that crack in the sidewalk or the pothole the city swore they'd fix. Mid-Wheel Drive 6 technology adds stability while you're riding into battle. It doesn't offer headlight or taillight options, so be careful in fog and at night—good advice anyway for everyone, especially Jedi knights. Whichever Jazzy wheelchair you choose, may the Force be with you.
Want one of the best electric wheelchair tips you can get? Make sure that you choose electric wheel chair supplier who accepts assignment. That means the seller accepts the amount Medicare approves for your electric wheelchair (typically 80 percent of the cost.) Then, all you pay is the coinsurance (20 percent of the approved amount), plus deductibles.
It's important to choose a style of power wheelchair that fits with your lifestyle and needs. If you are planning to transport your chair to many different places, or need to be able to fit your chair into small spots, a portable chair may be your best choice. Be aware, however, that portable power wheelchairs may not support larger sized patients the same way standard power wheelchairs can.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|