Tuesday, 8 October 2019

The Process Of Finding My Powerchair | AD

AD - This post is sponsored by CareCo, all opinions are my own. 

In the UK and across the world increasing numbers of disabled people are having to fund their own wheelchairs, a problem in itself, but this also means that researching and finding a suitable wheelchair also comes down to the individual. This can be daunting and I know that I had no idea where to start, as well as my lack of knowledge meaning I initially chose the wrong type of powerchair for my needs. In the hope of helping others to get it right the first time I wanted to share my experience of the process that is finding yourself a suitable wheelchair, the mistakes I made and how I finally got it right!


Firstly, it's good to know what is out there so browsing websites online such as company specific websites if you have any recommendations to go on or websites such as CareCo to get an idea of the more basic chairs out there is a good starting point. Once you know your options you'll have a much better idea of what you want and need. One of the most basic questions you need to ask yourself is, do I need a manual or electric wheelchair? Most people start with some kind of manual wheelchair, but that doesn't mean it's right. I originally bought myself a £200 out of box manual wheelchair that I naively thought I could push myself, how wrong I was. I could manage on smooth surfaces like in a supermarket but even then I certainly paid for it in pain and fatigue in the days that followed. Pain, fatigue and strength will all play a part in this decision, as well as what your postural needs are. In an ideal world you'd have some sort of assessment by a professional, but I know this often isn't an option.

If you need a lot of support like a headrest or need the ability to tilt or recline in your wheelchair then a powerchair may be better suited. Manual wheelchairs fit in cars better however, so that's also something to consider. It's all about figuring out what your priorities are. For me, I don't drive so I needed something that would fit on the bus with ease and through my narrow front door. I also knew that to relieve my pain I needed to lie down and so the recline and tilt functions were vital. Think about your everyday life and what you need out of a wheelchair to achieve your goals.

Now, I don't know much at all about manual wheelchairs but I can talk about what my journey looked like with finding a powerchair! Powerchairs are broken down into 3 wheel configurations: front wheel drive, mid wheel drive and rear wheel drive. They all have different functions and suit particular lifestyles, so the best place to start would be figuring out what configuration fits your life best. Mid wheel drive powerchairs have a very small turning circle, ideal for indoor use and on public transport, the latter being the reason why I went for one. Front wheel drive powerchairs handle outdoor terrain and small steps best and some find rear wheel drive powerchair easier to drive. It all comes down to where you'll be using it. I live in a city and spend a lot of time in London and using public transport, so I had no use for something more catered to an outdoor environment, the turning circle was a priority for me.


If you drive then that will play a big factor in what kind of powerchair you'll need, and a lot of people these days are choosing lightweight folding powerchairs that fit into non-adapted cars for this reason. They are often cheaper powerchairs as well, although they don't offer a lot of postural support they are ideal for with minimal needs and for whom getting it into a non-adapted car is a priority. Powerchairs like the Fenix Lightweight Powerchair are similar in that they dissemble into multiple pieces for those tight on space at home or needing to put it in a car, and it offers a little more postural support with the backrest being height adjustable. These powerchairs aren't for everyone but they meet the needs of ambulatory wheelchair users in a way that the industry has not in the past. And if you find you'd be more comfortable with a mobility scooter then CareCo has options too, including folding mobility scooters.

Other important things to consider are also things like the range of the powerchair, how far will it go before the battery dies? Also, how much postural support will you need? Some of the more specialised powerchairs come with a variety of supports you can add, there really are an incredible amount of ways you can personalise some powerchairs to meet your needs perfectly. Electric functions such as tilt, recline, electric leg rests and a rise function are also things to consider. If you have chronic pain you may find some of these useful for relieving your pain when out and about, as is the case with me.


So, you've done your research, what next? Set up some demos! Now depending on what kind of powerchair you've decided on this might not be possible, especially for out of the box models, or you may find you need to find a store in person to try them, something I recommend doing, but for some places there is information on their website about setting up an at home demo. Having a demo allows you to try out the chair in your space, for me that meant inside my home and in the area around my home to test things like the suspension and comfort. After just one demo of a few chairs I was able to make my decision, but for others this process takes longer and do not be afraid to take your time, it's a big purchase!

Once you've chosen your powerchair, depending on the make and model it could be delivered within a few days or for more high spec powerchairs that require you to be measured and the powerchair made to order, it will likely be weeks or months. For me I know it was more than worth the wait though, the feelings of independence and comfort were even greater than I expected. Having a powerchair that suits my needs has been life changing, and that's what it's about really, finding something that suits your needs. The right powerchair for you is out there and hopefully this post will help you find it!
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2 comments

  1. I feel like cost is major factor is many peoples choices which really sucks...I know my chair comes in 3 types starting at £7,000, £14000 then £21,000. For example if I wanted to lie completely flat and wanted to have full speed for the raise feature I would of had to pay double for my chair!! So expensive!

    I have had 5 powerchairs in total as it so hard to know what will suit you till you try others, it a shame not easier to try different chairs on a trial! I started with shopride marbella, then invacare tdx sp2 NB now im on the sunrise medical q700m pro lol

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    Replies
    1. The cost is definitely a huge factor and played a big part in why I chose an unsuitable powerchair at first, the idea of fundraising a large amount of money was incredible daunting!

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