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Power chair challenges: Part 2

August 24, 2015
by Kathleen Mears
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Since I have lived in nursing homes, when the batteries on my power chair died and Medicaid would not pay for them, either my sister or I absorbed the cost. Over time, other parts of the chair needed to be replaced. My sister bought foot rests to replace broken ones. I have also purchased small parts to keep my chair running. Now that I am no longer able to do that, I am concerned that using the controller when certain parts are missing could make the joystick difficult to control.

I hope I never have to use this chair when it is not operating properly. After my third power chair (purchased in 1998) was over five years old, the joystick controller became extremely touchy. Even though I was careful, the joystick caused me to tumble off my V8 van's lift onto the facility's parking lot surface. As a result, I suffered a head injury and needed 11 stitches to close a laceration. Three years later the joystick malfunctioned again. This time I went off the same lift into a restaurant parking lot. Although I was only bruised, I was concerned about continuing to use my faulty controller.

Not long after the restaurant incident, the controller stopped working altogether. Since I could not afford $3,000 for a new controller, the vendor loaned me a used one and installed it on that power chair until Medicaid purchased my present chair.

Two years ago my sister suggested I use to raise money to purchase a new power chair. But when two residents here got power chairs last fall, I realized Medicaid is purchasing them again.

I am hoping that before a new chair is ordered, Medicaid will let a therapist and I decide what type of chair will function best for me. I realize there are cost constraints. My present power chair, however, did not cost less than the one I had before it, which was more functional for me. I understand why Medicaid is rigid regarding certain equipment. However, I think the power chair user's preference should be considered. I have used power chairs for 29 years and I know what styles and features work best for me.


Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...