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Planning for a new power chair

November 9, 2015
by Kathleen Mears
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I have written here previously that my power chair is 7 years old. A couple of months ago therapy talked to me about getting a new power chair. I would like a new chair, but I have concerns. My present power chair has a special bracket to fit into a lock-down device in my van. I wondered if the bracket would fit on a different brand of power chair. I know if I had to purchase another bracket, it would cost $750.

At first, therapy suggested I use my old power chair for outings and use the new one in the facility. My sister, who takes me on some outings, said she did not feel comfortable using my older chair. She felt a new chair would work better and be safer.

I met with the occupational therapist (OT) and the vendor. They showed me the chair they felt would work best for me. It is a different brand. I told them I did not feel comfortable using my old chair for outings because of bad experiences I’ve had using chairs past the five-year mark. They had no idea whether my bracket would fit on a new chair. But a few days later they agreed to check it out.

I asked the vendor if he could email me a link to a YouTube video of the power chair he had in mind. I felt watching a video would give me a better idea of what the chair looked like. He sent me a link that I watched, and I found another video showing the same chair with a different configuration. That allowed me to see its capabilities.

At my second meeting with the OT and the vendor, I was told my bracket will fit on the new power chair. Since then, I have been measured for a "demo chair". I have never had a demo. Previously, my chairs were ordered and when it arrived I dealt with the difference.

My present power chair has always run well, but there have been difficulties. I told the vendor I want the chair to be able to pull under the table in front of my desktop computer. I want a different seat and I want the back of the chair to be curved.

The OT and vendor felt I should have a chair that reclines. Reclining power chairs are used by quadriplegics who have no sensation below a certain point and who are required to do periodic weight shifts to prevent skin breakdown. Since I have sensation and do not do weight shifts, I was not asking for the chair to recline. But I was advised the reclining feature has become standard equipment, like cruise control in an automobile. In the tilted position I would not be able to get my arm forward because I would be working against gravity. So, I wonder how much I will use it.

The process of ordering a chair for Medicaid to purchase has changed since my only Medicaid chair was ordered almost 8 years ago. The OT said she no longer completes the multiple page order form. The vendor has the certification and he does it.

I will be getting a demo chair in a couple of weeks. I will be interested to see if I can run it. Power chairs have joysticks on a console with speed buttons and sometimes a horn. I could not reach those buttons well, so my chairs were fitted with a small joystick to operate it. My aide, attendant, or the person with me, changes the speed.

I want the chair to be comfortable, functional and be able to make me as independent as possible. If it will move me around and help me to do the things in my life a bit easier, I will be pleased.



Kathleen Mears

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