I just went on 883 Jia FM radio on the 10 to 11 pm slot, for a "live" interview with 张美香 Eeva. On air, I shared with the audience some tips on choosing a wheelchair, which I have summarized below.
For most people, their first contact with a wheelchair are those found at hospitals. But these are generally steel wheelchairs about 20" in seat width. They don't need to be portable, and need to be strong enough and wide enough to handle both small-sized and bariatric patients. Therefore, such wheelchairs make sense in the hospital context.
But for consumer use, steel wheelchairs don't work too well, because they typically weigh as much as 20 kg, which is too heavy for most females to carry into a car or taxi boot. So in the market today, lightweight aluminium wheelchairs are much more popular that steel wheelchairs.
2. Wheelchair or Pushchair?
To most laymen, both pictures above are wheelchairs. But actually, the one of the left is a wheelchair, while the one on the right is a pushchair.
The fundamental difference between them is that wheelchairs come with big rear wheels typically 20" or more in diameter, with hand rims attached that allow the patient to sit on the wheelchair and self propel. Pushchairs do not, and therefore require a caregiver to push the patient.
Which should you choose? Well generally wheelchairs have the additional self-propelling function and should be the first choice, but pushchairs have the advantage of being lighter by about 2 kg, and are more compact and easier to put in a car. And for some patients, they don't have the arm strength to self-propel anyway, so no point buying them a heavier wheelchair.
3. Seat Width
Many elderly clients prefer to have their wheelchairs as wide as possible, so they can put more things such as a purse beside them. But this is not ideal for 2 reasons.
Firstly, wide seats tend to encourage slouching sideways, which leads to bad posture over the long term and can cause problems such as scoliosis. Secondly, wheelchairs that are wider are actually harder to maneuver in tight spaces, such as narrow doors.
So for seat width, it is best to choose something that's more or less a good fit.
4. Detachable or Fixed?
For most elderly who are still able to stand and transfer themselves from a wheelchair to a normal chair, toilet seat or bed, wheelchairs with fixed armrests and footrests are good enough.
But for those whose conditions are more severe, they may need detachable wheelchairs whose armrest and legrests can be flipped up or swung away, allowing the user to slide sideways from the wheelchair to another seat without standing up.
Detachable wheelchairs are therefore more useful, but unfortunately they are also more expensive, so if you're not expecting the patient's condition to deteriorate rapidly you can save some money by buying fixed wheelchairs.
If you're unsure, do contact Falcon Mobility for more advice!