Personal mobility aids (PMA) are becoming increasingly popular among the elderly and disabled communities. These assistive devices are crucial in helping the seniors and those with disabilities move from place to place independently, reducing the need for a caretaker and providing these affected groups with a new lease of life.
However, the buyer's main aim is often to allow the patient to regain some degree of mobility as quickly as possible. As a result, they often neglect to undergo a proper wheelchair fitting before purchasing a new mobility aid. Therefore, we often see seniors leaning forward, leaning over the side, or look as if they are about to slide off their assistive devices. Moreover, a poorly sized wheelchair is bad for posture and can lead to injuries.
Therefore, if you are considering a PMA device for your elderly or disabled parents, we suggest taking them for a wheelchair fitting before you purchase your ideal mobility aid. Not only will this process save you from buyer's remorse, but your loved ones will also feel comfortable and relaxed when they are using their mobility wheelchair.
What is wheelchair fitting?
Wheelchair fitting is a process that helps determine the right wheelchair size for the user so that they can be appropriately positioned whilst seated. Getting the correct dimensions is essential as it ensures maximum comfort for the user. Moreover, when the user can sit upright properly, they can breathe and swallow food more easily, leading to less pain or discomfort when operating the mobility aid.
For most people, the 90-90-90 sitting position is considered highly ideal. This sitting position refers to a user achieving a 90-degree bend in their knees, ankles, and hips when sitting in a wheelchair. At the same time, their upper legs should be parallel to the ground, and the knees should not be dipping below the hips or elevated. Furthermore, their bottom should be all the way back in the wheelchair and touching the backrest.
What you should know before buying a wheelchair
Before purchasing a mobility wheelchair, you would first need to determine the user's hip-width and upper leg length. This is where going for a wheelchair fitting will help. Finding the hip-width is relatively straightforward and only requires measuring the edge of one's hip to the edge of the other. This measurement helps in determining the seat width of the mobility aid.
To determine the upper leg length, the measurement is taken from the back of the user's bottom, along the upper leg, and all the way to the back of the knee. With this information, you can determine the appropriate seat depth. It is vital for the user to sit on a firm chair during the process so that they don't sink into the seat recliner, thereby affecting the accuracy of the measurements.
Once the wheelchair fitting process is completed and you have the measurements you need, it is time to start shopping for a new PMA device for your loved one. We recommend choosing a wheelchair with a seat width 1 to 2 inches longer than your loved one's hip width measurement. This allowance ensures that the seat is comfortable enough to get in and out of while simultaneously providing enough support for the user.
As for the wheelchair's seat depth, you should look for one that is about 1 inch less than your loved one's upper leg length. A seat depth that is too long could cause your loved ones to slip out of the mobility aid. In contrast, if the seat depth is too short, there will not be adequate support for the user's legs and pelvis, which can lead to back pain after prolonged usage.
Other features to look out for
Even as you are identifying the suitable dimensions for your loved one's ideal wheelchair, we think you should also be on the lookout for PMA devices that provide quality-of-life features for both you and your loved one's comfort. Here are a few features to keep an eye on.
1. Wheelchair cushions
Wheelchair cushions are typically not included in any purchase. However, if your loved one has a history of pressure sores, we will recommend getting them a wheelchair cushion. This is because most wheelchairs generally have tight upholstery that gives them a firmer surface, which may lead to slight discomfort after prolonged usage.
2. Flip-up armrests
If your loved one is unable to or face difficulty standing upright, you might want to consider getting a mobility aid with flip-up armrests to allow for sideways patient transfer. It can be a challenge to lift your loved one to and from their mobility aid daily as it requires enormous strength.
With flip-up armrests, the transfer process is now easier, as you can park the wheelchair next to the bed before flipping the armrests up so you can gently slide your loved one from the assistive device instead of having to hoist them upright from the mobility aid before gently lowering them onto their bed.
3. Detachable leg rests
Detachable leg rests can help to minimise injuries and accidents. By removing this feature as needed, you can prevent your loved one from getting their feet or legs tangled with the leg rests when they are getting in or out of their wheelchair. The leg rests can be put back on later to provide support once the user is in the mobility aid.
There is no denying the various benefits a motorised mobility aid can bring to the elderly and disabled communities. However, before you commit to a purchase, it is best to undergo a wheelchair fitting process and do your research to ensure you choose the ideal assistive device for your loved one. Doing so can ensure your loved one is comfortable whenever they utilise their brand-new wheelchair.
At Falcon Mobility, we offer our customers a free test drive of our mobility aids so that they can select their ideal PMA device. So if you are on the hunt for a suitable assistive device for your ageing loved ones, do not hesitate to bring them along for a trial to decide which device is best suited for them. Our friendly sales assistant will be on hand to offer their guidance and answer any questions you may have about our products.