Wheelchair Basics
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Wheelchair Basics

           While we’re all familiar with the basic form of a wheelchair, that is to say, a chair with wheels mounted to the sides to aid in mobility for people who have difficulty or are unable to walk under their own power, most people do not know that there are actually numerous types and designs of wheelchairs, each with their own unique features to serve any number of unique mobility situations. If you or an elderly loved one has the necessity of using a wheelchair, having a familiarity with the multiple options available will allow you to select the one that best suits the specific mobility needs and health concerns.

            Even manual wheelchairs come in various sizes, weights, and functions. For instance, someone looking to use a wheelchair for long periods of time at a stretch, or over longer distances may be best served with a wheelchair that is simpler in design and lighter in weight.

            Typically, manual wheelchairs weigh between 25 and 40 pounds, and many of them fold up in various ways. This makes them suitable for travel and errands, as their light weight makes them easier to lift into and out of cars, and their lack of electrical systems means not having to worry about running out of power or needing to stop and charge it periodically. Most lightweight chairs are made from materials like titanium, carbon steel, or aluminum, and the rear wheels will be significantly larger than the front wheels.

            Manual wheelchairs are used by the user grabbing the back wheels which will be mounted directly under the armrests, and pushing them forward to propel themselves. The backrest will also have handles that a caregiver can use to push the chair forward.

            Standard wheelchairs, like lightweight manual wheelchairs, have large rear wheels and tinier front wheels. The main difference between these and lightweight wheelchairs is that standard wheelchairs will weigh more. This is the most common form of wheelchair for individuals with adequate upper body strength, and these can also be pushed by someone utilizing the handles on the back.

            Heavy duty wheelchairs, also known as bariatric wheelchairs, are the best option for people of a larger size. They are designed with sturdier frames, wider and larger seats, and are made to accommodate individuals weighing anywhere from 300 to 700 pounds. Heavy duty chairs may also have seats that recline, making it easier for caregivers to manually push individuals around without exerting too much force.

            Wheelchairs with tilting or reclining chairs are a helpful option for seniors who require two people or more to move them out of their beds or onto the toilet. These chairs are designed with backrests that drop towards the ground, which allows an older person to be carried from the chair to another spot with the assistance of another person.

            Transport wheelchairs are a more specialized form of wheelchair, differing from most others in that the back and the front wheels are both a small size. These chairs are most used in hospitals and are designed to be pushed around by someone else.