Mobility is one of the key aspects of life that most people take for granted, until they don’t have it anymore. We don’t realize that every moment of our day, from rolling over and hitting that snooze button one more time, to driving to work, to picking up your groceries, to tossing and turning at night trying to get a comfortable position to sleep it – it all revolves around mobility. So when your ability to move, isn’t quit what it used to be, when you need a little or a lot more help than you used to, what can you do? How can you take back some of your independence? Is it even possible to regain what you are losing? Yes, it absolutely is possible and even more than that, you have several choices.
First, remember – you always want to start with the least intrusive mobility device. The goal is to regain some of your independence, not to become completely dependent on your mobility equipment. What type of equipment you need, depends a lot of what you need it for, how you plan on using it and what you feel comfortable using.
Manual Wheelchairs are everywhere, in every shape, size, color, those that are collapsible and those that are not, metal framed, or aluminum framed. So, which is best for you? That depends on how you answer the following questions. First, besides the trunk of your vehicle or the best of your truck do you have a way to transport the chair? If your answer is no, then you want to start by looking at wheelchairs that you can fold up. This allows for easy transportation in the trunk of your car, the bed of your truck or the backseat of your SUV. If your answer is yes, you’d want to start by looking at the rigid frame wheelchairs. Are you able to push yourself in the wheelchair or will you need to be pushed? If you answered yes to either part of the questions, you’ll want to look into the lightweight wheelchair. If you are unable to push yourself, or you don’t have someone to push you, I recommend skipping the rest of this paragraph and going straight to mobility scooters. Manual wheelchairs are available in several different colors, however most of the time, the coatings chip rather easy so as a general rule we recommend sticking to the metal colors.
Mobility Scooters, such as the Pride Mobility GO-GO series or EZ series, are very popular and for several good reasons. First, the GO-GO series breaks down in to 3, light weight parts, so it can easily be lifted and placed in the back just about anything, sedans, trucks, SUVs, if it’s got standard trunk space – it’ll fit. This allows for maximum mobility in the community because you are no longer limited to only participating in events with minimal walking or continual sitting. The battery lasts all day, even longer with the upgraded extended battery pack, and you can go as slow as walking pace or up to as quickly as 8 mph. The GO-GO series also offers several standard accessories such as red and blue color replacements, a horn, headlight, a front basket and a rear mount to attach oxygen tank holders or a larger rear facing basket. However, the biggest benefit to owning a GO-GO is while it performs wonderfully in the community, it performs just as well in the home. Being that the GO-GO is a small scooter, it easily fits down narrow hallways, tight doorways and smoothly maneuvers around corners, tables and other obstacles.
There are also full-size mobility scooters available, such as Pride Mobility’s Victory or Golden Companions GC series. While these are larger, you have the options for a more custom piece of equipment. You can upgrade the seat, not only to different widths, you can also upgrade the back of the seat from the highest point being at the middle of your back, to the top of your shoulders. The few upgrades that are available make a huge difference if you suffer from knee, hip or back pain. Full size scooters will easily last a full day in the community, come standard with horn, headlight front basket and adaptor for an oxygen tank holder in the back. Some of the 2.0 series even comes with a USB port and a built-in cup holder. However, while a full-size scooter can be broken down, we don’t recommend it, loading it into a vehicle becomes difficult due to the increase is weight, the lightest piece being just under 100 lbs.
Power Wheelchairs is another option available for patients who have a hard time holding up their arms for prolonged periods of time. Power Wheelchairs, the ones with the joystick on the arm rest, can be customized in any way you can imagine. Most power wheelchairs are available in at least 7-10 different colors, ranging from primary colors to camo or flags. They allow for a multitude of seating options and you can select different functions, such as lift, tilt, recline and electric leg rests. Lift, tilt and recline and typically added with degenerative illnesses such as MS, ALS or an amputee patient. Power wheelchairs can be incredibly diverse. They last all day with a proper charge, they are very quick, anywhere from 8 mph up to 12 mph. They are easily maneuvered both in the community and at home. But, power wheels chairs by design are much wider than a scooter and will not fit through narrower doors or skinny hallways. The biggest downside to power wheelchair is that they are not easily transported, because even a base model weights 250-300lbs and even more when features are added to the chair. They also cannot be broken down, so they don’t fit in the trunk of anything.
Manual Wheelchairs, scooters and power wheelchairs all come with another options that is applicable across just about any vehicle, a vehicle mobility lift. Vehicle mobility lifts are installed in one of three places, in the bed of a truck, on the hitch of an SUV, or on the inside of a minivan. The majority of vehicle lifts are completely electric, so the user only needs to get the equipment on the platform and push a button, the rest is done for them. This allows for heavier mobility equipment to be transported in the community. Lifts get rather tricky, rather quickly because there are so many different variable involved. The first thing we always look at is the tongue weight of the vehicle. If you ask most people what the tongue weight of a vehicle is, they will tell you its 1,500 pounds or 3,500 pounds, this is incorrect. Any number they give you in the thousands refers to the towing capacity of that vehicle, this is not the tongue weight. Good news, tongue weight is usually 10% of the factory rated towing capacity. So, if it can tow 1,500lbs, the tongue weight is 150lbs, which isn’t bad but typically only allows for a manual wheelchair or a very light weight travel scooter. In most cases, you will want your vehicle to have between 350lbs tongue weight, 3,500lbs towing, and 500lbs tongue weight or 5,000 pounds of towing. This allows for a vehicle lift for just about any piece of mobility equipment to be installed.
There are a thousand different options available to regain your independence, with a thousand more combinations to fit your exact needs. While it is incredibly overwhelming, I am always available to answer your questions, show you your options and help you decide on what the best fit for you is. Our goal is to help you regain your independence through mobility.