Posts Tagged ‘electric wheelchair’

Modern Power Chairs

powerchairElectric wheelchairs, or power chairs, are today a very important accessibility aid that greatly improves the lives of millions of people every year. While modern power chairs offer similar functionality to the first electric wheelchairs developed almost 60 years ago, their design and reliability has changed a great deal.

Power Chair Range and Speed

One of the biggest changes to the modern power chair is that it now uses a much stronger and more reliable electric motor. The batteries are also much improved, offering a much greater per charge distance. This not only means the wheelchair can be driven further faster, but also that it can support more weight and preform better over uneven terrain. It is not uncommon for an electric wheelchair to be able to travel more than 10 miles on a single charge, with a number of power chairs having a range between 15 and 20 miles. The top speed is also significantly higher, with most power chairs traveling at speeds at or above 5 miles per hour.

General Power Chair Design

While from a functionality and reliability standpoint, having an improved electrical system is one of the biggest differences between modern electric wheelchairs and their predecessors, there are also a significant number of changes involving the design of the device. The original electric wheelchairs were simply manual wheelchairs that had been outfitted with an electric motor and battery. However, today, most electric wheelchairs share a much different design.

This includes a much smaller molded plastic base, which contains the electrical components of the wheelchair. A seat is installed upon this plastic base and is usually referred to as the captain’s chair. Depending on the type of wheelchair, the captain’s chair could be relatively small, or it could resemble a high end office chair, with a high back and extended armrests. In either case, it is much different than the chair used on most manual wheelchairs, which is made out of slats of vinyl.

Power Chair Controls

There are in fact a great number of improvements and changes that have been made to the power chair over the years, many of these mechanical, but the standard electric wheelchair control scheme is the same. This is of course the joystick control system, which is found on most electric wheelchairs. The joystick is attached to the armrest of the wheelchairs chair and allows the power chair to be controlled by only the push of a finger.

There are also a number of alternate wheelchair controls that are commonly used, made available for people who are not able to physically able to use a standard joystick control scheme. There are many different types of controls, often aided by computers, allowing power chairs to be controlled by the angle of ones head, an individuals breath, or other parts of their body’s. For caretakers, there are also several popular remote control systems that can be attached to a standard power chair, allowing the unit to be controlled by someone walking behind it.

Even though the modern power chair shares a number of similarities with the first electric wheelchairs in regards to the functionality, they are actually quite different. Not only do they have a completely different design, but the modern power chair is much more reliable and durable.

Manual Wheelchairs vs Electric Wheelchairs

Wheelchairs are a popular mobility aid that greatly improves the lives of millions of people all over the world. The manual wheelchair has been around for thousands of years, while the electric wheelchair is relatively new, with the first electric wheelchair being developed in the early 1950′s. Choosing between a manual wheelchair or an electric wheelchair is an important decision that should be based upon the needs and requirements of its user.

Consider the Physical Capabilities of the User

One of the most important considerations when choosing between a manual or electric wheelchair is the physical abilities of the wheelchair user. Using a manual wheelchair requires a lot of upper body strength and can be very tiring even for someone who is in perfect health. In addition to having fairly good physical fitness, it is also necessary to use both arms to push a manual wheelchair.

An electric wheelchair, on the other hand, can be controlled by only using a single finger and there are also a number of other alternate controls as well. Alternate wheelchair controls include head controlled wheelchairs and breath controlled wheelchairs. This allows even someone with greatly reduced physical capabilities to use a wheelchair.

Consider Where the Wheelchair Will Be Used

In addition to considering the condition of the wheelchair user, it is also necessary to consider where the wheelchair will be used and how far it will be driven everyday. If the wheelchair is primarily going to be used around the home, then a manual wheelchair might be a good choice, because even though it requires a good deal of physical effort, moving between rooms does not present a very large traveling distance.

If, on the other hand, you intend to use the wheelchair away from home across a larger distance, an electric wheelchair might be a better choice. As an example, traveling across a college campus would be much more strenuous than traveling between rooms in a house. The per charge range of an electric wheelchair varies, but most can travel between 10 and 20 miles without needing to be recharged.

In addition to considering how far one will be traveling in the wheelchair, it is also important to consider what type of terrain will be traveled over. It takes much more effort to move up and down hills than it does to move across straight ground in a manual wheelchair. Some electric wheelchairs are also much better choices for off road use, although it is also possible to buy off road wheels for manual wheelchairs.

Consider the Cost of the Wheelchair

Finally, it is also important to consider the wheelchair users budget, when deciding between a manual wheelchair or an electric wheelchair. There are of course exceptions to the rule on both sides, but typically a manual wheelchair costs significantly less than an electric wheelchair. Usually a quality electric wheelchair costs between $3,500 and $7,000, while a manual wheelchair costs between $300 and $1,500.

When considering cost, it is important to take into account insurance programs, such as Medicare or Medicaid, which will often help to offset the cost of a wheelchair. For example, in the case of Medicare, typically 80% of the cost of the wheelchair is covered, so this can greatly offset the expense of an electric wheelchair.

Electric Wheelchairs

The wheelchair is one of the oldest types of medical equipment known to man. Its uses can be traced back thousands of years and every year, the wheelchair greatly improves the lives of the mobility challenged. The electric wheelchair, on the other hand, is a much newer device and has only been available for about sixty years.

The first electric wheelchairs, which were developed during the nineteen-fifties, were simply manual wheelchairs that had been outfitted with an electric motor. They have changed a great deal since then, although there are a few that still share a similar design to these early electric wheelchairs. Most however, have a power base, which contains the electric motor, wheels, and batteries, with a chair mounted to the top of the base.

To control the wheelchair, a simple joystick is attached to the arm of the chair and the wheelchair user can simply push the joystick in the direction they wish to go. Most will also have a button for a horn, a battery meter, and a speed adjustment mounted in the armrest.

While for many people the joystick will provide an adequate control system, there are some who lack the ability to use this type of control and must instead use an alternate wheelchair control system. For instance, it is possible to control the wheelchair with head movements, breath, or even with a remote control. Currently, there are several companies working on a brain controlled wheelchair as well, which will eventually allow the wheelchair user to control their wheelchair with thoughts.

There are many different models of electric wheelchair available and a number of different manufacturers as well, but most electric wheelchairs can usually be classified as either rear wheel drive wheelchairs or mid-wheel drive wheelchairs.

A rear wheel drive wheelchair usually has 4 wheels and the two rear wheels are responsible for moving the wheelchair. They provide a very sturdy and stable base, because the weight is evenly distributed across the four wheels.

A mid-wheel drive wheelchair usually has 6 wheels. The set of wheels in the middle is used to move the wheelchair and the other wheels, which are located on the front and back of the base, are used to provide stability. A mid-wheel drive wheelchair is incredibly maneuverable, however the weight is not as evenly distributed, so it will not be as stable as a rear wheel drive wheelchair.

While the rear wheel and mid-wheel drive wheelchairs are the most common, there are also foldable electric wheelchairs, which use a frame that is similar to that of a manual wheelchair. These are popular for traveling, but lack many of the features of the other types of electric wheelchairs.

The electric wheelchair has greatly evolved over the last fifty years and today provides a very reliable and dependable way to allow a mobility challenged individual to get around.

Medicare and Electric Wheelchairs

Medicare is a federally funded insurance program available to most Americans over the age of sixty-five. It is designed to provide affordable health care and covers the cost of doctors visits and prescriptions. In addition to providing coverage similar to that of private insurance, Medicare also covers the cost of Durable Medical Equipment, which is a broad category consisting of many types of home medical equipment.

Wheelchairs, both manual and electric, fall into the category of Durable Medical Equipment and are typically covered by Medicare.

While electric wheelchairs are covered by Medicare, the insured must meet several requirements in order for the device to be covered. One of the main requirements is that the individual is unable to use a manual wheelchair. They must also be able to transfer into and out of the wheelchair and able to operate the electric wheelchair in a safe manner.

In addition to the above physical requirements, the electric wheelchair must also be prescribed by a doctor as part of a treatment plan. In most cases, Medicare will only cover one electric wheelchair every five years, so if they have previously provided reimbursement for a wheelchair, it might not be available.

With a doctors prescription and assuming the insured meets the other physical requirements, Medicare will typically provide reimbursement for up to 80% of the cost of an electric wheelchair. Some companies will directly bill Medicare, although it is usually also possible to buy the electric wheelchair first and apply for reimbursement later. However, if you go this route ensure that you meet Medicare’s requirements first and will be eligible to receive reimbursement.

For those who use a Medicare Advantage Plan (MMA) the rules for reimbursement may vary, so it will be necessary to check with the company that runs this plan. A Medicare Advantage Plan is available to those eligible for Medicare and covers the same things as traditional Medicare, but is run by a private insurance company. As a result, the way some things are covered and reimbursement received can be a little bit different, but Medicare Advantage Plans are required to cover the same things as traditional Medicare.

Electric Wheelchairs for Seniors

shopriderpowerchairElectric wheelchairs, which are often also called power chairs, offer the advantage of a manual wheelchair, in that they are very maneuverable. However, unlike manual wheelchairs, power chairs are powered electronically, so they can typically be operated very easily, requiring very little physical activity of the senior.

A simple joystick control scheme is most popular for controlling electric wheelchairs, which allows the senior to simply push the joystick. The joystick, which is attached to the arm of the power chair, then moves the wheelchair in the direction they wish to travel. Of course, there are a number of alternate wheelchair control systems available as well, including breath controlled systems and remote controlled systems, which are often used by caretakers.

A Brief Background on Electric Wheelchairs

The first electric wheelchairs, which were developed in the early 1950′s, were simply adapted E & J manual wheelchairs.

An electric motor was attached to the manual wheelchair, which was controlled using a simple joystick control scheme, although even during the 1950′s, researchers were already coming up with alternate control schemes. One popular method was to mount something similar to a joystick near the individuals head. They could then use their face to control the electric wheelchair.

The Modern Electric Wheelchair

Today, while some portable electric wheelchairs do use a traditional steel tubed folding wheelchair design, most look much different from a traditional manual wheelchair. Instead, an electric motor and battery is contained in the base of the wheelchair, usually covered by molded plastic.

A captains chair, which, depending on the cost of the power chair, often rivals that of most office chairs, both in comfort and durability, is mounted on the base of the wheelchair. The captains chair often reclines and swivels, to facilitate comfort and make transferring into and out of the wheelchair easier. Some even include an electric lifting system to raise and lower the chair.

While many power chairs share a similar design, one way they are often classified is by their wheels. A mid-wheel power chair features one set of large wheels in the middle of the base and one set of smaller wheels on the front and back of the base. The larger wheels are what does all of the work and are powered by the electric motor. The smaller set of wheels on either side of the drive wheels, provide extra support and stability.

The mid-wheel electric wheelchair offers the advantage of excellent maneuverability. It can turn in much smaller spaces. However, in some cases it might not offer the same stability as a rear-wheel drive wheelchair. This is because the center of balance for a mid-wheel wheelchair is in the middle of the power chairs base.

The other common type of electric power chair is the rear wheel drive wheelchair. These feature a set of rear wheels, which depending on the model might be slightly larger, and a set of front wheels, giving it four wheels in total. The rear wheels, are powered and what actually moves the power chair.

The rear wheel drive wheelchair does not offer the same maneuverability that a mid-wheel power chair does, but does offer increased stability. This is because the weight of the occupant is more evenly distributed across the base, making a wider center of balance.

As is the case with manual wheelchairs, power chairs, both mid-wheel and rear wheel drive models, include anti-tip casters to prevent the wheelchair from tipping over backwards.

Advantages of Electric Wheelchairs

One of the major advantages that an electric wheelchair offers is that it does not require much effort to use. Simply push the joystick and the power chair will move, with many offer very small turning radius and sensitive controls. The speed is often adjustable and some models can reach speeds of over 10 miles per hour.

The range of a power chair varies, but most can travel at least 5 miles without requring a recharge. Some can travel upwards of 20 or 30 miles per charge, but this often is dependent on the terrain and weight of the occupant. For example, if you decided to drive around the hills of San Fransisco, the battery would wear down much quicker than it would when used on flat land.

Along the same lines, if the rider weighed 300 pounds, the battery would wear down quicker than if they weighed 150 pounds. Often, an extra battery pack is purchased for those who use the power chair continuously, as this way when one battery pack wears down, it can be removed and charged, and the fresh battery pack used.

Electric Wheelchairs and Seniors

While the electric power chair can be an excellent device, especially for seniors, it is often cost prohibitive.

Of the three main mobility options, manual wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs, and mobility scooters, electric wheelchairs are by far the most expensive. When compared to mobility scooters, electric wheelchairs often also have a lower range, lower top speed, and are not as well suited to rough terrain. However, for indoor use, they are usually superior to scooters.

Electric Wheelchairs

The first electric wheelchair was developed in the early 1950′s. These early power chairs took an existing wheelchair, usually the E & J manual wheelchair, and outfitted them with an electric motor. These chairs quickly became popular and today millions of people benefit from electric power wheelchairs.

While today, electric wheelchairs are much more advanced than the first electric power chairs, they do share one similarity. The joystick control system was first developed in the fifties and is still one of the most popular means of controlling an electric wheelchair today. The joystick can be mounted on either side of the chair and usually only requires a little bit of pressure for the occupant.

There are many people, however, who can not use this type of control system, so there are also several types of alternate control methods that can be used with an electric wheelchair that do not require the use of the occupants hands.

An electric wheelchair and a manual wheelchair share many similarities in regards to the services they provide, but they are also very different. Since power chairs are electric powered, it is necessary to charge them after each use. The range that a power chair can travel per charge depends largely on the model, but the places that you choose to use it can also effect the range. For example, driving the power chair up a very steep hill will cause the chair to loose its charge quicker. Most can travel a minimum of ten miles on a single charge.

An electric wheelchair will typically have a minimum of 4 wheels, but some have six. In these cases, the extra wheels are more for support. The way the wheelchair is propelled will help determine how many wheels it has. A traditional electric wheelchair usually only has four wheels and the rear wheels are what actually move the chair. These are called rear wheel drive power chairs.

A, relatively, new type of wheelchair has become very popular over the last ten years. These chairs use a mid-wheel drive system, a set of stability wheels located in front and in the back of the chair. The mid-wheel drive wheelchair is incredibly maneuverable and this makes it great for indoor usage.

Electric wheelchairs are incredibly popular today and many people would not be able to get around with them.