A well-worn wheelchair can become like your favorite blanket, it’s comfortable and difficult to part with. I know from personal experience that getting a new wheelchair can be bittersweet, but it is necessary.
How do you know when it’s time for a new wheelchair? The length of time you have had your current wheelchair is one way to determine whether it’s time for a change. You may also have had a change in your condition, which I will explain shortly. Or, it could be that your current wheelchair is starting to fall apart and requires frequent repairs. Many factors are considered when thinking about a new wheelchair. The ordering process can be lengthy, so it is good to know when it might be time for a replacement.
How Old is Your Current Wheelchair?
The typical lifespan of a custom wheelchair is approximately 5 years - depending on the type of chair and the environment where it is being used. Some people live very active lives and put lots of wear and tear on their wheelchair. Power wheelchairs have many actuators and electronics that will break over time. The technology used in power wheelchairs is always changing, so the older it is the harder it can be to find replacement parts. Manual wheelchair frames can hold up for a long time, but the casters, wheel locks, and tires wear out and need more frequent replacement. I put my lightweight manual wheelchair in and out of my car frequently, and over the years that can damage the frame. Medicare and private insurance companies usually will consider a replacement wheelchair when your current chair is five years or older depending on its condition and your medical needs.
Change of Condition
What does a change in condition mean? Multiple changes can happen that may require you to be assessed for a new wheelchair. If you have lost or gained enough weight that your wheelchair no longer fits properly, that is a change in condition. If you gain weight your hips or thighs might start to rub against the tires, which can cause a wound. If you lose a significant amount of weight you might not be sitting midline. If you are leaning to the left or the right you can cause a pressure injury. If your weight has changed significantly you can ask your doctor, therapist and assistive technology professional (ATP) to schedule pressure mapping. Pressure Mapping
will show you exactly how you are sitting and where you are in danger of causing a pressure injury. If you don’t need a whole new wheelchair a custom back and new cushion might help you to sit up straighter and reduce the risk of a pressure injury. A new pressure injury is also considered a change in condition. If you receive an additional diagnosis that is also considered a change of condition. Talk to your ATP or healthcare professional about any changes in your condition that may require you to be assessed for a different wheelchair or new component.
My Recent Changes
I recently developed my first small pressure injury
over my right ischial tuberosity
. I have lost about 15 pounds, which may have contributed to the cause of the pressure injury. Also, as we age our skin naturally becomes more fragile. Therefore, frequent skin checks are important for all people with disabilities, especially as we get older. In addition to the weight loss I also have minor scoliosis, which causes me to lean to the right. The combination of my leaning and losing weight likely contributed to the pressure injury. To try to prevent another pressure injury, I contacted my doctor and asked her to send an order to Numotion for a new cushion. I also called my ATP and asked him to use pressure mapping during my cushion evaluation. Using this mapping technique to overfill the right side of a new cushion will correct where I lean to the right. We could also consider a more customized back for my manual wheelchair. Custom molded backs would help me to sit more midline and relieve the pressure on my right ischial tuberosity. Staying healthy when you have a disability requires paying close attention to changes in your body. Report any changes in your body to your doctor right away. Your physician can write an order for an evaluation with your therapist and ATP. Your healthcare team will help design the best solution for your specific situation.
If you think it's time for a new wheelchair click here
to book your wheelchair assessment. We can help you navigate the process and help to determine it’s time for a new custom wheelchair or custom cushion. Stay healthy, and live your best life is possible!