When your mobility requires more than just the assistance of a cane or walker, it can be confusing when trying to determine if the most appropriate mobility device for you would be a manual wheelchair, power wheelchair or mobility scooter. There are many factors to take into consideration when deciding if it's time to invest in one of these devices.
To determine which mobility solution is best, it's important to answer the following questions:
Where it will be used (indoors, outdoors, or both)?
How long will it be used each day?
Are there any space limitations?
How will you transfer in and out of your mobility device?
Do your strengths and needs, both physical and intellectual, support the use of a manual wheelchair, mobility scooter or power wheelchair?
Once you answer those questions, here's a basic breakdown of which personal mobility device may be best suited for your needs.
This is the best choice for people who have severe balance problems, limited to no lower extremity use, and sufficient upper-body strength to propel the wheelchair.
Benefits: Manual wheelchairs are lightweight and easy to transport, have low maintenance costs, and have unlimited range since they don't require batteries like power wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
Drawbacks: Manual wheelchairs can be tough for some to maneuver and require good upper body strength, stamina and coordination.
A mobility scooter might be the best choice for people who need part time or occasional assistance outdoors and who lack sufficient strength and balance to use a cane, walker or manual wheelchair.
Benefits: Mobility scooters are designed for use on a variety of surfaces, including outdoor surfaces such as paved walkways. They require less physical exertion than manual wheelchairs.
Drawbacks: Mobility scooters require full upper body usage to steer, and adequate upper body strength to operate for extended periods. They are also difficult to use while seated at work surfaces, tables, sinks and counters due to the frontal obstruction. Plus, while the scooters are easy to operate, they do require a lot of space to maneuver — which is why they are best used outdoors, however they may lack stability on uneven terrain.
A power wheelchair (sometimes simply called a power chair) could be the best choice for people who need full-time mobility assistance both inside and outside of the home, and who lack sufficient strength and postural stability to operate a manual wheelchair or power scooter.
The ultimate mobility aid is a power wheelchair. Because they are battery operated versions of a standard manual wheelchair, they allow for more freedom and independence even for those who lack the upper body strength or stamina to use a manual wheelchair. They do not have the frontal obstruction of a scooter, meaning you can pull up to work surfaces, counters, sinks, or the dining room table with ease. And since power wheelchairs are operated by a joystick on the armrest, they are much easier to use than a mobility scooter.
Benefits: Power wheelchairs are capable of operating on a variety of surfaces, providing exceptional maneuverability that allows you to access more areas than you would a scooter (You can turn around in bedrooms, bathrooms, hallways and elevators!) Plus, you can pull up to work surfaces, countertops, sinks or the dining room table. In addition, a Hoveround power wheelchair is different than others and may be Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance eligible if your physician determines one is necessary for you.
Drawbacks: Can be difficult to transport without the aid of a ramp or lift, but a wheelchair ramp or lift can easily be purchased and installed to take care of that).