Monday, March 21, 2011

Fit to sit: Picking the right wheelchair is important
Posted: Mar 21, 2011, 7:47 am
By Jeff Hansel
The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

When getting fitted for a wheelchair, here are some important questions to consider:

• Will you drive a van and need to be able to tuck your feet in?
• What posture or skin-protection needs will you have?
• Would you like BlueTooth technology for computer mouse movement?
• Will you need head movement control?

If you've got cerebral palsy, MS, a spinal injury or other neurological condition, the sudden need for a wheelchair can seem urgent. But it's important to pick a chair that will best meet your needs both now and in the future, says Jay Anderson, co-owner of Anderson's Wheelchairs in Rochester and an ATP (assistive technology provider).

Website ads, and those mailed to your home, might offer "free" wheelchairs. But remember that those chairs get paid for, perhaps through insurance or Medicare, and those companies generally won't have a local representative "fit" you for the chair to make sure it's what you need. "It's a problem for these people once they get it, and find out they don't get any service," Anderson says. Things improved after all companies that bill Medicare were required to get accredited, he says, which weeds out some fly-by-night operations.

"If somebody has a hard time sitting upright, if they tend to lean over to one side or the other, we've got a back that's curved to help keep them positioned," Anderson says. Each person's unique needs can require a different solution. Stability can be addressed for some by a simple solution, such as a tilted chair back or a back pad that's curved and comfortable. Others might need a seat belt or "shoulder stops."

One major problem for wheelchair users is the possibility of pressure ulcers from sitting in the same position too long. Imagine sitting on the corner of a book in your office chair for a few hours. You'll begin to understand what a wrinkle in clothing can do to the skin of someone using a wheelchair.

"A pressure sore usually can cost $50,000 to $100,000 when you're going to a hospital and trying to cure one of those," Anderson says. Beyond cost is the pain and loss of work time or freedom to enjoy life.

Read the full article here.

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