Lightweight folding wheelchairs? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 05-16-2008, 06:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi Mamas. Apologies for dropping in since my question isn't really parenting related (it's related to my own parent though) but I figured someone here would have some expertise and I didn't know where else to ask. So thanks in advance to anyone who has advice for me.

My mom had polio as a child and now is in her 60's and has post-polio syndrome. She's otherwise healthy but is plagued by pain in her legs and feet and has worsening muscle weakness. If she does even moderate amounts of walking, her feet start to burn and ache and she is miserable.

We have always gone places together with the kids, but it is getting harder and harder. The kids are getting older and so are interested in more active pursuits, bigger destinations like zoos and amusement parks and the ren faire, etc. Grandma can't do these things anymore b/c she just can't handle it. But she really wants to.

Ultimately, I think someday she's going to end up with a power chair. But she's nowhere near that yet and she would not want anything to do with one. But the other day, I brought up the idea of a portable wheelchair to bring along to places so we could have it in case it's needed. To my surprise, she actually agreed and seemed very interested. It would allow her to keep going to stuff with us.

Initially I had been thinking about renting, but I just checked Ebay and was surprised at how affordable the folding wheelchairs are. I could buy one for mom and it would be handy to have, rather than having to go to the trouble of renting one. But I have no idea how to pick one out or which ones are any good. Can anyone here help me?

Mom is a short woman, about 5'1" tall and a little overweight, but not very heavy, maybe 40lbs overweight. She has a bad back (again, the post-polio) and gets backaches from sitting in chairs with poor support. But usually she brings a lumbar cushion and a seat cushion and does OK, so maybe those could be used in a chair? Ideally, a chair that could cover some decent terrain would be nice (something you can push through the non-paved grounds of a renaissance faire? does that exist?) but even if it turns out we can only afford a chair that we can maneuver on pavement and indoors, that would be OK. Mom doesn't need the chair all the time. It would just be something she can use when her feet and legs start to hurt and/or get fatigued. She wouldn't need to use it at home or in ordinary daily life, but it would be nice to have it folded in the back of the van when we want to go places.

I'd really love to be able to locate a good chair that meets as many of her needs as possible. I'd like the budget to be less than $200. Anyone have suggestions, feedback, etc? I was encouraged by the inexpensive options on Ebay but if they're not going to be any good, then I don't want to waste money. TIA.
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#2 of 9 Old 05-18-2008, 11:54 PM
 
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I am no expert by any means, but would it be possible to get a doctor to prescribe a chair so that your mom could get some advice from a wheelchair vendor? You wouldn't be obligated to buy, I would think, but you might get some good ideas on what is available, what would be most appropriate, and whether or not your mom would have any special seating needs. Once you know more what you would need, you could go looking on ebay (or another site called something like Disabled Dealers---they might be at disableddealers.com or something similar; do a web search).

Until you know if your mom would be fine in a standard, low-cost wheelchair, or if she really needs a used high-end model, you can't really go looking, kwim?

Good luck to you! In my perfect world, equipment like what your mom needs would be readily, easily, cheaply available, sigh.

Joni and kids, incl. Gabriel, 9, w/ Down syn. and autism, and Michaela, 11, quirky spinal cord and full-time wheeler
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#3 of 9 Old 05-18-2008, 11:55 PM
 
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Spinlife.com is a wonderful site, and sells several light folding chairs--if she's going to be pushed, rather than self-propelled, look under "transport chairs." If she can get a prescription, Spinlife is an approved Medicare DME vendor.

(No, I do not work for them. SOrry for the commercial.)
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#4 of 9 Old 05-19-2008, 01:13 AM
 
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If it were me, and just for occasional use, I would check Goodwill and other thrift stores. It might be worthwhile to check out medical supply stores, if only to learn what features seem helpful and what size fits. You won't need a Rx just to test drive! I would expect to pay $50 or less. Not that I am cheap - but if you are anticipating short-term and occasional use, you won't need the Cadillac. I thought you anticipated increased needs in the future; you could begin to explore all the options.

By the way, can you suggest any great sites regarding Post Polio syndrome? My step-mother is paraplegic (since 1957) and she has mentioned this to me, but I was not able to find much beyond definitions.

Rhu - mother,grandmother,daughter,sister,friend-foster,adoptive,and biological;not necessarily in that order. Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic, but I had a good life all the way (Jimmy Buffet)

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#5 of 9 Old 05-19-2008, 02:50 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mamarhu View Post
If it were me, and just for occasional use, I would check Goodwill and other thrift stores. It might be worthwhile to check out medical supply stores, if only to learn what features seem helpful and what size fits. You won't need a Rx just to test drive! I would expect to pay $50 or less. Not that I am cheap - but if you are anticipating short-term and occasional use, you won't need the Cadillac.
Well, but she could get a nice new one for under $100.

Just saying!
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#6 of 9 Old 05-20-2008, 03:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the tips mamas. I appreciate the suggestions and I had not even thought about mom seeing her doctor about this. She is 64 and I don't think she's on medicare or medicare eligible yet (do you have to be 65 for that?) but maybe her regular insurance might cover it anyway. I don't know. She was a teacher so her insurance is through the WI education association and I think it's pretty decent as insurance goes. I thought about used chairs but was afraid that it would be hard to get service if I didn't buy it from a local supplier. Of course if I buy online I won't have that either. I don't know what to expect in mom's future, whether she'll eventually need a chair for more regular use or not. But it seems like even if she did need an upgrade someday, it might still be practical to have a small folding chair to have in the van for outings. I am not sure b/c it's all new to me. I had no idea there were so many features or things to consider when you start looking at the high-end chairs it's overwhelming. Maybe we will visit a store and at least look at them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mamarhu View Post
If it were me, and just for occasional use, I would check Goodwill and other thrift stores. It might be worthwhile to check out medical supply stores, if only to learn what features seem helpful and what size fits. You won't need a Rx just to test drive! I would expect to pay $50 or less. Not that I am cheap - but if you are anticipating short-term and occasional use, you won't need the Cadillac. I thought you anticipated increased needs in the future; you could begin to explore all the options.

By the way, can you suggest any great sites regarding Post Polio syndrome? My step-mother is paraplegic (since 1957) and she has mentioned this to me, but I was not able to find much beyond definitions.

mamarhu,
I agree it's hard to find good info on post-polio syndrome. I think it's one of those "orphan" medical conditions b/c polio is basically disappearing from this country and so there just aren't enough people interested in researching it and there are few people with enough experience to be good at treating it. My mom did find a pretty good place in Minneapolis though, called the Sister Kenney Institute. They have clinics in several places in Minnesota and deal with multiple areas of rehabilitative medicine, including a post-polio clinic. Here's a link to their post-polio page: http://www.allina.com/ahs/ski.nsf/page/postpolio

When my mom went there, she had a thorough evaluation and I can't remember what all they did, but one of the big things they told her to do was to cut back on her exercise. That was a big blow to my mom b/c she had been really active golfing and swimming and stuff and she had to give up most of it. They told her that b/c of her history of polio she had to limit her use of her muscles in order to maintain what strength and function she had. I don't remember the specifics, but it was a surprise to me to hear that. Don't quote me on this, but from what I understood, all the regular vigorous exercise she was getting was actually wearing out her muscles rather than strengthening them. So she was only supposed to exercise 5-10 min and then rest. I don't recall all the restrictions. And she doesn't limit her daily living activities (like working around the house more than 10 min) but she doesn't do "workouts" like she used to.

Not only does she have the tendency to fatigue and lose strength, but she also has neuropathic pain which means her feet and legs develop terrible burning pain which is made worse by exercise, standing, walking, etc. Short periods of time aren't so bad, but longer ones are. I think the pain has been one of the worst things for her. She's a tough lady and she doesn't complain much, but you know it's bad b/c of how quiet she gets and she'll sit down at every chance. I believe they started her on neurontin or something like that and it's helped but only a very little bit. I was hoping they could do more for her. It has been a long time since she went though.

I know there is also a yahoo group for post-polio syndrome, but I don't know how active it is. I looked it up and sent mom the info, but she's not the email group type so I don't think she ever even checked it out, let alone subbing. I think maybe she should go back for another visit to Sister Kenney, but I don't know what more they can offer. My aunt had polio too and she has been there more, but she also has more physical disabilities stemming from the polio, including wearing leg braces. I think she has some respiratory and swallowing issues also, but I don't know much about it.

I wish I had more links or info for you. Maybe if you're not anywhere near Minnesota, you could at least contact Sister Kenney and find out if there are similar organizations in your area. I would think that in such a narrow field of medicine/rehab, they would probably have networked with other organizations.

Good luck!

And thanks everyone.
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#7 of 9 Old 05-21-2008, 03:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quick update on my previous post about post-polio syndrome stuff. I am at my mom's now. Got a little more info and here's another link. Actually this one says pp people should not be advised not to exercise. Hmmm... I haven't really read the whole thing, but I thought I'd post the link. I think there's more info you can access about pp syndrome here too. Can't stay online here but a moment, but thought I'd share this in case any good info here. http://www.post-polio.org/edu/pphnews/pph19-2a.html
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#8 of 9 Old 05-25-2008, 04:01 AM
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I have had to use a manual wheelchair for the past 2 1/2 years due to a neurodegenerative birth defect and SCI, so I can tell you a little bit about what to look for in a lightweight folding chair.
Since your mom is still a little bit active, I would strongly recommend NOT buying one of those wheelchairs that looks like the ones in a hospital lobby. They are very heavy and have few adjustments for the backrest and legrests. Plus, some models have high armrests, which can make it hard to push the chair independently. You also ultimately have to use seat and back cushions with these chairs to make them comfortable to sit in longer than an hour. Invacare, Pride, Guardian and Everest & Jennings make chairs like this.
You might want to look at these three chair models that are lightweight, yet fold easily:
Quickie LXI
Breezy Ultra 4
Everest & Jennings Metro IC4

These chairs have several adjustment options, come with anti-tip bars for the back (so the chair won't accidentally tip backwards), have removable armrests and footrests, come in different colors (the Quickie models do), are under 30 lbs., and have the option of removing the rear wheels for travel with the help of quick-release axles.
I have used a Quickie LXI chair in the past and found that it was lightweight enough for me to push by myself, the color options were great, and it folded easily. Currently, I am using a Quickie Revolution wheelchair, which is an ultra lightweight model, but I think it might be too light for your Mom's sense of taste and mobility. I am younger, extremely active, and play sports, so I need a super lightweight wheelchair.

In addition to looking on www.spinlife.com, you might also want to look at www.sportaid.com, and Specialty Medical Supply for folding chairs.

Jessie
(single mommy to Angela, 3 years)
::::::famb eds1:
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#9 of 9 Old 06-05-2008, 04:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Jessie,
Thank you so much for the input and the chair recommendations. Sorry I didn't reply sooner, but we were out of town for vacation and I was offline all that time. I'm going to suggest these to my mother and see if she wants to go look at them somewhere if we can find a medical supply place that has them. I'll check them out online also. I really appreciate the insight from someone who's used a wheelchair before. That makes all the difference.
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