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Wheelchair or Scooter? Which is best for YOU?

20 Aug

I promised to write about Wheelchairs, so today I am going to tackle the subject.  There are so many kinds of Electric wheelchairs….many designs and Brands…but I am sticking to what I know…..My personal experience with Electric (Power) Wheelchairs.


My 1st Scooter, pre-1989


I have discussed Scooters.  Electric Wheelchairs (or Power Wheelchairs)  are different from scooters mainly by the fact that they usually have 4 to 6 wheels (most scooters have 3, although some have 4 wheels)  and resemble more closely what I call a “nursing home” wheelchair in seat design.  Some smaller Power Chairs (what I call “Jazzy” style)  have nice seats that are more like a “Bucket Seat” in an automobile. Scooters usually have handlebars and Power Wheelchairs are controlled by a joystick.

Giant Hibiscus, Freestyle Music Park, Myrtle Beach, Sc 2009

Giant Hibiscus, Freestyle Music Park, Myrtle Beach, Sc 2009

I could not have done an amusement park without a Power Chair

My first Power Wheelchair

When I decided that I needed to use a wheelchair more…inside my house as well as outside for shopping, attending church, etc…. I realized that I could not sit comfortably for long periods of time in my scooter…and the scooter was causing too much wear and tear on my arms.  So  I got my first Electric (Power) Wheelchair.   I was in a Medical Supply Store and a bright RED Electric Wheelchair caught my eye.  I could not have that one…I found out that you should  be measured  for a power wheelchair and they make one to fit only you! 

 Medicare approved my early request for the transition from my manual wheelchair to a Power Wheelchair.  (I had bought my first scooter outright) I could not move the Manual wheelchair at all by myself.  I had to be pushed at all times.  (Medicare usually will only buy a new wheelchair every 5 years or unless you have changed circumstances.  I don’t know if that is still the rule.  Medicare had not bought my scooter…my parents did that!….So the “last” wheelchair that Medicare had purchased for me was the Manual one) So I was measured, and my new RED Power Wheelchair came the week before Christmas.  For the first time in years I was able to sit through church or a movie without pain or extreme fatigue!  My new Power chair had a “joy stick” that I could use to control the chair instead of those handle bars that were on my scooter.  I think this chair was about $9000.00.  Medicare and my Medicare Supplement paid for this chair. 

Skip ahead about a year and a half…..I was getting weaker in spite of doing everything (well almost) my Physiatrist suggested.  I had always had problems with my back, after having severe scoliosis in childhood.  I had worn a back brace for a couple of years as a child to straighten my scoliosis….but we found in early adulthood that my spine would not bend at all, and I had to sit perfectly upright with my head supported.  I was getting very fatigued from just sitting up in the new wheelchair.  Movies were again off of my list of things I could do, and if I went to Church, that was “it” for the day…and most of the next day for me! Forget shopping or other activities….I would get severe fatigue after only a couple of hours.   My wonderful Wheelchair Seating Specialist suggested that I try to get approved (early again)  by Medicare to get a Recline/Tilt wheelchair so I could lie back and rest…therefore slowing the atrophy of the muscles that held me upright… “virtually fused” spinal column was practically doing the whole job of  keeping me upright because of  my severely weakened trunk muscles. 

I’ll discuss my different wheelchairs in subsequent posts……..Talk to you later…..


My First “Wheels:” Scooter or Power Wheelchair?

16 Aug



Shortly after I was told that I had PPS, I was told that I needed to use my wheelchair full-time!  I was NOT ready to hear this.  I had an electric scooter that I used to walk my Great Dane around the block, and a push wheelchair that I used when I was somewhere that I felt like I couldn’t walk the distance. I could not self-propel and had to be pushed.  This included going to  Grocery Stores, Malls, Fairs, Football Games, etc.  My ex-husband pushed me.  I had absolutely NO control!  I was trying to walk everywhere else.  I used a cane, but that supplied little support.  I really was worn out from the effort of trying to walk on legs that were so weak. 

I started using my 3 wheel scooter in the house.  I was doing laundry from the scooter, cooking from the scooter…you name it. It was hard.  I was never further than a few feet from the scooter.  After about 3 months, I did start to regain some strength.  I was just worn out from trying so hard for so long to be “not handicapped”.  I used a scooter full-time for over a year before I got strong enough (from resting) to do more walking and use the scooter less.

If you choose to buy a 3 wheel scooter there are some things you should consider:

  •  First of all, if you are going to be in it 100% of the time, it might not be the best choice. Think comfort. 
  • A scooter does not turn in its own space.  You have to make 3 point turns to turn around if you don’t have enough room to make a U-turn.
  • A scooter has handlebars, not a “joy stick”.  If you have limited use of your arms or weakening arms, you might not want to use a scooter full-time.

On the Positive side for purchasing a scooter vs a regular wheelchair:

  • Psychologically, you tend to not feel, or look so handicapped, or disabled in a scooter vs a wheelchair.
  • Some of them come apart in small pieces…that makes them more portable…especially if you have an Able Bodied person to help you assemble it. 
  • If you travel a lot, especially on airplanes, baggage handlers are more experienced at handling scooters than full size motorized wheelchairs. 
  • If you don’t have Insurance or Medicare, they are usually less expensive than motorized wheelchairs.

You also might want to consider:  purchasing a Scooter Carrier for the back of your car or van.  You will probably need a “Class 2” trailer hitch to attach it to your car,  and have the lights and motor (for lowering and raising the lift) attached to the battery of your car to run HOT (when the car is not running).   If your scooter and lift plus the scooter are very heavy and your car is not, you MAY need to put air shocks on the rear wheels of your automobile.   I had to do that to my car.  I was able to buy my lift second-hand (Medicare doesn’t pay for lifts) and a friend installed the hitch and electric connections for me.  Medical suppliers who sell scooters also sell the lifts.  They are not inexpensive.

  • If you use a scooter and a lift, remember that you will need to be able to walk from the front door of your car to the back and raise and lower the lift (usually controlled by buttons) and unlock the scooter from the lift and drive it off and raise the lift and (possibly) fold it up when your scooter isn’t on it.  You may also want to have a waterproof cover made for your scooter. Mine was about $200. 

Once, when I had my scooter and the scooter carrier on the back of my Dodge, I had neglected to lock it down well enough.  I made a left hand turn onto a duel lane highway when it was raining.  My scooter went flying off of the back of my lift and ended up in the ditch!  I was so lucky that it didn’t hit another car or a person!  I stood on the side of the road in the rain for quite a while until someone stopped and helped me!  (This was before we had cell phones!) 

I still own a scooter for travel.  It is small and lightweight and my husband can lift it easily with the help of a cab driver or a friend and put it in a trunk or in the back of a van/cab.  The handlebars fold down and the seat folds down.  I have taken this little scooter to many countries and it has never been damaged by the airlines. ( More about traveling with a wheelchair later.) I padded the seat and added lambskin covers to the handlebars to absorb the jolting of some of the cobblestone streets and sidewalks.  It has served me well.  I charge it in my hotel room at night. The small charger comes with the scooter and you can even charge it during dinner if you are “doing the town” and don’t want to run out of “juice.”

I hope this has been helpful.  We will talk about motorized (Electric) Wheelchair next.