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Wheelchairs 101

Power Chair Or Manual

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Deciding whether to use a manual or power chair is often the easiest of the decisions that need to be made.

Generally, unless absolutely necessary for your immediate needs, it is advisable to start with a manual chair. If your mobility is expected to deteriorate over time, such as generally happens with ALS, it may be advisable to start with a power chair even though you do not currently need one.

Power chairs:

  • Are expensive. Power chairs can run as high as $10,000 or more depending on the features.
  • Have to be shown to be "medically necessary" to be covered by insurance (Including Medicare). Given their high cost, your needs will be examined carefully before coverage is authorized.
  • Are more difficult to transport than non-power chairs. To accommodate the power source and movement mechanism, power driven wheel chairs are heavier and bulkier than manual chairs. They may require you to modify your vehicle or purchase a special one for transporting.
  • Require maintenance. The power must be regularly recharged and, as with most transportation devices, there are moving parts to wear out and break.
  • Can be liberating. For the person who needs one, power chairs can be very liberating, allowing you to resume activities that you thought you were too disabled for.

If you decide to purchase a power chair, the seller can help with an insurer's required paperwork, including gathering necessary information, completing forms, submitting the forms on your behalf and following up as needed.

To assist with the purchase of a power chair there are many sites that provide in-depth information and assistance. If you type "power wheelchairs" into most major search engines, you will find hundreds of sites, many of which are operated by manufacturers. A few sites to note are:

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