You have a lot to think about when selecting a wheelchair for your loved one.
Not all wheelchairs are the same, and not every wheelchair will be an appropriate choice for people with certain conditions.
For example, if your loved one will be in the chair for an extended period, a reclining wheelchair is often a better option than a standard manual chair.
People with conditions such as orthostatic hypotension can also benefit from using a reclining wheelchair.
Like an easy reclining chair, the seatback of a reclining wheelchair tilts back.
The reclining feature allows a person to change position in the chair without having to get up.
Although the degree of the angle can vary from wheelchair to wheelchair, many allow a person to recline up to a full 180 degrees (completely flat).
Some of the best reclining wheelchairs also allow you to lift your legs and feet.
The reclining feature and leg lift feature on some chair models means that a person can lie completely flat in the chair.
Aside from the chair’s ability to recline, one of the biggest differences between a reclining wheelchair and a standard wheelchair is the chair’s mobility.
Both types of chairs allow for movement.
But it’s usually easier for a person to move about in a conventional wheelchair.
Many conventional wheelchairs are self-propelled, meaning that a person can move about in the chair without assistance from another.
Since the purpose of reclining wheelchairs is to give a person a comfortable place to sit for extended periods, there is less of a focus on movement.
For the most part, a person in a reclining wheelchair will need someone else to push the chair from one location to another.
The wheels on many reclining wheelchair models are too small for a person to push him or herself.
Features to Look for
Since your loved one will be spending a good deal of time in a reclining wheelchair, choosing one that is as comfortable as possible is key.
Certain features help to increase the comfort of the chair. They include:
Elevating Leg Rests.
Not all reclining wheelchairs also allow you to lift the legs.
Keeping the knees bent while the back of a person fully reclines is not only awkward, it can be very uncomfortable.
Ideally, the armrests on the chair will move with the person.
That means that they will adjust as you adjust the seat to the back angle of the chair.
Ideally, the armrests should also flip down or out of the way to make it easier to get a person into and out of the chair.
Reclining wheelchairs typically have a higher back than conventional wheelchairs.
Although not a requirement, a headrest can provide better support for the head when a person fully reclines in the chair.
Cushioning in the seat makes for a more comfortable chair.
Cushion options typically include gel, memory foam or foam.
Memory foam tends to cost the most and offers the most comfort since it readily molds the body.
A tilt feature on the wheelchair helps reposition the body to ease pressure and lower the risk for bed sores.
Sometimes, reclining wheelchairs and tilt-in-space wheelchairs are separate.
Some models combine the two features, offering the best of both worlds.
The angle and shape of the seat not only improve comfort.
It also makes a person less likely to slide or slip out of the chair.
A V-shaped seat, for example, helps reduce the chance that a person will slide out of the chair.
Some reclining wheelchair models have an anti-tip feature, which keeps the chair from falling over backward when a person is reclining in it.
Another feature worth considering when choosing a reclining wheelchair is the size.
The size of the chair you choose depends on the size of the person using it.
Standard wheelchair sizes range from 16 to 20 inches in width, with the most common size being 18 inches.
Some models also offer a 30-inch seat width for people who weigh over 300 pounds.
Although many wheelchair models have a seat depth of 18 inches, if your loved one is shorter or taller than average, you might need to find a model with a deeper or shallower seat.
You can determine the size of the seat depth you need by measuring from the back of the person’s shins to the back of their pelvis while seated.
Pros and Cons of a Reclining Wheelchair
One of the biggest pros of a reclining wheelchair is that it allows a person to change position without getting out of the chair.
An individual who wants to take a nap or rest while in a reclining chair can adjust the seatback, and leg rests to a 180-degree position.
The ability to change position quickly in a reclining chair also makes it an ideal option for caregivers.
It is much easier to change a diaper or catheter on a person when they are in a reclined position compared to when they are sitting upright.
Plus, many people find it easier to help a person out of a reclining wheelchair into a bed or another chair than to help a person out of a conventional chair.
Reclining wheelchairs aren’t right for everyone, though.
Although you can transport the chair or move a person around while seated in one, they are usually not recommended for people looking for a chair to serve as a means of transportation.
Many models can’t be self-propelled, so they aren’t exactly suitable for independent people. Models that have larger wheels and can be self-propelled tend to weigh a lot, making them difficult to move.