Ten Ways to Improve Wheelchair Comfort

Wheelchair technology has advanced dramatically in recent decades, thanks to innovations in seat design, wheel materials, electric controls, and chair accessories. Seniors who rely on wheelchairs can move around more easily and securely than ever before. However, many seniors still find that their chairs are not as comfortable as they would like. If you are currently using a wheelchair but are experiencing discomfort, there are several strategies you can use to improve your chair’s support and functionality. If you do not have a wheelchair today but plan to buy one soon, you can take advantage of these same strategies to ensure that you have a comfortable chair from day one. (Check: How to Measure for a Wheelchair: The Better It Fits, the Better it Feels)

Seats and Back Supports

One of the simplest ways to improve wheelchair comfort is to enhance your seat and backrest in one or more of the following ways.
  • Cushions: If your manual wheelchair does not have a cushioned seat, adding a foam or gel seat cushion can relieve pressure and provide additional stability. If you have an electric wheelchair with a basic cushion, consider upgrading to a thicker or more contoured cushion. Standard foam cushions are available in a wide range of densities and provide a balance between softness and support. Gel and memory-foam offer a more cushioned feel, but may be more difficult to stand up from.
  • Lumbar supports: A lumbar support provides additional cushioning and stability for your lower back. This can be especially helpful if you spend most or all of your day in your wheelchair.
  • Backrests: Upgrade your wheelchair backrest to gain more positioning options and a softer feel. This is a great place to use memory foam on your wheelchair, as the foam provides a custom feel that follows the contours of your back.
  • Custom seats: For a truly personalized feel, you can order a seat which is specially designed to fit your body. These may carry a higher price than other seat options, but many people feel it is money well spent.
  • Lift seats: Some electric wheelchairs feature lift seats that provide assistance when you need to stand up from your chair. If you are shopping for an electric wheelchair, be sure to keep this option in mind.

Positioning

Your position in your wheelchair can have a significant effect on your comfort level. Making a few minor adjustments to your backrest angle and footrest position can pay enormous dividends.
  • Footrests: If your legs are uncomfortable when you sit in your wheelchair, the solution may be as simple as changing your footrest height. If your chair does not have adjustable footrests, this is another simple upgrade that can pay off in long-term comfort.
  • Backrest positioning: Lean back! A wheelchair with a reclining back rest can help with stability and balance, and it feels good to boot!

Accessories

They may seem insignificant compared to your wheelchair’s main components, but a few carefully-chosen chair accessories can make your day’s activities easier and more enjoyable. Consider picking up the accessories listed below, or shop around to find new ideas.
  • Cup holders: A removable cup holder is a convenient way to keep your coffee, water, or other favorite beverage close at hand all day long.
  • Storage pouches: A soft-sided storage compartment is a great addition to any wheelchair, giving you a place to keep your wallet, glasses, magazines, and other essentials.
  • Trays and lap pads: A dining tray for quick meals or a cushioned lap pad for writing and computing can help you stay independent and productive.

The Right Chair

Of course, the best way to ensure your comfort is to buy the wheelchair that’s right for you in the first place. Check out our Wheelchair Buyer’s Guide for a wealth of information on finding your new chair.

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