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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Wheelchair Dilemma

Recently, Bob's neurologist ordered a "wheelchair evaluation". The idea was to find a way to make Bob's wheelchair more comfortable now that he has developed these neck and shoulder issues. I had sort of thought we'd be looking at something to add onto his wheelchair, like a head rest or a different kind of back support but...

The wheechair guy came over yesterday, along with Bob's OT, and together they decided the best option would be to order an entirely different wheelchair for Bob. It's called a "tilt in space" manual wheelchair that can be reclined all the way back to ease the pressure off his neck and shoulders and it looks like this:

The wheelchair sales rep told me that if the insurance would approve this chair, we could "trade" Bob's old wheelchair in to cover the co-pay.

Now I can see the benefits a wheelchair like this may have, especially for Bob's neck issues, and it might very well be more comfortable than his current chair but the more I look at this thing, the more depressed I get.

Because really, doesn't that look like a wheelchair for a severely handicapped person?

I know, I know, Bob is severely disabled. But truthfully, I do not like to think of him that way.

And it feels like such a big step backward for Bob, who is still working hard at his walking and standing practice.

This chair also has a few drawbacks. One is that you cannot break it down to throw it in the car if I needed or wanted to take Bob somewhere quickly. So we would be rather stuck always taking the wheelchair transport service which requires a 24 hour notice. And lose our independence.

And because of the small wheels, Bob could not propel it himself (which he is getting better at with his current chair). So I would be stuck always pushing him around.

And it's rather ugly.

The OT and the wheelchair rep really pressured me into making a decision and I told them to go ahead and start the process for the insurance approval.

But now, I'm having second thoughts. I don't know if getting this new chair is the right thing to do... When I try to talk to Bob about it, aphasia is getting the way as usual and I'm not sure what his opinion on the matter is. I guess I have the weekend to think this through.

I would certainly appreciate anyone's thoughts on this.


oc1dean said...

This sounds like the common compensate vs. recovery conundrum we always have. Does Bob wheel himself around in his current chair? Thus giving himself physical exercise and mental exercise having to figure out how to negotiate hazards. I would have thought a better option would be some type of add-on to the current chair to support his head better. But what do we know? We're just pawns in the medical game of life.

Diane said...

Hi Dean, thanks for your comment. Yes, Bob can wheel himself in his current chair, though he is not very good at it, and it took a lot of real coaxing from me to get him to try to do it, but lately he's been more motivated to try it and is getting better at it. I was pretty proud of that!

Peggy Elkins said...

Diane - If you are worried about taking Bob out have you thought about a transport chair? They are light weight and fold up. I have one for Max. I am not sure if the insurance company would pay for both, but the transport chair is pretty cheap compared to other equipment. I know you will do what is right for BOTH of you. Stay strong.

Jenn said...

If you feel pressured, don't do it. Ask for other suggestions, add ons, to Bob's current wheelchair. I KNOW they are out there.
You've gone through an awful lot to get the proper size with this chair. Will the new one fit or will there be stuggles here? And if insurance approves the new one, why not keep the old one- is it on a rental basis or owned by you? Keep it so you and Bob have that freedom to fold and take along when needed.
If insurance approves, there's a time frame in which you can still change your mind, right? And as you're waiting, I'm sure you've done some research on the chair. Remember salesmen want to make the sale, period. So, if you're feeling pressured ask for a little extra time. If they are honorable, they will respect your concern and hopefully give you all the info they have so you can make the best decision possible.
And keep the old chair.

Jenn said...

And what Peggy says!! Great option, too!

Diane said...

Yes, in a perfect world, it would be nice to keep Bob's old chair and get the new one and use them both, as needed... But...

Medicare did pay 80% of the cost of his current wheelchair, we had to come up with about $800 for the copay. We did it. It's ours. Not a rental.

If Medicare approves this new wheelchair it will be another 20% co-pay, and I am afraid we do not have the money to pay for it. But-- if we "trade in" Bob's current wheelchair, the sales rep said that would cover the co-pay. But then we lose his current wheelchair.

And as far as buying another "transport" chair, I did actually think about that...

But truth be told, I am still not sure if this new chair is the right chair for him, or if it will just set him back--recovery wise.

Anonymous said...

Diane, go with your gut feeling. You know what is best for Bob and for you. If you are feeling pressured, and yet don't feel the new chair is the answer, then step back and re-evaluate. I really have a gut feeling of my own, that the new chair is not right for Bob based on your own questions. But in the end, you and Bob have to make the decision together without the pressure of a salesman. Hugs, Dan