What You Need to Know Before Choosing a Bariatric Wheelchair
What You Need to Know Before Choosing a Bariatric Wheelchair
May 4, 2023
For those in need of a wheelchair, there are many options available. But when it comes to bariatric wheelchairs, there are certain specifications that must be taken into account. Bariatric wheelchairs differ from conventional models as they are designed with larger seat dimensions, more durable construction, and higher weight capacity.
It is important to note that while bariatric wheelchairs are accommodating for those with a higher weight or larger size, they are usually heavier and more difficult to maneuver than conventional models. Therefore, knowing which one is right for you and your individual needs requires research and understanding of the available options.
To ensure that you'll be comfortable, stable, and secure as you go about your daily activities, it’s important to familiarize yourself with some of the key factors that should be considered before you buy. These factors include chair size, weight capacity, and materials.
What is a Bariatric Wheelchair?
A bariatric wheelchair is a specialized chair designed for larger individuals and patients with limited mobility who need extra support and comfort. These chairs are engineered with a heavier weight capacity than standard wheelchairs, as well as broader seats and reinforced frames to provide extra support and stability.
Bariatric wheelchairs typically have a weight capacity ranging from 350 to 1000 lbs. They are commonly used in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and residential settings to improve mobility and quality of life for individuals with obesity-related health conditions.
With the latest designs made specifically to offer superior support, weight capacity, and durability, these chairs make life easier and more manageable for individuals with larger builds and mobility concerns.
The Benefits of a Bariatric Wheelchair
These specialized chairs are designed to safely transport heavier individuals and help prevent injuries to both the user and those assisting in their transfer. The sturdier frames and wider seats accommodate larger body types and provide increased stability during movement, helping significantly improve the quality of life for those with mobility challenges.
Seat Sizes and Weight Capacity
Choosing the right size and weight capacity for your needs is an important decision. Determining the appropriate size and weight capacity involves considering a range of factors, such as the intended use, the environment in which the equipment will be used, and the amount of weight that will need to be supported.
Conventional wheelchairs can typically bear up to 250 lbs. However, bariatric wheelchairs provide a solution for those with weight requirements up to 1000 lbs., ensuring both independence and comfort for individuals of all body types. Their sturdier construction and wider dimensions provide a safe and comfortable mode of transportation.
Additionally, many bariatric wheelchairs feature adjustable seat widths between 16"-30”. By factoring in the weight capacity and dimensions of the bariatric wheelchair and tailoring its features—such as armrests and footrests—to one’s personal needs, larger patients can experience greater comfort and independence.
The Surgical Review Corporation (SRC) requires that facilities have equipment available for bariatric patients and that all staff members can easily recognize the weight capacity for each piece of equipment. AliMed® Standardized Equipment Weight Capacity Labels provide quick and easy recognition of the weight capacity of the equipment. These labels help facilities meet the criteria for SRC Centers of Excellence in Bariatric Centers while promoting greater transparency and clarity about the capabilities of the equipment.
When choosing a bariatric wheelchair, it is important to take the construction of the chair into consideration. Bariatric wheelchair frames are often made using durable metals such as steel to support increased weight and resist breakdown over time. The coating on these frames can also be important for preserving the integrity of the chair by protecting it from daily wear and tear.
Reinforced components also add stability and longevity to a bariatric wheelchair, often through the use of crossbars in the frame or extra padding in the seat, back, and arms. The upholstery of the chair should also be considered—not just for style and feel. Look for durable fabrics that are easy to clean or are resistant to bacterial growth, allowing you to easily maintain the quality of your chair even after daily use.
Measuring for Your Wheelchair
When it comes to selecting the proper bariatric wheelchair for your needs, the most important step is accurately measuring yourself. In addition to factoring in your weight, measuring the seat-to-shoulder, hip-to-heel, and armrest-to-armrest distances when seated is important to ensure that every element of the chair fits accurately. By having a precise size profile, you can select a bariatric wheelchair that provides optimal comfort and support.
Key Features and Accessories
Bariatric wheelchairs are designed to provide comfort, support, and independence while meeting the user’s daily requirements and accommodating their weight class. To this end, they often come equipped with armrests, footrests, and padded seating.
Individuals who require greater support and stability may benefit from adding accessories to their wheelchairs. Accessories can be used to enhance safety, comfort, and convenience for the wheelchair user. For example, back canes and specifically designed positioning belts can be added to improve both stability and support for those with limited mobility.
Wheelchair cushions also play a critical role in providing comfort and preventing pressure injuries for individuals who spend extended periods sitting in a wheelchair. AliMed® Bariatric Tri-Foam Cushions provide advanced pressure relief that can help prevent pressure ulcers. Unlike regular cushions that are simply enlarged for bariatric patients, this Tri-Foam Cushion is specially designed with three layers of foam that won’t bottom out.
Elevating the feet with a footrest is critical for those who use wheelchairs. Not only do footrests help boost circulation, but they also minimize the chances of pressure sores while allowing the user to maintain an optimal posture. SkiL-Care™ Bariatric Swing-Away Foot Supports can be attached to one or both footrests and can be easily swung out of the way to enable safe and easy transfer. The cushioned side and back panels keep feet comfortable and secure on the footrest.
The purpose of each accessory is to enhance the user’s experience while also ensuring a comfortable and secure ride. Wheelchair accessories can also play a vital role in supporting the user's physical needs, such as providing pressure relief and preventing skin breakdown. Wheelchair accessories continue to evolve and provide greater customization and adaptability, catering to each individual's unique requirements and preferences.
Tips for Maintaining and Caring for Your Bariatric Wheelchair
It’s crucial to keep in mind that, similar to any other piece of equipment, proper maintenance and care are essential for ensuring both the effectiveness and longevity of your wheelchair. Investing in a bariatric wheelchair is an expensive and important decision, and therefore it’s important to take proper care to keep it in good shape.
- Inspect, repair, and replace: One easy way to keep your wheelchair in top condition is to regularly inspect it for any signs of wear and tear. This could include checking the wheels and the frame for any cracks or dents and replacing or repairing any damaged parts.
- Keep it clean: Additionally, cleaning the wheelchair thoroughly is also recommended. For most models, you can use mild soap and water to wipe down the wheelchair's surfaces and remove any debris or dirt that may have accumulated. It's also a good idea to ensure that the wheelchair is stored in a safe and dry location to avoid any potential damage from moisture or extreme temperatures.
By properly caring for your bariatric wheelchair, you can ensure that it remains functional and provides the necessary support and mobility that you need for as long as possible.
Finding the right bariatric wheelchair to fit your specific needs can seem like an overwhelming process, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right knowledge and support, you'll be able to make an informed decision and find the chair that is perfect for you.