Power chair challenges: Part 1

The other day I was looking at my power chair which Medicaid purchased in December 2008. One black wheel cover has large, white scratches caused by skimming a cement wall. The chair's back and seat cushions are dilapidated.

A power chair should have regular maintenance, including tightening bolts and screws, lubricating joints and inflating the tires. But when you live in a nursing home you either depend on the facility maintenance person or find a vendor to service your chair.

When this chair was purchased, I was told that Medicaid would purchase a "facility chair." When I saw the chair at the vendor's shop, I knew the narrow flip-down footrest would not work for me. The vendor assured me footrests could be added easily. When I received the chair, however, the footrests were difficult to maneuver and looked out of place with the chair's design. The chair has a small turning ratio, which is good for indoors. But the undercarriage is low, requiring me to be extremely careful when I am outdoors in bad weather.

I run the chair with a smaller joystick, which is easier for me to operate. But the chair made it difficult for me to get under an "over-the-bed table," which nursing homes provide. I always used one in front of my desktop computer. But this chair does not fit under some over-the-bed tables. If the power chair did fit under it, the right footrest must be removed and my foot placed on the floor. A previous power chair purchased by state vocational rehabilitation rolled under any bed table.

When I moved here five years ago, I had no idea where my power chair would be serviced. Eight months after after I came here, my batteries died. My sister found a vendor online who came to the facility and replaced them, which cost me nearly $400.

Two months after that, the batteries died again. When the vendor did not want to honor the warranty and replace them, I went to another vendor to have them replaced. The second vendor said I needed to insist the installation vendor honor the warranty and replace them. It took time and persistence but the batteries were replaced. However, he told me he would not work on my chair ever again. Ironically, I am still using those batteries today.

Topics: Activities