A study done by Dr. S Della Sala showed that about three years after diagnosis, 50 percent of Alzheimer’s patients develop problems in walking. Compared to other healthy elders, Alzheimer’s patients walk slowly and are more likely to trip over and fall.
It is hypothesized that “gait apraxia” may be responsible for the loss of mobility. Other factors such as medication and medical conditions (such as a stroke) can lead to a partial loss of mobility. This is where a wheelchair comes into the picture. In this post, I share the five best wheelchairs for Alzheimer’s patients.
Jump Directly To:
- Best Overall – Hi-Fortune Magnesium Wheelchair
- Best Seller – Drive Medical Silver Sport 1
- Best Value – Drive Medical Cruiser III
- Best New Release – Strongback24 by Strongback Mobility Store
- Best Affordable – Drive Medical Blue Streak Wheelchair
- Buyer’s Guide – Click Here
- FAQs – Click Here
Best Wheelchairs for Alzheimer’s Patients
1. Hi-Fortune Magnesium Wheelchair
Are you looking for an ultra-lightweight wheelchair that can fit nicely in the car trunk? Hi-Fortune Health Products Co Ltd is a Chinese medical and rehabilitation equipment supplier. Although the manufacturing facility is based in Suzhou City, Hi-Fortune has an American after-sales service team to assist you 24×7.
Apart from being involved in the manufacturing of manual wheelchairs, the company also spends a fortune on research and development. As the name suggests, this wheelchair is made with premium quality Magnesium alloy. Magnesium is widely used in the aviation and aerospace industry.
This is one of the lightest wheelchairs on the market, it weighs just 21lbs. The quick-release hinge allows you to fold down the chair within seconds. The compact nature of this product makes it easy to carry it to an airport. Further, it can be loaded abroad in a cargo compartment unharmed.
Don’t be fooled by the slender and lean anatomy of this wheelchair. It has a weight capacity of 220lbs, the same as other brands. Once folded, a caregiver or a family member can carry it single-handedly. Such is not the case with steel or aluminum alloy wheelchairs.
This product is available in three colors: Blue, Red, and Red+Grey. Unlike other wheelchairs, this one does not come with cheap cushions that wear out over time. The Hi-Fortune Magnesium Wheelchair is equipped with a high-quality breathable cushion that lasts for years.
Furthermore, the cushion can be hand washed along with regular detergent or vacuum cleaned with ease. It also comes with the necessary safety features such as anti-tippers and hand brakes (both front and rear). The quick-release wheel button lets you disassemble the rear wheels for easy transport.
Hi-Fortune Magnesium Wheelchair is Suitable For:
The amazing features of this wheelchair make life easy for an occupant. Additionally, it also makes life much easier for caregivers or family members who struggle to lift a regular wheelchair (weighing 40-50lbs).
As I mentioned already, this wheelchair weighs just 21lbs. You don’t have to risk an injury to yourself trying to lift heavy medical equipment into your vehicle.
This is one of the best wheelchairs for Alzheimer’s patients who are forced to ride through a mountain road. Maybe their ride from home to the nearby park involves riding through a steep hill road.
This chair is equipped with rear hand brakes. Now it is easy for the caregiver to push the Dementia patient up and downhills. For additional safety, the caregiver can ask the occupant to put their feet on the footrest while they push the wheelchair from behind.
- The foldable backrest allows occupants to wash their hair or perform other chores while being seated
- Handle brakes enable the caregiver to lock the wheelchair in place
- A seat belt is included in the package
- Front wheels are detachable. Simply push the button in the center of the wheel
- Easy to transport
- Components can be replaced but they are hard to find
- The front wheels do not handle road bumps well
2. Drive Medical Silver Sport 1
Silver Sport 1 is another efficient and affordable wheelchair for Alzheimer’s patients. The product appears classy and standard. It is for both indoor and outdoor use.
The metal, seat, footrest, handle and other accessories are in black. Although the frame is charcoal color (more like powder-coated silver) which nonetheless adds to the aesthetics of this product.
The tires are constructed with urethane, a polymer compound used as a sealer (to seal decorative concrete and stone.) Although, due to its durability and strength this material is also used as a raw material for making tires.
Note that Silver Sport 1 by Drive Medical is a traditional-looking wheelchair. It is equipped with push-to-lock wheel locks. You can move the chair from one room to another in your home. The lock helps keep the chair stable when used on a wet bathroom or kitchen floor.
Unfortunately, Drive Medical hasn’t provided an option to choose between different seat sizes. The seat is 18-inch wide when open and the chair shrinks to 11-inch when folded. 18-inch is the standard width of a seat in the elderly wheelchair marker.
Furthermore, the armrests are fixed at 8-inch height. The weight-bearing capacity of Silver Sport 1 is also quite sub-standard (maximum 250 lbs).
Drive Medical Silver Sport 1 is Suitable For:
Silver Sport from Drive Medical is a standard wheelchair. It can be moved by the user without the need for external help. The wheelchair is equipped with a standard handwheel located on the outer edges of the drive wheels.
Assuming the occupant’s upper limbs are operational, the handwheel can be pushed without getting hands dirty. The user is not required to touch the tires.
- It is tested to bear 300 lbs of weight without any issues
- The chair is suited for both short and tall (6’4’’) people
- Long-lasting wheelchair. Can last more than five years if maintained properly
- Fully foldable wheelchair
- Armrests are not adjustable
- It won’t pass through a narrow (lesser than 23-inch) bathroom door
3. Drive Medical Cruiser III
Cruiser III is a lightweight and super comfy wheelchair for Alzheimer’s patients. The seat is 26-inches wide and raised 35-inches above the floor. As you can see in the image above, the seat comes with a built-in railing.
You can make the seat even wider by pulling the extensions out. Even the depth of the seat can be adjusted from 16 to 18 inches.
This chair is perfect for those who suffer from lower back pain. The carbon steel frame used in the construction of the seat eliminates the need for seat guides. You can place custom back inserts or orthopedics (any brand) at the base of the back support.
Also, the wheel bearing is precision sealed. There is no chance of injuries or bruising to the elderly person.
Products from Drive Medical are aesthetically pleasing. The silver vein finish makes the chair appear attractive and brand new even after 2-3 years of use. An old person will generally be excited about going out or having a stroll down the street with this wheelchair.
Aesthetics may seem unnecessary from a neutral person’s point of view, but they make the rider look sharp and publicly presentable.
Drive Medical Cruiser III is Suitable For:
This wheelchair comes in three sizes: 16-inch, 18-inch, and 20-inch. The 16-inch seat is suitable for a slim or average-sized person (weight around 200-250 lbs).
The 18-inch seat is suitable for a well-built person (weight around 300 lbs). And the largest size i.e 20-inch seat is for an obese person (weight more than 350 lbs).
Before buying this product, make sure that the doors (bathroom, bedroom, living room, and kitchen) in your home are wider than 28-inch. I am not sure whether this chair will pass through a 25-inch door.
- Available in three sizes
- Sturdy and robust wheelchair
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Made for both indoor and outdoor use
- This wheelchair may or may not go through a 28-inch+ bathroom door
4. Strongback24 by Strongback Mobility Store
best new release
Are you looking for a wheelchair designed to support a dementia patient’s spine?
Strongback Mobility is an American wheelchair manufacturing company headquartered in Virginia Beach. They also have several offices worldwide offering after-sales service to their international customers. Strongback24 is their flagship product which comes in three sizes: small, regular, and large.
Furthermore, you can also choose to have attended brakes added to the wheelchair. A lot of people prefer to have attended brakes as they help the caregiver during hill rides. Additionally, you can choose between flip back arms and fixed armrests.
The flip arm armrest enables the occupant to perform desk-backed activities while sitting closer to the desk. That way, they can rest their arms on the desk instead of letting them hang in the air or rest on their thighs. It is recommended that you consult the occupant before picking the additional features.
How is Strongback24 better than a standard wheelchair? It is a fact that almost every standard wheelchair comes with a flat backrest. A flat backrest may not be a concern for occasional users of wheelchairs, but it can create back problems for wheelchair-ridden occupants.
On the other hand, the Strongback24 wheelchair is an evolved and ergonomic version of the standard wheelchair. The frame-integrated posture support helps (both young and senior occupants) perform desk-based activities for longer durations. Occupants can read a book or watch a movie on their tablet computers while leaning back comfortably.
You will also be glad to know that Strongback24 has a weight capacity of 300 pounds. The frame can easily bear the weight of a well-built and athletic adult person. Although, I won’t recommend this chair for obese or overweight individuals with dementia. A heavy-duty wheelchair is what they might need.
I might not have covered some key features of Strongback24 in the above product description. I am listing them below:
- Adjustable posture support in the backrest
- Compact foldable design
- Swing-away detachable footrests
- Ergonomic comfort-grip handles
- Comfortable desktop-length armrests
- Stylish modern design
Strongback24 by Strongback Mobility Store is Suitable For:
This is the best wheelchair for Alzheimer’s disease patients with lower back problems. Dementia patients tend to slowly lose mobility in the fifth or sixth stage of the condition. They may or may not need a wheelchair all the time. This ergonomically curved frame design helps them stay fit and healthy while they still have partial mobility.
- Lightweight wheelchair weighs 25.8lbs
- Easy-to-transport for elderly caregivers and senior family members
- Occupants can sit for hours without experiencing pain or discomfort
- Highly adjustable and customizable
- Helps the dementia patient go out and enjoy their day
- This wheelchair does not suit occupants over 6 feet tall
- The armrests are desk-length. Won’t help occupants who need additional support while getting in and out of the wheelchair
5. Drive Medical Blue Streak Wheelchair
Are you looking for an affordable wheelchair with all features necessary for a dementia patient?
Have a look at Blue Streak Wheelchair from Drive Medical, an American medical equipment manufacturer based in Port Washington, New York. Drive Medical does not ship its product outside North America, although it offers excellent after-sales support to its customers located within the US.
The Drive Medical Blue Streak Wheelchair is available in two versions: one with elevated leg rests and the other with swing-away footrests. There is a slight price difference in both versions but the remaining components and frame-structure are the same.
The aluminum alloy frame is painted dark blue, whereas the padded nylon wheelchair seat is charcoal black. You don’t get to choose between different colors. Furthermore, the seat is standard 18-inch wide. The overall width of this chair is 24-inch, hence it can smoothly pass through corridors and bathroom doors.
The Drive Medical Blue Streak Wheelchair has a weight capacity of 250 pounds. Dementia patients with a well-built body can safely use this chair. However, I would be careful if I were heavier than the permissible weight limit, especially when riding outdoors.
The occupant can go outdoors without assistance from a caregiver of a family member. This wheelchair is especially good in tight spaces, indoors and outdoors. The side wheel lock lets the occupant rotate the wheelchair at a 360-degree angle.
It also comes with a roomy back pocket to keep your belongings. The package arrives in a vertical box with two main components: the pre-assembled frame and leg rests+calf strap. Caregivers do not have to worry about assembling this chair. The leg rests can be attached to the foot of the chair with a reliable clip.
Drive Medical Blue Streak Wheelchair is Suitable For:
Drive Medical Blue Streak is one of the best wheelchairs for Alzheimer’s patients. The wheelchair comes pre-assembled. Simply unwrap the package and you are ready to go.
Further, this wheelchair also meets the needs of dementia patients who travel a lot. It is highly transportable and easy-to-store. Simply lift the seat cushion, push sides together and lift the chair with one hand.
Also, loading and unloading the wheelchair in a car trunk is effortless. Also, note that this chair does not come with rear hand brakes. So, a caregiver must be careful while pushing/pulling the occupant up and down a hill.
- Arrives pre-assembled
- Equipped with necessary safety features
- Very affordable
- Durable silicone tires do not wear out with time, suitable for outdoor use as well
- Leg rests are fully adjustable
- The leg rests do not drop to 90-degrees
- The seat does not recline
Not everyone can afford to hire a physical therapist with a specialization in elderly patients. Sometimes you just have to do the research by yourself. In the following section, I discuss certain factors you must consider before buying a wheelchair for an elderly person with Alzheimer’s disease.
Selecting a wheelchair is not much different than choosing any other product. You just have to do the required due diligence so you don’t end up with the wrong product. You see, dementia patients may or may not be able to communicate their needs and wants. They may not be able to pinpoint things that they want in a wheelchair, the baton is yours.
Things You Need to Keep in Mind Before Choosing a Wheelchair for a Person With Dementia
1. Seat Width
Before selecting a wheelchair, you must take into account the waist size of the occupant. Generally, wheelchair seats come in three sizes: 16-inch, 18-inch, and 20-inch.
The 16-inch seat size suits perfectly for slimmer people, whereas the 20-inch seat size is intended for plus-sized occupants. Elderly with average bodies can opt for the 18-inch seat size (preferred by most).
Also, keep in mind that we are talking about the seat dimensions here. Some manufacturers mention the overall dimensions, which may also include the width of the two wheels (plus push rims). You want to look for seat dimensions.
Apart from that, make sure the occupant will have ample side-space. Some wheelchair seats make a sling in the central portion, which may force the occupant to lean sideways. Such a situation can arise despite choosing the correct seat width.
Don’t worry, there are several corrective devices available on the market. You can also add a layer of cushion on top of the slinging wheelchair seat. I just wanted to make you aware of this commonly faced problem.
2. Seat-to-Floor Height
You won’t have too many options when it comes to the height of a wheelchair. The standard height of a wheelchair is 36-inch, which is good enough for an occupant with average height.
You will be glad to learn that wheelchair manufacturers have a solution for those shorter than average height (shorter than 5.5-feet). Elevating leg rests allows occupants to sit comfortably on a standard-sized wheelchair.
Furthermore, the elevating leg rests also help relieve pressure built-up at the back of the knees. This feature is quintessential for permanent occupants of a wheelchair. Fortunately, most wheelchairs do come with a footrest or a similar system.
3. Back Height
Back height is the height of the backrest of a wheelchair. Most elderly occupants prefer a wheelchair with a medium or high back height. Lower back heights are more prevalent in wheelchairs used by younger people.
A low backrest enhances the occupant’s ability to self propel. Hence they can push the wheelchair faster with less effort. However, a lower backrest only supports 30-40 percent of the spine. Which can lead to discomfort or backache in wheelchair ridden occupants.
You should also know that wheelchair basketball players prefer chairs with lower back height as it offers additional mobility. Most wheelchairs designed for senior citizens come with a backrest with medium back height.
For more support, you can always go for extensions that go all the way up to the nape ( or the back of the neck). An extension can help the occupant to perform deskwork for longer durations.
4. Type of Material Used
The type of material used in the construction of the wheelchair frame is chosen based on its application. Do the users want the wheelchair to be strong and sturdy? Or do they prefer something lightweight and transportable?
For ages, wheelchair manufacturers have used steel as the primary metal in the construction of the frame. Steel is cheap, widely available and it can be cut/shaped/molded with commonly available tools. Steel frames make strong and sturdy wheelchairs for heavy-duty users.
However, recently aluminum is used to construct lightweight frames. As you already might know, aluminum is low-density and has high corrosion resistance. Which makes it perfect for lightweight and transportable wheelchairs.
Magnesium is another material used to construct ultra-lightweight wheelchair frames. This material is 75 percent lighter than steel, 50 percent lighter than titanium, and 33 percent lighter than aluminum. It also boasts a high tensile strength.
Magnesium is generally used alongside an alloying agent such as molybdenum or iron. Go for a magnesium alloy frame if the occupant plans to travel frequently.
5. Brakes and Lever Extenders
Contrary to what most people think, wheelchair brakes are not designed to slow a wheelchair down when it is in motion. In fact, they are intended to keep a wheelchair in a safe spot when it is already at a halt.
However, some occupants (especially, the ones with upper limb disabilities) may use the push/pull manual brakes to bring the wheelchair to a halt. In such cases, brakes need to be replaced once every six months as they are subjected to additional wear.
Wheelchairs come with two brakes, one for each wheel. The brake handles (usually, 2-3 inches in length) are located on the front side of each wheel. An occupant with healthy upper limbs can easily access either of the brake handles but such may not be the case for those with one hand or limited mobility.
Brake lever extender is an add-on device used to help occupants with limited mobility lock both wheelchair brakes. The occupant can simply extend their working arm and push/pull the lever extender.
Go through this report by the National Rehabilitation Information Center for more information on this subject.
6. Armrests Design and Dimensions
Most people overlook the importance of armrests when choosing a wheelchair for an elderly with dementia. Not only do armrests support the elderly when getting out and in a wheelchair but they also act as body stabilizers for the occupant.
They keep the occupant contained within the chair at all times. The caregiver does not have to worry about the occupant falling off the chair while asleep in a seated position. Furthermore, armrests also help the occupant shift positions within the seat.
Position shifting prevents the development of pressure sores or bed sores in the buttock region. Occupants can place their arms on the armrests to even out the pressure felt on their pelvis region. Primarily, armrests come in two sizes: full-length and desk length.
Full-length armrests extend alongside the entire length of the seat. Wheelchair ridden occupants prefer to have full-length armrests as they offer more support and stability. Full-length armrests also aid weight repositioning and transference of the patient from a wheelchair to a bed, couch, or a car.
On the flip side, desk length armrests are shorter and only support the rear portion of the arm. Wheelchairs with desk length armrests can slide 2-3 inches under a table or a desk. This makes desk-based activities such as writing, dining, working with a laptop, etc easy and pain-free.
Handles are one of the most important components of a wheelchair. Some wheelchairs do not come with handles. It is assumed that the occupant can move the chair by pushing the wheel rims forward/backward.
However, a stage five dementia patient is incapable of navigating the wheelchair all by themselves. They might need to be helped by a caregiver or a family member. This is where wheelchair handles come into the picture. Handles are located at the rear end of the backrest.
8. Wheels and Handrims
Modern manual wheelchairs are equipped with four wheels. The two front wheels (castors) are much smaller than the two rear ones. The rear wheels come with rims attached. The large size of the rear wheels allows the occupant to grab the rims without having to bend sideways or move their upper body.
The front two wheels are used primarily for navigational purposes. They have a higher rotational speed compared to the larger wheels. As a result, they make it easier for the chair to change direction. Also, they swivel 360 degrees while maintaining the stability and integrity of the chair.
A manual wheelchair does not come with sophisticated motors or any other electronic equipment. The responsibility of movement falls entirely on the occupant. They can advance the wheelchair in the desired direction with help of handrims attached to each of the rear wheels.
Most wheelchairs for the elderly are either equipped with aluminum or titanium rims. They are lighter and easier to grip (without the need for gloves) for an elderly person with dementia. For younger and more mobile occupants, you can also go for a wheelchair with Q-grip, Surge LT, or Flex Rims. The latter is fancied mostly by wheelchair sports enthusiasts.
9. Anti-Tip Bars or Anti-Tippers
Wheelchairs are supposed to be a safe and reliable mode of transport for those with limited mobility. However, occupants are likely to tip over backward and injure themselves when trying to go reverse.
To rectify this problem, manufacturers facilitate the occupants to enable the anti-tip bars or anti-tippers whenever required. Some wheelchairs are equipped with permanently attached anti-tipper, whereas others might come with detachable ones.
Although it is always recommended to go for wheelchairs with safety features such as anti-tippers, there’s always a possibility of the occupant falling over backward. This is more prevalent in the case of an occupant with a larger or plus-sized upper body.
Furthermore, a dementia patient in the early stages of the disease might not need a permanent caregiver. They might get in and out of the wheelchair all by themselves. Patients with partial mobility get out of their wheelchair by intentionally tipping it backward.
Needless to mention, this is a dangerous ploy but some patients have developed techniques to safely get in and out of the chair. For more information on this subject watch this easy-to-understand video by British YouTuber, Anya.
10. Weight Capacity
You will be surprised to learn that heavy-duty wheelchairs are capable of bearing more than 600 pounds of load. When it comes to a wheelchair for a dementia patient, you must go for wheelchairs in the 250-350 pound weight-range.
Heavy-duty wheelchairs are well fitter for overweight or bigger than usual occupants. Although they make transportation challenging due to their heavyweight and bulky structure.
In addition to body weight, you must also take into account the body shape of the occupant. Users with wider hips may prefer a wider wheelchair seat. Unless you order a custom made wheelchair, it would be difficult to find a lightweight wheelchair with a wider than usual seat.
Finally, you must also take into account the environment in which the dementia patient will be spending most of their time. You don’t want to go for a bulky heavy-duty chair for home use.
Heavy-duty wheelchairs are wider and hence do not pass through a bathroom door. A narrower and lightweight chair would meet the needs in the aforementioned case. This is all you must know before choosing a wheelchair for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who should I consult if I’m unable to find the right best wheelchair for Alzheimer’s patients?
If the condition of the patient is critical, I would recommend consulting a physical therapist or a wheelchair consultant. Someone who is a specialist in Durable Medical Equipment (DME) could also be the right person to consult before buying a wheelchair.
Personally, I would buy a wheelchair online if the condition of the patient is not too serious and they are going to be spending not more than five hours seated in the wheelchair. Generally speaking, there is no risk in buying an affordable, lightweight, and branded wheelchair online.
The Final Verdict
An Alzheimer’s patient may be able to communicate their problems with you. During later stages of the disease, they may also develop speech difficulties. As a caregiver or a family member, you must make important decisions for them. A wheelchair can make independent mobility easy and enjoyable.
From the wheelchairs discussed in this post, I would pick Drive Medical Cruiser III (best value) as the winner. The carbon steel frame meets the needs of users looking for a heavy-duty wheelchair that is highly customizable. Further, you can go for Strongback24 if the occupant suffers from lower-back pain.