Best Reclining Wheelchairs for Elderly

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Reclining wheelchairs for elderly come with many benefits.

First of all, they make life more comfortable. A reclining or recliner wheelchair additionally helps in repositioning and improves blood flow. Most recliner wheelchairs come with several adjustments, from a 90 degree sitting position all the way to 180 degrees resting position.

Reclining wheelchairs usually have high backs. Another category of products is commonly called “tilt in space”. Tilt wheelchairs are slightly different from typical reclining wheelchairs. Check the FAQs for more on that.

For this review, we’ll be considering both categories as one.

reclining wheelchairs elderly

Most reclining wheelchairs are self-propelled.

Depending on your particular requirements and any health issues, you might need a specific type of reclining wheelchair. In this review, we’ll go through several options that can be ideal for you. We’ll compare and discuss the rotation, comfort, size, ease of use, durability, upholstery quality, back support, and many other factors.

Our recommended product for you is the Kn-880w from Karman Healthcare. It’s a 20-inch reclining wheelchair that comes at an economical price point. The Kn-880w packs a removable headrest and pillow and is based on a sturdy chrome frame.

  • Padded, detachable armrests with side panels.
  • Elevating leg rests and anti-tippers included.
  • 180 degrees reclining range.
  • Premium upholstery.

OUR TOP PICK

Karman Recliner Wheelchair in 20 inch with Removable Headrest and Pillow, Chrome Frame

The Kn-880w from Karman Healthcare comes with plenty of desirable features. It’s not too heavy yet durable. The chrome frame provides good support for elderlies. It comes with a removable headrest and pillow.

Not all recliner wheelchairs pack quite as many great qualities as this one does. For example, anti-tippers and leg rests are typically considered separate features, and therefore, manufacturers charge more for those. That’s not the case with the Kn-880w. It comes with these features (and more) in the standard model itself.

In a nutshell, Karman Healthcare's Kn-880w is a great deal. It's everything that a premium reclining wheelchair for seniors needs to be within an economical price point. The full 180-degrees reclining is durable. The padding is wholesome and the upholstery is high-quality.

Pros

  • 180-degrees reclining.
  • Durable and sturdy chrome frame.
  • Detachable padded armrests as well as side panels.
  • Great price point.
  • Comes loaded with all the features that a premium reclining wheelchair requires.
  • Very high-quality parts.
  • Easy to use and comfortable.
  • Lightweight and foldable, making its portability easier.

Cons

  • No known drawbacks.

EDITORS CHOICE

Karman Healthcare VIP515TP-18-E Foldable Tilt in Space, Diamond Black, 14' Rear Wheels and Elevating Legrests and 18' Seat Width

This is a more premium and wholesome offering by Karman Healthcare. It offers amazing build quality, packs some great features, and is overall very reliable for the elderly. This 18x16 inches model is known for its comfort. The wheelchair works by distributing the weight of the body to the rear wheels. It's very good for people with lower back issues as it helps avoid pressure sores. It's hard to feel any discomfort while using this wheelchair in any type of activity from eating meals to watching the TV.

Pros

  • 14-inch transport wheels (rear) and 7-inch front casters (for direction) are all very durable and high-quality.
  • Comfortable seat.
  • The armrests can be flipped back.
  • Height-adjustable arms.
  • Folding, high-quality backrest.
  • Foldable.
  • A 35-degree range of tilting to shift weight and center of gravity is very useful. You can keep adjusting the angle throughout the day for maximum comfort – a criminally underrated feature.
  • Made out of T-6 aluminum, an ultra-lightweight material used in aircraft.
  • Swing in and swing away footrests for added comfort and ease of use.
  • Comes with AEGIS – a type of permanently bonded upholstery that’s antimicrobial, thus odorless and stain-resistant.

Cons

  • High price point.

BEST VALUE

Drive Medical Silver Sport Reclining Wheelchair with Detachable Desk Length Arms and Elevating Legrest, Silver Vein, 18'

Drive Medical’s Silver Sport, or SSP18RBDDA model, has a fairly mixed verdict by its users. Though it's not the most comfortable or well-designed reclining wheelchair out there, it's surely high-quality and durable – and gets the job done.

From 90 degrees up to 180 degrees, you can tilt it at any angle. It works on a hydraulic recliner mechanism which is more comfortable than many recliner wheelchairs using "steps" based reclining angles. Plenty of good features, some decent add-ons, and a few problems sum up the Silver Sport.

Pros

  • Hydraulic recliner mechanism from 90 to 180 degrees.
  • Support extensions on the arms provide additional flexibility.
  • Removable headrest with decent padding.
  • Carbon steel based frame with silver vein finish looks stunning as well as is very durable and lightweight.
  • Composite Mag wheels are durable.
  • Comes with anti-tippers to further ensure safety.
  • Swing in and swing away elevating leg rests.
  • Easy to assemble.

Cons

  • The nylon upholstery can use an improvement in terms of quality.
  • The frame isn't built for heavy people.

RUNNER UP

ProBasics Standard Reclining Wheelchair - Padded Detachable Desk Length Arms - 300 Pound Weight Capacity - Elevating Leg Rest, 20 x 16 inch Seat

The runner-up in our findings was the ProBasics reclining wheelchair from Roscoe Medical for various reasons. It’s one of the most configurable and adjustable reclining wheelchairs out there. Packed with essential features and great comfort, the ProBasics standard reclining wheelchair is good for seniors with back or feet issues mainly.

Pros

  • Durable and strong steel-based frame.
  • The vinyl upholstery is removable and easy to clean.
  • Comes with removable armrests that are desk-length.
  • Provides long-lasting performance.
  • Can be used for people up to 300 pounds.

Cons

  • Instead of anti-tippers, it has a setback axle position, which is not as efficient for the prevention of tipping while fully reclined.

Best reclining wheelchairs for elderly buying guide

Seat width

Seat widths are key to getting the best comfort out of the wheelchair. An incorrect width can not only make getting in and out of your vehicle harder but will also make the total height of the wheelchair undesirably tall or short. It's always best to consult with your physician, doctor, or therapist to determine what seat width and height you need. Most reclining wheelchairs come in various seat sizes such as 16 inches, 18 inches, 20 inches, 22 inches, etc.

Usually, the seat height has a direct correlation with the seat width. If you get a 20-inch seat width wheelchair, the seat height will be roughly a couple inches lower, around 18 inches. The smaller the seat width, the higher the seat height will be.

In certain cases, some seat heights can make the support unable to fully unfold.

Note that seat depth doesn’t have anything to do with either the seat width or seat height.

Recliner and back problems

It’s common to hear that recliner wheelchairs make back pain more bearable and help in recovery. However, in certain cases, they can be counterproductive. It’s better to know the ins and outs of reclining and its impact on your back.

Always make sure that there’s no or negligible gap between the lower back and the chair itself. If you slouch for long hours, it will put unnecessary strain on the lower back muscles, which can then lead to more damage and hurt than recovery.

Reclining wheelchairs vs. non-reclining wheelchairs

Think of recliner wheelchairs as everything a wheelchair is, and more. It makes life easier. For example, your day-to-day tasks will improve if you can change the angle of your sitting position. It will help you adjust the chair differently for eating, watching TV, picking something up, while in a checkup, while talking to someone, and so on.

You can even use it to get a quick nap or lie down in a salon when getting your hair washed!

Ease of use

The ease of use is an important factor to take into consideration while buying a recliner wheelchair. This is a combination of various factors. Some wheelchairs come pre-assembled. But it’s not hard to find a pre-assembled wheelchair that still requires some work – perhaps fitting the rigging or the paddings. Always go for pre-assembled reclining wheelchairs if you want to avoid the hassle of nuts, bolts, and screws.

The list of features will give you a fair idea of how easy to use the recliner wheelchair is going to be. For example, sway away headrests, removable armrests, brakes, etc. all enhance the ease of use.

Apart from the features, the build quality also offers some insight into how easy to use the wheelchair will be. Generally, superior builds and higher-quality parts in a reclining wheelchair make it easier to use and more hassle-free in general. In contrast, lower quality builds and cheaper alternatives to reclining wheelchairs can cause all sorts of problems later on.

Frequently asked questions

When should I get a recliner for my use?

Reclining wheelchairs are usually recommended by physicians, doctors, therapists, or caregivers. They are best for you if you have back problems. They offer great lumbar and back support. Elderlies with sciatica, osteoporosis, and many other health conditions will find a reclining wheelchair to be a godsend.

Furthermore, old people who need assistance or adults who are recovering are both ideal candidates for reclining wheelchairs.

Is using a reclining wheelchair bad for health?

If you're lying down 180 degrees in a reclining wheelchair, then it's as if you're sleeping on any other bed. However, sleeping in a sitting position can be harmful to you depending on your existing health conditions as well as the duration of sleep. For example, sleeping in a sitting position for long hours can cause blood clots, though it’s rare.

Recliners are better to sleep in for people with sleep apnea, back pain, or GERD.

Additionally, another qualm with reclining chairs is that if you're in a midway position (neither sitting nor lying down), then your bottom will sort of slide out of the wheelchair as a result of gravity pulling your body along the reclined base. This is true, and can indeed cause pressure on your bottom, eventually leading to shearing and skin breakdown. However, it only happens in recliner wheelchairs made without much consideration of this problem. The ones we've reviewed are high-quality designs and they take shearing into account. You're in the clear with these reclining wheelchairs we've listed in any midway position.

Should my feet hang over the footrest?

The preferred position while sitting in a reclining wheelchair is to have your heels extended past the footrests. This allows for better weight distribution.

How long do recliner wheelchairs last?

Good reclining wheelchairs last for up to a year of constant use. It’s a combination of the build quality, durability, and parts quality that decides the longevity of the product in most cases.

Also, if you use the recliner more frequently, it will wear out sooner.

High back or not?

Mostly, recliner wheelchairs have high backs. It’s nearly impossible to find a tilting or reclining wheelchair that has a low backrest like a typical wheelchair, and for good reason. This high back converts into a significant portion of the area that will go into the “bed” on which you’ll sleep when 180 degrees reclined.

Is it a tilting wheelchair or a reclining wheelchair? Or are they both the same?

Although throughout this piece we've interchangeably used tilting and reclining – they are inherently quite different. It's important to know the difference between the two and why is each used.

A reclining wheelchair has a tall backrest that starts from a nearly vertical (90 degrees) sitting position and goes all the way to a nearly horizontal (180 degrees) position for a smooth transition between sitting and lying down.

The reclining wheelchairs we’ve talked about in this review all allow you to adjust the angle to anywhere between 90 and 180 degrees. They don’t come in “steps” or select angles. If you buy one with select steps, you'll most probably get 2 or 3 steps between the 90 degrees sitting position and the 180 degrees lying down position.

Reclining wheelchairs are good for people with catheters as it allows them to change them while in the wheelchair. Additionally, recliner wheelchairs fold, are portable, and less expensive than tilt wheelchairs. On the other hand, recliner wheelchairs are bulkier as compared to tilt ones.

In a tilt wheelchair, the entire seat frame tilts backward. It's not a 90 to 180-degree experience. In most cases, you have the ability to tilt up to 50 degrees back from the original position.

Tilting is more preferred for comfort and stability. You will remain seated but will get tilted backward at a preferred angle. It's good for people who want to avoid pressure sores, as they can keep changing the tilt angle regularly to avoid sustained pressure on any particular area. Tilting all the way back will allow the user to take a nap comfortably. However, the inability to fold a tilt wheelchair makes it quite cumbersome. You need to plan ahead here - will the chair fit your vehicle? What about the lift?

In many cases, both the patient and caregiver are at risk of injuries while attempting to reposition the patient. Especially true in cases where a patient needs 90-100% assistance when getting in and out of the bed. In these cases, being able to fully tilt the patient allows the caregiver to better reposition them.

Final thoughts

So, by now, you hopefully understand a lot more about reclining wheelchairs than before. You also have a decision to make: whether it’s going to be a reclining wheelchair or a tilt-in-space one? Tilt wheelchairs often provide better comfort than recliners and help maintain the body alignment and posture better. However, you cannot make a decision based on just that piece of information. There’s a whole lot of difference between different models of tilting and reclining wheelchairs. You need to do your homework on those products you find most suitable for your needs and only then make a decision.

We talked about four products in our review. These are indeed the best reclining and tilting wheelchairs out there on the market right now. These take the top spot whether we talk in terms of build quality, ease of use, or overall comfort and durability.

Adaptive seating has seen exponential growth in recent years. We now have a lot more features to look out for in both, reclining and tilting wheelchairs. These wheelchairs have reduced the risk involved in repositioning patients or older adults who heavily rely on assistance. Resting at incremental positions, at various angles, and without using a lot of your energy – adaptive seating and especially reclining chairs have done so much for older adults and patients that they're now synonymous with caregiving, assistive living, as well as recovery from injuries. In all these cases, physicians, therapists, and doctors always recommend reclining or tilting wheelchairs.

There’s no doubt that your life will also ease up with a reclining wheelchair. Make an informed decision based on all the information we’ve provided in this review.

Last update on 2021-03-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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