4 Considerations in Choosing the Best Gel Wheelchair Cushion

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I was recently considering how to choose the best gel wheelchair cushion after noticing wear on my grandmother’s current one.

My grandmother started complaining of soreness, so I had to look for a better wheelchair cushion with superior comfort.

I found some gel seat cushion options on the internet and sought to try them. Here is the process I took to give my grandmother a better quality of life.

Key Takeaways

  • Gel wheelchair cushions enhance comfort for wheelchair users.
  • Gel cushions are not one-size-fits-all, so wheelchair users must find the perfect one for their needs.
  • Medicare does offer coverage for wheelchair cushions.

Why Use a Gel Wheelchair Cushion?

BusinessWire states 61 million Americans live with mobility issues, and 13.7% experience serious movement difficulties. (1)

This leaves many individuals dependent on mobility aids like wheelchairs to move around independently. 

While the standard top rated wheelchairs come with cushions to sit on, some users may need extra comfort.

The best gel wheelchair cushion is important since its ergonomic design caters to individuals who sit for prolonged periods of time.

Gel seat cushions with a gel layer protect skin from pressure sores by acting as a shock absorber to vibrations the chair encounters on the ground.

How to choose the best gel wheelchair cushion

Moreover, a study in 2018 found that gel cushions help reduce chronic pain for occupational drivers. (2)

Here is a YouTube video from SpinalCordInjuriesAU on choosing wheelchair cushions

4 Considerations When Selecting Gel Wheelchair Cushions

1. Size of Wheelchair Seat

When choosing the best gel wheelchair cushion, you want one that matches the seat’s dimensions.

A smaller cushion may not offer enough comfort since space around the area will leave the user’s seating unbalanced.

On the other hand, an oversized gel cushion will warrant folding, causing discomfort.

It will help if you take the measurements beforehand to ensure perfect wheelchair seating.

2. Gel Cushion Height

At most, wheelchair cushions have a thickness of two or three inches. However, the cushion’s thickness will depend on the user’s positioning needs.

You want to avoid a gel cushion that limits keeping your feet flat on the ground or prevents fitting under a table.

A wheelchair cushion adds additional height to the mobility device and is an essential factor to consider before purchasing.

3. Cushion Covers

While most gel cushions come with covers, ensuring that the surface meets the user’s comfort preferences is essential.

Moreover, since you will spend most of your time sitting, note that sweating is inevitable.

You want a gel wheelchair cushion cover that is breathable and waterproof to avoid seepage.

You will also want a machine-washable cover or one that you can clean using water and mild detergent.

4. Cushion Weight

While the gel wheelchair cushion will help you remain comfortable, note that it has weight.

This weight will increase the overall wheelchair weight and may affect self-propulsion.

If a lightweight wheelchair user lives alone, this might be a challenge to overcome, warranting the need for a caregiver.

The wheelchair will make it challenging to place or remove the cushion from the chair.

Medicare’s Role in Gel Wheelchair Cushion Costs?

Medicare is a federal program with two insurance types, medical and hospital. Medical insurance is usually defined as Part B; hospital insurance falls under Part A. (3)

Wheelchair gel cushions fall under the Durable Medical Equipment (DME) category, which is covered in Part B.

Medicare usually covers 80% of the cushion costs, and you must pay the remaining 20%.

While Medicare would cover the wheelchair gel cushion cost, specific requirements exist:

You must have a physical therapist deem the accessory as a medical necessity to help the healing process.

Additionally, Medicare will only offer coverage if you have or are experiencing pressure sores.

Also, if you are experiencing numbness in the area that comes into contact with the wheelchair, the program can cover the gel cushion cost.

What About Gel Wheelchair Cushion Weight Limits?

Since wheelchair users have different body types, finding the perfect cushion to meet one’s needs can be challenging.

Gel cushions usually support up to 250 pounds of body weight, posing significant comfort challenges to people with larger bodies.

While buying a thick cushion can seem to be the better option, note that you will squash the gel material.

This action creates an uneven weight and pressure distribution across the seat, creating more back problems.

You might consider using bariatric cushions that fit your wheelchair and meet your comfort preferences.

Most gel cushion manufacturers will specify their product’s weight capacity to help you make an informed buying decision.

Benefits of Selecting an Excellent Wheelchair Cushion

1. Wheelchair Seat Upgrade

Besides comfort, a gel cushion seat will add an aesthetic upgrade to your wheelchair.

Moreover, you can have a pair of stylistic removable covers to improve the traditional wheelchair look.

2. Enhances Posture

A properly fitting ergonomic cushion can help prevent poor posture and support proper posture.

The gel seat cushion helps prevent excess weight on your ischial tuberosities due to its optimal pressure redistribution.

Here is a YouTube video from AskDoctorJo on how seat cushions help maintain a healthy posture.

FAQs

How long do gel wheelchair cushions last?

According to Karman Healthcare, healthcare professionals advise wheelchair users to change their cushions every three years.
You should replace the gel cushion before it is worn out. (4)

Should cushions be used in a wheelchair?

There is no fixed rule stating that you must use a wheelchair cushion. It depends on your comfort preferences and needs for pain relief.
These wheelchair cushions for pressure relief provide comfort, regulate body temperature, and prevent pressure ulcers.

Which cushion filling is best?

Various types of cushions for wheelchairs exist to meet different wheelchair user needs. It is best to consult your physical therapist on the best cushion to meet your needs.

How thick should a wheelchair cushion be?

The ideal wheelchair cushion thickness is two to three inches. However, depending on the wheelchair user’s needs, the cushion’s height can vary.

Conclusion

The issue of how to choose the best gel wheelchair cushion will cross your mind if you want to enhance your chair’s comfort.

With most people spending extended periods in wheelchairs, comfort becomes crucial.

With the above gel seat cushion considerations, you can make an informed buying decision.

Moreover, you know that Medicare can cover the gel seat cushion costs, so check your eligibility.

How to choose the best gel wheelchair cushion

What do you think? Are these considerations enough to choose the best gel wheelchair cushion? Let me know if you have anything more to add to it!

Resources

  • 1. North America Wheelchair Market Report 2021 – ResearchAndMarkets.com [Internet]. www.businesswire.com. 2021. Available from: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210813005309/en/North-America-Wheelchair-Market-Report-2021—ResearchAndMarkets.com
  • ‌2. Lee JW, Lim Y-H, Won YH, Kim DH. Effect of gel seat cushion on chronic low back pain in occupational drivers. Medicine. 2018;97:e12598.
  • 3. What Medicare Covers | Medicare [Internet]. Medicare.gov. 2000. Available from: https://www.medicare.gov/what-medicare-covers
  • ‌4. When to Replace your Wheelchair Cushion [Internet]. Karman® Wheelchairs. [cited 2022 Nov 25]. Available from: https://www.karmanhealthcare.com/when-to-replace-wheelchair-cushion/

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