How to Determine if You Need Wheelchair Assistance (Guide)

Written by GrigorinaLoa
Last Updated :

How do you determine if you need wheelchair assistance? Of the 5.5 million adult wheelchair users in the US, how did they all know it was time to use the assistive device? (1)

If you’re wondering whether your mobility issues should have you in a wheelchair, you’ve come to the right place.

This article will explain how to tell whether it’s time to get a personal wheelchair to carry on with your daily life.

Let’s dive in.

Key Takeaways

  • Constant difficulty walking, your doctor’s recommendation, and frequent falls with your mobility aid should tell you it’s time for a wheelchair.
  • Get a doctor to assess you and recommend a wheelchair that fits your needs best.
  • The switch doesn’t have to be sudden. You can take it slow.

How to Tell You Need a Wheelchair

Most people see the manual wheelchair as the third most crucial accessibility device for seniors, behind only eyeglasses and a cane. (2)

That tells you the number of people transitioning to the mobility device daily. Are you wondering how to determine if you need wheelchair assistance? 

casters on wheelchair

If you’ve been enduring chronic pain, then you may have known that at one time or the other, you might have to use a wheelchair. There are several ways to tell whether it’s time.

Here are the signs you need to transition to a wheelchair.

1. Walking Has Become Increasingly Painful and Exhausting

If you currently use a different assistive device and find it quite painful to walk or move short distances, it might be time to go for the wheelchair.

It’s a wise decision if you have a mobility impairment and your pain is untreatable.

Walkers may have been the mobility assistance of your choice, but when the pain becomes unbearable, it’s time to switch.

2. Your Doctor Has Advised You To Switch to a Wheelchair

Your doctor’s advice is often gospel truth, especially if you’ve been with the doctor for some time.

On my doctor’s advice, I traded in my walker for a wheelchair. As a fiercely independent person, my pride initially wanted none of it.

Your doctors understand your medical needs and the level of your strength. You should therefore take their advice about your medical services seriously.

Whether you use a wheelchair yourself or want to learn how to help someone who does, this video is packed with helpful tips and tricks for safely and efficiently carrying things while in a wheelchair:

3. Regular Falls With Your Current Mobility Aid

If you use a walker, cane, or other mobility aid and are regularly falling, it’s time to consider a wheelchair.

Not only is your situation dangerous, but it could also make your mobility issues worse.

In the video below, you will learn about Vickie Richmond, who kept falling with her walker and started using a wheelchair.

It might seem like a difficult decision to make, especially if you’re a fiercely independent person like I was.

However, moving to a wheelchair may prove to be the best option.

4. You’ve Had a Drastic Change in Mobility Status

Drastic changes, such as a stroke, severe injury, and other serious mobility problems, will require you to use a wheelchair.

It doesn’t matter how much you once preferred the cane or walker. Any severe injury that seriously impedes your mobility requires you to move to a wheelchair ASAP.

To be sure, ask your physical therapist or doctor for advice on how soon to use a wheelchair.

5. The Wheelchair Can Improve The Quality of Your Life

If you can’t perform basic daily life activities and a wheelchair will change that, it’s time for the wheelchair.

You may struggle to carry out even the most basic tasks without a wheelchair. In that case, a wheelchair will improve the quality of your life and increase your independence.

That makes you a worthy candidate for a wheelchair. Life doesn’t have to be complicated if you can make it easier.

How To Transition to a Wheelchair Smoothly

Using a wheelchair for the first time is akin to navigating unchartered territory (2). After all, wheelchairs are massively different from the most common mobility aids, canes.

So, how do you transition to this step? Here are some tips to make the process smoother.

1. Get Your Doctor to Recommend a Fitting Wheelchair

Your wheelchair is a crucial piece of medical equipment you’ll use for the better part of your life.

wheelchair in an elevator

Therefore, it needs to be the best fit. Ask your doctor for recommendations when you go for your mobility exam.

2. Make a Gradual Switch

Switching to a wheelchair doesn’t have to be a sudden occurrence. Of course, if you have severe mobility issues, it may have to be.

However, if you’re transitioning from another assistive device, it helps to make the process gradual.

You can divide your day between your old assistive medical device and your new wheelchair. 

Each day, spend a specific amount of time using your wheelchair and the rest of your time using your former assistive device. Gradually increase the time spent in the wheelchair.

However, if it’s too painful to do that because of your disability, using the wheelchair all the time for comfort and safety reasons will be the better option for you.

3. Consider Helpful Wheelchair Accessories

It’s 2023, and many wheelchair accessories are out there that can ease your transition process.

Consider getting wheelchair equipment, including accessories such as backpacks, seat cushions, and cup holders, to increase your independence even more.

Being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you don’t get to enjoy life. Make the wheelchair as comfortable as possible, and the transition will be smooth and enjoyable.

Check our list of the quality wheelchair backpacks.

4. Remember It Isn’t The End of Your Independence

When I first heard I’d have to use a wheelchair, I was crestfallen. Here I was, a proud, independent person, now forever confined to be a helpless wheelchair user.

However, that wasn’t the case. Using a wheelchair didn’t spell the end of my independence, and it won’t signify that for you either.

You aren’t helpless, and you can still do a ton of things yourself.

So, don’t burden yourself with thoughts of helplessness and self-pity.

READ MORE: Is it Hard to Push Someone in a Wheelchair?


1. When should I transition into a wheelchair?

It would be best if you transitioned into a wheelchair when it’s painful to walk or are experiencing a lower quality of life that the wheelchair would improve.

2. Can you sit in your wheelchair all day?

young men on electric wheelchair

You can sit in a wheelchair all day, although I wouldn’t recommend doing that. Mix it up to avoid tiredness.

3. Why do I need a doctor’s assessment before getting a wheelchair?

A doctor’s assessment will help you choose a suitable wheelchair and also help with your insurance application. (3)


How do you determine if you need wheelchair assistance?

It is time when it gets too painful to walk with your current mobility device and when a wheelchair can improve the quality of your life.

A drastic change in mobility should also lead to a shift to a wheelchair. Your doctor can help you determine whether you should switch to using a wheelchair.

Getting the timing right for the transition can be difficult. But with the tips mentioned here, you’ll know when it’s time.

nurse assisiting her senior patient in a wheelchair

Have any more questions about transitioning to a wheelchair? Shoot them at me in the comments, and I’ll answer them ASAP.


1. Ellis RR. DVT and Wheelchair Use: What to Know [Internet]. WebMD. 2022. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/dvt/dvt-wheelchair-use

2. Giesbrecht EM, Miller WC, Woodgate RL. Navigating uncharted territory: a qualitative study of the experience of transitioning to wheelchair use among older adults and their care providers. BMC Geriatrics. 2015; 15.

3. Erickson Gabbey A. Wheelchair Prescription | Definition and Patient Education [Internet]. Healthline. 2014. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/wheelchair-prescription#use

About Author

Grigorina discovered that writing is her vocation early in her school years. Since then, she's taken part in several literary contests. For the past three years, she's also been an ELS teacher, pouring her heart into showing children and adults how important English is for their future. She has a Bachelor's degree in Applied Linguistics, an ESL Teacher's degree, and a Master's degree in Accounting. Follow her on FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM. Read her LATEST POSTS. Learn more about her HERE.

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