How to move a wheelchair without lifting it?
October 24, 2019 6:36 PM   Subscribe

I need to get a wheelchair from the trunk of a SUV to the passenger side door with minimal effort.

Grandpa had a spinal injury, and is wheelchair-bound for now. Grandma can't lift his 40 lb wheelchair in and out of the trunk. But Grandma can push an empty wheelchair, and Grandpa can easily transfer and push himself around once he's in.

Grandpa might graduate to a walker, but he'll probably still need the wheelchair. I want to prevent them from making bad decisions like using a walker when they really need the wheelchair. So I want to make it easy for Grandma to deploy the wheelchair herself.

They have a standard mid-size SUV with a manual-release trunk, and they have two chairs, so they can keep one in the trunk. I've seen hitch-mounted racks and lifts, and those might be an option if they're easy to use.

For silly vanity reasons, a solution that fits entirely into the trunk might be an easier sell. Most of these solutions seem best for heavy powered chairs, and I'm wondering if there's a simpler solution for a non-powered chair. I'm thinking a hoist or some kind of light-duty electric winch might work.

I'm open to other ideas, too. I'm basically looking to prevent them from driving somewhere without a plan for getting out the wheelchair, and YOLO-ing it.
posted by RobotVoodooPower to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There are lightweight wheelchairs but they are also very expensive, but if you can get the wheelchair to a wieght she can lift that might be the best solution.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:30 PM on October 24, 2019

Adding: wheelchairs can be rented monthly, it may be worth seeing if a lightweight one is an option.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:31 PM on October 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Some wheelchairs come apart easily- maybe that kind would help as Grandma could manage the weight and size of each piece (seat + 2 wheels) separately.

Also, check out YouTube- dozens of wheelchair users have posted tutorials of how they load their own chairs (and do lots of other stuff).
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:53 PM on October 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Is removing a rear seat an option? You might be able to rig up a light ramp she could roll the folded chair up and down. A ramp multiplies force considerably. I don’t know how their vehicle is set up so this is probably a dumb idea but perhaps it suggests something more practical to you.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 9:44 PM on October 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

If the trunk is the usual overhead lift gate style, I would look into some sort of block-and-tackle system that attaches to the inside of the lift gate, and then to the armrests of the wheelchair.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:40 AM on October 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

Does the SUV have a trailer hitch? You can get a "cargo carrier"-- which is essentially a flat "shelf" that sticks off the end of the vehicle at the level of the trailer hitch. The wheelchair may fit on there fine not-collapsed, and just bungee corded on. It may still require a little lifting but they have some with ramps depending on how much you want to spend. (edit, changed link to nonspecific ramp cargo carriers)
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:57 AM on October 25, 2019

I work with people who use wheelchairs. In my experience, you have several options:

1) A portable ramp to wheel the wheelchair into the back of the SUV. The longer the ramp the exponentially heavier the ramp gets. This adds up quickly so you’d need a very short ramp.
2) Modifying the SUV to add an electric ramp
3) Partially disassembling this wheelchair (ie remove the wheels) to break the wheelchair into pieces each of which is lighter weight
4) Get an ultralight wheelchair if your Grandpa does not need too much support. These weight maybe 20 lbs but run several thousand dollars... Tilite is a popular brand.
5) Have the occupational or physical therapist go out to the SUV and practice with grandma
posted by ticketmaster10 at 6:29 AM on October 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Lots of great suggestions above. I would suggest you ask around (start with Grandpas hospital/rehab) for an occupational therapist to give suggestions.

You may also want to look at a 'turning' seat for the passenger side as this can make transfers easier and safer, whether he is moving to a walker or to a wheelchair. They can sometimes be found 'used' for much cheaper too.

Instead of looking for a 'lift' or 'rack', consider a crane system for the chair. It sounds like Grandma could hook up and manage the controls/guide the chair, it's the weight thats the problem, so this would be a more discreet solution and likely cheaper. It also stows more out of the way if it's not needed on a given day. We had one for a mini van for a family member and it worked well. this is an example, but there are many variations on the theme. The difference being it doesn't have a platform for the chair to sit on. I have also seen one which is intended to be used by the driver, and loads a lightweight chair into the back seat, but the link eludes me. This could be an option if Grandpa is eventually able to drive with hand controls and needs more independence.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 6:35 AM on October 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

You could make a long ramp out of a couple of 2"x4"s. You cut them in half and put hinges on one side so that they can double over and be half as long, but unfold to their full length.

You could also make a foldable triangular A-frame sort of thing with a winch at the apex. Crank it up to put it in the back, then crank it down to get it out.

Second asking some Nurse or other person to show her how to do it easily and see what she can manage.

It could be as simple as back the folded chair up to the back of the car so that the handles are above (hooked) over the floor, lock the wheels, and then lever the chair up by the front and slide it in. Do the reverse to get it out. Depends on the chair and the car really.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:02 AM on October 25, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far, everyone. I should mention one other wrinkle which I just realized today: Grandma is going to have trouble collapsing the wheelchair back into place, which requires lifting it up by the seat. (She can unfold it by sitting down on it.)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:25 PM on October 25, 2019

An OT is really, really going to be your friend here, to figure Grandmas strengths.

Grandma may be able to leverage her weight to collapse the chair by pushing the two sides together against the bumper, or with a crane system, using the cranes strength/lift to collapse the chair, but honestly even a 'medium' weight wheelchair, should be fairly easy to collapse. If it's not, it may need adjusting.

Depending on the height of the chair and the SUV, she might be able to use a crane to lift a lightweight chair into the back of the SUV without collapsing it. Some 'lightweight' chairs have folding backrests as well, which would give it a lower profile for stowing it in a smaller SUV.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 6:20 PM on October 25, 2019

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