Wheelchairs: I am becoming increasingly unsteady... - Ataxia UK

Ataxia UK
3,266 members3,387 posts



I am becoming increasingly unsteady, even with my husbands support, when we go out and I am afraid of falling due to my ataxia; especially if he has to go off for a minute and there's nowhere to sit down. At such times I rely on a walking stick to maintain my balance but it's scary. So the time has come for me to think about a wheelchair.

Can anyone advise how to go about getting a wheelchair? Does the NHS supply them? How much do they cost? Insurance/Maintenance costs? What types suitable for being pushed in (I couldn't manage to propel one with my arms; too weak) are there?

Any advice much appreciated.

18 Replies

I was feeling like you until I got myself rollator. I wish I'd got one before as it keeps me walking at the same time as making me feel secure .I got mine in Aberdeen in a store called Ablecare. I wish you luck with whatever you choose. Mina.

in reply to Rankin63

It won't catch me when I fall like my husband does so I'll pass on those.

Ask your doctor to refer you to an O.T.

What's an O.T.?

in reply to SharonPS

I found it: Occupational Therapist

Two yrs ago I was like you using Hubble as a walking aid but to walk out on my own very scary. I was referred to an OT via Dr, for 2yrs now have been using a tri walker which has helped a lot, whether out on my own or with others. I hope you get sorted soon.

Hi Sharon🙂 Do you actually feel ready for a wheelchair, when you can still walk🤔 Could you feel safe using a rollator, with a seat🤔

Some people find a walking stick makes their balance worse, and either need to hold someone's arm, or as you say consider a wheelchair. There are outlets where you can hire aids, it could save you a lot of money to try before you buy🤔xBeryl

Hi Sharon..... when I first needed a wheelchair I asked the nurse at my GP surgery, she put me in touch with a local charity..... on the other hand, you could approach your local Red Cross, can I ask where you live, I will try to help.


Hi, I was like you until a couple of months ago, pretty well housebound for months on end only going out hanging on to my husband's arm and using a stick. My Doc sent me to a physio through the Falls Clinic and she got me a rollator with a seat and organised OT to come out and assess me. They got me a seat and step for the shower and it didn't cost a penny. The rollator enables me to walk independently and I can sit down for a rest. It has 4 wheels and is very sturdy, it has given me my life back, still a wobbly life but at least I'm sort of mobile again. I'm determined to walk for as long as I can. Xx

I went from using walking stick to rollater then now a wheelchair within a short period of time can walk around house fine using furniture and walls but outside is completly different when I was using rollater my leg would go and as I suffer from asthma I would be struggling to get my breathe I got mine from being referred to local ot ,I have a self propelling one so I can use toilets but cant propell it on pavements but can manage in shops ask your GP for advice

Hi SharonPS I have been provided with a wheelchair from the NHS, you have to be referred to the wheelchair services my speech therapist/physio referred me. There was quite a wait but I got what I needed and I can wheel myself as well as someone pushing me. It's a lot safer as I was falling everywhere due to being very unbalanced. Good luck and look after yourself. Angela

Depending on your area you almost certainly won't get one through NHS, you have to be unable to get around the house at all in order to qualify. I had a recent assessment and was deemed sufficiently at risk to warrant a wheelchair and was then told where to buy one.

Like you I skipped the rollator stage as I have no balance outside and would only end up pushing too hard down on the thing to stay upright.

Wheelchairs, you get what you may for, and you can may over £10,000 for specialist chairs down to £50 for a sit up and beg type. If you really can't manage to propel yourself and you can get around indoors then look at attendant wheelchairs, two small wheels front and back. These are easier for the pusher.

If getting around indoors is a challenge then maybe it's worth considering getting a smaller electric wheelchair which runs on a car battery. The careco website has some which will give you an idea of what's out there. Make sure you can navigate it before buying, I found trying to operate the joystick and see where I was going at the same time impossible, it depends how you condition affects you.

Prices vary enormously rather like cars, depends if you can afford a Merc or a second hand Skoda or something in between. Best bet is to try and look around showrooms and try them all out, don't be fobbed off with saleroom talk.

Ok some great tips and I think we sound at a similar stage.

Although scary try a walker (keeps you fitter). I find 3 wheels too scary and need 4 for stability (big wheels better). I have a wheelchair for days out. Mine is a push and self propelled (you will be surprised what you can do).

I just had a fall but now better I am trying to get my fitness back by using my walker as much as I can.

It is so scary and I am so frightened of falling again but the stronger I get the less chance. We all fall (sorry to say) but hang out to the walker if you start going and do everything one handed.

Sorry to nag but this is what I am telling myself x

You have some excellent advice. Your GP can refer you to a physio or OT where they can assess your needs and point you in the right direction. Take time to work out what is comfortable and safe for you.

If you can still walk, get a four wheeled walker, with a seat, pouch and brakes. You should NOT use the walker as a wheelchair as walker's wheel bearings will fail. Apart from sitting on the seat for a rest, I can carry things in a bowl that can spill, on the seat. Mine collapses in to car so I can take it with me. Sufficient height and width to consider. Walker has saved me falling many times.

Test drive walkers in a shop, friends or physio dept. I sold my unused walker to a hospital physio department. Current sister bought my current walker in charity warehouse store. One wheel is no longer round, more like new £1 coin. Replacement wheel is available. Pre-owned walkers are out there. Try Facebook and Freecycle and local paper classifieds.

I found a shopping trolley a great boon, so I got my own, a walker.

Both walkers and wheelchairs might not be NHS OT supplied. But do ask your OT (via GP). Red Cross hire wheelchairs from their warehouses, not shops. Look on their website for "Mobility Aids". Hire can be permanent.

Through a physio-terrorist ( they now how to inflict pain) I got 2 zimmer frames for free. One upstairs, one downstairs. Not meant to be used outdoors. Got stairlift now free through OT.

If you have PIP part 2, mobility component, Not only do you get reduced RFL (car tax) but it can be used for a powered wheelchair. Going straight from sticks to powered wheelchair might be your way.

I love my 4 wheel walker, love my electric scooter and love PIP lease car. Only the lease car I did not have to buy.

Thanks to everyone for your replies. I am going to look at attendant wheelchairs to make it easier for my husband.

My partner was given his by the OT department so it's just a bog standard normal wheelchair. We maintain it ourselves but I guess if something did go wrong we'd contact the OT department and ask them to change it, he has to propel it himself (he doesn't have to but he's only 46 and doesn't like being pushed) but we've recently bought a small mobility scooter that comes to pieces to fit in the boot of the car which is so much better that way we can go further sight seeing on days out. He has the bigger one for going out from home which won't go in the car. The smaller scooter is small enough to go in the shops too so it's better then his wheelchair.

Hope you find what's best for you, have you tried maybe using a walking frame for when your out with wheels? They have seats on too fit you to sit down on. X

My husband is getting beyond using a stick and was supplied with both a three and a four wheeled rollator free but if you can't get one free then look on ebay for secondhand. We also got a Luggie scooter from ebay, still expensive even second hand but great if you have a husband to lift it in and out of the car boot. Unfortunately it's beyond my strength to do it for him but, for you, it would give both of you much more freedom.

You may also like...