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My mom (83, ALZ) weighs about 215 and cannot stand and pivot very well. They have her as a two-person assist for transfers at the SNF. I have trouble transferring her from the wheelchair to my car (Equinox). Currently, I'm using a gait belt to lift and pivot her onto the seat, and she's often dead weight.


Fortunately, my lease is up soon and I'm looking for recommendations for a car/SUV that's got a wide door opening, or is otherwise friendly to mobility-impaired passengers. Would also welcome any advice on the best way to transfer her.

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Not sure if this has been mentioned but one thing to consider is if the vehicle has a handle (the sh$% grip) in the ceiling above the door. My Honda van had one but my MIL's Dodge did not (both older models so they may both have one now). The handle did make it easier for her to lift her fanny to settle into the seat better and to leverage herself out of the car.
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Reply to metoo111
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Some very good suggestions made previously. The garbage bag (heavy duty) works well. Also, the SNF is using two-person for staff safety, which is a clue to the caution you should take. 215# dead weight is not easy to handle. I haven't looked extensively yet (but am approaching a time I may have to with my mother...) But Toyota has a 'transfer seat' that can be installed in the Sienna van (I think, or maybe in other vehicles, too)... it turns out for easier transfer. This may not make the actual transfer easier if she's unable to assist, though.
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Reply to Donna1898
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I also have a Honda Fit and have used it to transport friends with rollators or wheelchairs. The seat hight is perfect for anyone. Just back up at the open door and sit down. Then put you legs in. It is a comfortable height for knees in sitting position. The rear seats can be configured any way you want and I find it easy to keep them both folded up and put in a folded wheelchair or rollator.
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Reply to Goody2shoes
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I had suffered through this problem with my husband and as previews posters have stated you will hurt yourself trying to do this. It’s hard to say what vehicle to try because depending upon her knees, back, ability to step up etc. If I may offer an alternate suggestion... Most cities and rural areas have some type of public transportation for mobility impaired riders. Where I live we have ParaTransit ( public bus service that will pick you up at your door, has a lift for a wheelchair and seating for a companion (our rural areas have the same service called Oats). If your Mother is in a facility it may be your best option to use this type of public transportation. This became a lifesaver for doctors appointments, shopping etc. Good luck to you
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needtowashhair Dec 16, 2019
We have the same service from PT in our area. Unfortunately their pickup windows are 2 hours on each end. The last time I took mom to the doctor, there was a 94 year old there waiting for pickup for 4 hours.

I just do a car transfer. It's not as bad as I thought. Not really that much different from doing a bed to wheelchair transfer. I do wish they made cars with ultra wide opening doors. A gullwing would be perfect with all that headroom too. But a Tesla or a Lamborghini would be a little too expensive. Maybe a Delorean.
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Like the idea of trash bag, haven't heard that one before. Hospital told me to put a sheet on the seat so I could pull my mom up once she was in car. She had no strength, just enough to stand from wheelchair & sit, then we move her legs around. We also had Equinox. Now I have to use medical transport. Just wanted you to know about the sheet if it helps.
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Reply to Labmom
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You will injure yourself if you keep doing this type of transfer. Think of your back. If your back goes out, you'll be the patient.
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Reply to Llamalover47
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Try to find a vehicle that is the right "seat height" - one where she doesn't have to climb "up" or sit really "low". Go to several car dealerships and test drive seating. My Gram was short so SUV's, trucks, and vans were a little "high" for her but she weighed next to nothing so it was easy to boost her. Most sportier cars have lower seats. I really liked my Honda Fit. It was easy to get folks into the front passenger seat and also have room for the wheelchair. A larger car from Honda may work well too.
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Reply to Taarna
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I am sorry, but you are putting both you and Mum at risk by trying to do a one person transfer. The NH has her as a 2 person assist to keep Mum and the aides safe.

At this point you need a wheel chair accessible van with a motorized lift. Or hire a Taxi that is wheel chair accessible, or use medical transport services.
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Reply to Tothill
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I have a friend who has limited flexibility and mobility, he has a Ford Flex and he just loves it because its so easy for him to get into and out of!! Just my .02 cents!!
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Reply to Grammy6pak
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Although i'm a truck lover. I liked my Mazda 5 because it had a sliding back door. This was when i had my Dad & Mom to consider so Dad rode in the back seat and Mom in the front. It was about theigh high so no need to "climb" up into the seat nor so low they "fall" down into the seat. Assisting them out of the car was also easier because i did not have to lift them up out of the car. Once their lwgs were out and feet on the ground they were practically sranding up already. Dad was about 5'5; Mom about 5'3. I'm 5'3. Downside to the Mazda was room in the back for 2 wheelchairs. I think my Mazda was the sport addition. It's the longest.
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Reply to McPoole
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Wife is in a wheelchair. We have a 2012 Avalon.doors open wide and seat is low.we use a belt looped around arms that she can hold on to. I lift her by grabbing her pants. Works fine. 4 years experience.
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Reply to DDoralD
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Si tried out several SUVs with my husband- and now mom... Happy with Ford Escape.Had Honda CR-V, that was fine also. Also rear holds transfer wheelchair and a walker.
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Reply to Sewandtell
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Have a similar problem. I think it is important to look into the future for mom.
Most likely her skills are going to decline, what shall she be like in 5 years? Given that, instead of investing in a traditional vehicle, a van with a wheel chair lift may save you a lot f money in the lung run not to mention saving your own back.
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Reply to doctorno
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A lot depends on how tall the person you're transferring is. You want to have the seat about hip-high to make it easy for them to get in and out.

The best vehicle for transferring that I've owned is my Honda Element. Doors open really wide, and it's a straight across transfer for my brother's MIL. However, she's six feet tall, so the Element works well for her.

My own mother is about 5'2" and 200 pounds, so I don't think I could get her in the Element anymore. She did very well with my Honda CR-V.
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Reply to anonymous982826
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This is a good post, and I also just got rid of my beloved Equinox as I needed more cargo room now for the rollator, As mom has always been able to get into my hubs big truck,, I never thought about her getting into a higher truck.. BUT.. I forgot his truck has step rails on the side. My new Explorer does not, and it is HIGH !. Luckily she is only 85 lbs and I can get her hands on the roof hand rails and boost her up,, she is able to hold onto the door and me and slide out. If she was heavier I would be in trouble.. I needed a SUV for my winter commute to the city 54 miles away . So I guess I will need to start driving her car more when she is with me. She sort of "falls" into it,, but it is easier. She does like that she can see out the front of the new ride, and it has all the backseat bells and do dads like heated seats and her own temp adjustments. She is not so happy I wont let her smoke in it..
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Reply to pamzimmrrt
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I advise you to carefully contemplate whether your mom is getting as much out of these excursions as you think, often it is our own despair at the smallness of their world that drives us to attempt to include our loved ones far past the time when they themselves desire it.
The simplest solution I saw was a mini van with the passenger seats removed allowing the wheelchair to roll up a ramp and into that spot - parked beside the curb the ramp was not at all steep. Of course the modifications would need to meet safety standards and there must have been some way to secure the chair in place.
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Reply to cwillie
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https://www.aarp.org/auto/trends-lifestyle/info-2019/car-accessories-for-disabled-adults.html

Ffrom AARP
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Reply to BarbBrooklyn
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Myownlife Dec 15, 2019
Great info.; thanks Barb !!
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Take a look at the Honda Fit. Or an HRV? Little but awesome and somehow just the right height for my mom.

Also have you looked at a "Car Cane"?
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Reply to BarbBrooklyn
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I try to take her out each weekend to do something fun. Otherwise her entire life is in her half of her small SNF room. She still wants to go shopping, go out to eat, see the Christmas lights, etc. Her dementia has not progressed to the point that she's stopped being aware of her surroundings/missing doing the things that make our lives enjoyable.

It's not safe to transfer her like this by myself--for her or for me, but the alternative is basically a prison sentence of having nothing to look forward to. I say this about our situation--for *my* mom. I am not in any way, shape or form passing judgement on anyone else and what they're choosing for their loved one.

I hire wheelchair vans for transport for all medical appointments, and they're expensive but reliable, and so very much safer. However you can't hire them to go out shopping, etc. I hired one for Thanksgiving, confirmed twice ahead of time, and then they never showed up.

Someone asked for how much longer--I don't know. She's been in the facility since she fell and broke her femur in April, but she spends most days entirely in bed, watching tv, doesn't want to shower, doesn't want to go down to bingo, basically doesn't want to get out of bed--except for when we take her out on weekends. That is her only bit of life for the week, and she is cognitively declining very quickly now. I have to take her out, until I can't.

Thank you all for your responses.
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Reply to DarkSeaglass
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Tothill Dec 15, 2019
DSG,

Are there any taxi firms in your community that have wheel chair accessible cabs? There are where I live and are a great service between medical transport and managing on your own.
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My disabled passengers are only occasionally in wheelchairs, due to recurring balance and/or weakness issues ... but my crossover SUV works well for them. It's sort of a large station wagon, really. Not as high as a full-size SUV or my pickup. Not low, like a sedan or coupe.

Its floor and seats are at the right height for them to plop down in easily. I help them pivot their legs when needed. (Car has 8.7" ground clearance).

It can also carry most push-type wheelchairs in the hatch - especially with rear seats folded down - and I'm considering getting a "car cane" to give them an additional hand-grip.

That said ... some communities and/or public transit agencies may offer wheelchair van services. No transfer required at all. Drivers just roll, lock, and go.

I used them extensively to help a good friend who could not be transferred at all without a Hoyer lift. Main drawback was a shortage of dispatchers. Reserving rides could be time-consuming - but it was FAR less expensive than private transport companies, and the drivers were top-notch.
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Reply to Confounded
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Cars are too low, vans and SUVs too high, on all of them the door gets in the way.
Although I had difficulty transferring my 150 lb mother (I can't imagine carrying the majority of the weight for someone 50 lbs heavier) it was doable until she suddenly couldn't bear her weight at all in the middle of a transfer and I almost dumped her on the snowy sidewalk. I realized then that car rides were no longer safe and looked for a local accessible transport provider - no more transfers, no more worry. Should have done it sooner.
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Reply to cwillie
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There's an "auto cane" handle you can fasten to the door frame; it hooks into the U shaped projection the door latch uses and provides the person transferring a secure hold point. My mom pushes to her feet with help from the wheelchair arms. I place her 4 legged cane in her left hand with her right hand on the arm of the wheelchair to begin her turn, then she uses the auto cane handle when it's easier to reach than the wheelchair arm. Once she sitting in the seat, it's easy to scoot around and get her legs in because she slides well on the leather seat.
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Reply to TNtechie
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NeedHelpWithMom Dec 13, 2019
The car cane works well.
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SUVs are hard to get in and out of. The seats are just a little too high. Same with front seats of Vans.

Hopefully the wheelchair has a side that swings up. Makes transferring easier. There are transfer boards.

My question is, why do u need to take Mom out. I cut out some of Moms doctors and let the LTC doctor car for her. She had Dementia. At 89 she no longer needed a urologist. She cancer free for over 5 yrs. Other dr was just for follow ups for things that never got worse. Since her Thyroid numbers looked good for a while, all that was needed was a test to be done every 3 months which the NH could do. A dentist came to the facility as did an eye dr and foot doctor.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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Grandma1954, I've never thought of that, using a bag to create a slick base.   Good suggestion.

Another option is to get "slide boards".  My father made two, one longer than the other.   They're a little bit more awkward and uncomfortable, but they can help.

The person in the passenger seat tips to the left; the board is inserted beneath her/him and she/he slides on the board, scooching over toward the door.    Enough of the board is left open to place it on the wheelchair, which is placed right next to the car door, with generally the left arm of the wheelchair removed.   So the board spans the distance and creates a bridge between the wheelchair and the car door.

The person slides or scooches over the board until part of his/her bottom is on the wheelchair, then tips to the right side while the board is removed.

This isn't the easiest method, but it's a possible option.

Grandma1954 makes good points about future needs.   I had to hire transport for a cataract surgery followup, and after calling many private contractors hired an ambulance nonEMS transport van.  It was wheelchair enabled, but I didn't need that.

Cost was $40 each way, plus $2.25/mile.   Expensive, yes?  Safe, yes.   The driver was very polite, friendly, cordial and concerned for safety.   And I didn't even have to bother asking for insurance verification; as an EMS contractor, I knew it would have liability insurance.   

The only problem occurred on the second trip, after my second cataract was removed.  Someone goofed up and the van wasn't sent.   It was clear when I called to find out when it was coming that an error had been made.    Still, I would probably use them again but call again that morning to verify confirmation.

Fortunately, by then I didn't need glasses and just drove myself.
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Reply to GardenArtist
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Banana board. If you Google "transfer from wheelchair to car seat" you can see what they look like, as well as other options and techniques. How's her upper body strength, is she able to move herself at all once seated?
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Reply to Countrymouse
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Try this...
Take a large contractor garbage bag and cut the bottom so the bag is like a large tube, open at both ends.
Place the bag on the seat.
When you get moms butt on the seat just pick up her legs and swing the legs in to the car.
The bag will allow her to slide easily, it will bunch up a bit but it should not be uncomfortable.
To get her out of the car, swing the legs back out and her butt will turn easily as she will just slide around.
When you go to help her up be careful as the bag will make it a bit slicker and you don't want her sliding out so have a good grip on the gait belt.

As far as other vehicles
Most of the SUV will pretty much have the same width doors in the front. And the back doors are more narrow.
A van type will have a sliding door but the seats are usually back a bit further so it might be more difficult to get her in.
The other option would be to look for a vehicle that has been converted to accept a wheelchair and you can then leave her in the wheelchair and latch it down. The question on that is...how long are you going to be able to take her out....it might be less expensive to get a medical transport when you need to take her out and cut out other trips when it becomes unsafe for you or for her to transfer her to your vehicle.
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Reply to Grandma1954
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NeedHelpWithMom Dec 13, 2019
Smart!
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