Choosing the Right Medical Walker
My mother became quite weak and unbalanced as a result of extended periods of being bedridden and muscle wasting. She first began to use a walker when it was provided in the hospital for her to use to get to the bathroom and to walk in the hallway if she was able.
It can be difficult to see someone you knew as able bodied suddenly using (and needing) a walking aid because it is a stark reminder of their illness and disability. This was early enough in the disease that Mom was having some periods of stability; so when she was discharged from the hospital, it was necessary to look into purchasing her own walker.
My parents purchased a terrific walker with a basket and a seat, and Mom found it very useful for when she was able to go out for short walks and visits, and for attending medical appointments. Her walker was a “rollator” type, meaning it had wheels on it. Hers was a
Later on, when Mom was back in the hospital, she brought her own walker with her, and was glad to have it with her, as it was the proper size and she was used to it.
Good Example: The Drive Medical Adjustable Height Rollator with 6″ Wheels includes an adjustable seat and handlebar height and offers great comfort and support.
The rollator frame’s height can be adjusted from 18in. to 22in. in 1in. increments and the height of handles adjusts from 29.5in. to 38in. This aluminum frame rollator comes with deluxe loop brakes for added security and features removable, padded backrest and padded seat with zippered pouch. It requires only simple, tool-free assembly. You can see more details on the Drive Rollator here.
Considerations for Choosing Your Medical Walker
Will you be using it outdoors as well as indoors?
If using it outdoors you should consider looking at a rollator with larger wheels on it as they will be more stable outside. Wider wheels also track better over rougher surfaces.
Will you be lifting onto a bus, up stairs, or into a vehicle?
Lighter weight walkers are better if you are lifting the walker. You also want to look at whether you have to remove the basket before it can be folded and if so how easy is it to remove.
Do you have limited space for storing it?
If you have a small home you should look at walkers that fold up smaller and can stand on their own when folded so they can easily be stored in a closet or hallway.
Note that basic walkers (without wheels) are also an option. They are called “standard walkers,” and are designed for people for whom stability is a significant concern.
Recommended Basic Walker – The Invacare I-Class Dual-Release Lightweight Folding Walker comes with a deep, wide frame with a large number of height adjustments. The walker features a lower side brace for added stability and is easy to lift and maneuver. It has anti-rattle silencers that provide quieter operation and PVC handgrips for comfort and long-lasting wear.
The drawback with standard walkers is that you must pick up and move it as you walk. Most people end up choosing between two-wheel and four-wheel walkers.
Fitting Your Walker
The walker should be adusted so that it fits your arms comfortably. This will reduce stress on your shoulders and back as you use the walker. To tell if your walker is the correct height, step inside your walker and:
- Check your elbow bend. Keeping your shoulders relaxed, place your hands on the grips. Your elbows should bend at a comfortable angle of about 15 degrees.
- Check your wrist height. Stand inside the walker and relax your arms at your sides. The top of your walker should line up with the crease on the inside of your wrist.
- The height of the seat will vary from person to person and depend on leg strength; tall people with good leg strength sometimes prefer a lower seat, even though they might be measured for a higher one.
- Shorter individuals might be measured for a low seat, but prefer a taller one because they have bad knees or poor leg strength. For them, the less they have to bend, the better. Generally, however, when sitting on the seat, your feet should be flat on the floor.
- Walkers have adjustable arms that allow you to raise or lower the push handles.
A good rule of thumb for knowing if your walker fits you is to stand in front of your it in a relaxed but upright position. You don’t want to strain to point that you are creating discomfort while standing, but you do want to get better at remaining aware of your posture and striving to improve it. Standing straight, allow your arms to fall loosely at your sides. The top of the push handle should meet at the approximate location of your wrist. If the push handle is closer to your fingertips, the walker is too short and needs to be adjusted. If the push handles are closer to your elbow, the walker is too high. In both cases, you will need to adjust your walker so that it fits your properly (If you have already adjusted it and there is no adjustability left, you might need a new walker).
Keep in mind that walkers are not meant to be pushed in front of you like a shopping cart. Otherwise if you stumble the walker can push forward and you could fall. When you walk with your walker you should be standing in next to the seat.
Often people feel like the handles on their walker are too low but when you stand properly next to it you’ll find those handles are higher than you thought. Try standing next to the walker with arms at your side and to look for the handles to be at wrist-watch height. If they line up with your watch you should be good to go!
Accessories can make it easier to use your walker.
Trays can help you carry food, drinks and other items to a table. A pouch attached to the side can carry books or magazines. Some walkers can also be fitted with seats or baskets.
The Nova Ortho-Med Tray is a convenient way to transport food and other personal items. The tray features a cup holder that prevents drinks from spilling. This is easy to installs with 4 attachable clamps. This tray can fit to 4080 and 4090 series folding walkers.
EZ Access Walker Carry-On – Durable, lightweight, water-resistant nylon design and three deep pockets make this front mounted bag a necessity for every walker! Allows hands-free transportation of personal items. Custom designed detachable beverage holder.
The Drive Medical Walker Basket features a cup holder and a plastic tray. This basket can complement any 1″ folding walkers to make transporting personal goods easy.
Be sure not to overload your walker.
Remember that whichever walker you choose, make sure you maintain it. Worn-out or loose rubber caps or grips and loose or excessively tight brakes may increase your risk of falling while using a walker.
If you think it might be time for a walker, take some time to think about your physical needs, and how and where you will be using it. Walkers come in a variety of configurations these days, most fold for storage and transporting and all help keep people who are unsteady on their feet stay safe while walking and standing by providing a stable device to put their weight on. Where they will differ is in their design.
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