Falls can be concerning for many senior citizens and the reliability of a walker may provide support, balance, and stability. The introduction of a walker, when used properly, can help an older adult maintain a sense of independence and mobility.
Family caregivers can offer their aging parents tips on selecting a walker. Here are a few tips to consider when looking into these valuable mobility aids.
- Assess the stability factor. Walkers generally come in a standard, no-wheel model, a two-wheeled model, and a four-wheeled model. If stability is a major concern – meaning, if the walker is going to need to bear a significant amount of the weight of the person using it – a no-wheel version is usually the best. Those walkers with two heels in the front and “sliders” on the back are usually recommended for those who only need to put a moderate amount of their weight onto the walker. The four-wheeled version is recommended for those who really are using the walker to help with balance and don’t need to put much weight at all on the walker itself.
- Consider the weight of the walker. In general, walkers that have to support more weight from the patient are heavier than those for which weight bearing is not much of an issue. Unfortunately, the heavier the walker, the more difficult it is to lift, which can become an issue if it is used for long stretches of time, especially on uneven surfaces. Try to find a walker that is as lightweight as possible but that still is sturdy enough to properly support the needed weight.
- Think about the folding option. If the senior in question only travels within a small area, such as around the house and neighborhood, a folding walker may not be necessary; however, if the senior takes many trips in cars, trains, or planes, getting a walker that folds easily and compactly can be a big benefit.
- Make sure the fit is good. When a senior chooses a walker, he or she needs to make sure that it is the right size and height. To get the right measurement, the senior should stand (wearing his or her usual shoes) with arms hanging down at the sides in a natural manner. Take a measurement when the senior is in this position; one end of the tape measure should be at the wrist, the other should extend straight down to the floor. This should give a good basic idea of the height to which the walker should be adjusted.
For more suggestions on selecting a walker, check out the information presented by the Mayo Clinic.