Mobility aids can completely transform a senior’s life. At the most basic level, canes and walkers provide the stability and balance necessary to prevent falls. In some cases, they make a chair-bound senior free again – able to take walks around the block, visit a corner grocery store or to bet able to get outside and garden again without fear.
The key is to choose the right cane or walker for the elderly person’s needs, and to make sure the equipment is a good fit for the person’s height and weight. Failure to select the right type of walker, or to ensure a good fit, can cause discomfort and will compromise their safety.
A Guide to Selecting a Cane or Walker For the Elderly
The first step is to make an appointment with a healthcare provider. Let the doctor know you’re interested in using a cane or walker and he can assist you in selecting the right one.
The following are basic guidelines for selecting the right type of mobility aids for your needs.
Determine the amount of support you need
Canes can support as much as 25% of your body weight, while certain walkers can support up to 50% of your body weight. You want to choose the type of aid that will provide the most support for where you are at today – taking into consideration that the need for more support will increase as you age.
Many seniors opt to get one of each and use them in different scenarios. Perhaps a cane will be used around the house, to putter in the yard, or to make short trips to doctors or friends’ homes. A walker may be used for longer jaunts or to take advantage of the basket option if you will be carrying or purchasing small items.
What is the main reason you’ll be using the device?
Typically, canes are used for:
- Arthritis in the knees and hips.
- Minor issues with balance, especially on stairs or uneven ground.
- An injury to the foot, ankle or leg.
Walkers are recommended for:
- Arthritis pain in the knees and hips is more severe.
- Moderate to severe balance problems or more serious issues with gait.
- More generalized weakness in the knees, hips or legs.
Things to Look For in a Cane
Canes are typically made from wood or metal, aluminum being the most common. They come with single, triple or quad-feet – the latter two providing the most stability. The bottom should always have a rubber non-skid tip to prevent slipping. Handle options are curved, rounded or gripped and it’s important to try out different types to see what feels the most comfortable.
Things to Look for in a Walker
Most walkers are made from aluminum to ensure they are light weight. There are generally three types of walkers:
- Standard, pick-up walkers.
- Walkers with wheels on the front and feet on the back (the feet should have rubber, non-slip tips).
- Rolling walkers, which have 4-wheels, hand-brakes and come with or without a seat/basket attachment.
Most seniors find that the rolling walkers with the seat/basket option make the most sense. Not only do they provide support, but the built-in seat provides a place to rest comfortably on a longer walk or while cooking or cleaning. The basket allows seniors to get the mail, carry a purse, or pick a few things up from a nearby store without having to carry the bags.
A proper fit is important for an elderly person’s ergonomic health, safety and comfort. Your healthcare provider can help you order the right size and ensure a proper fit.