Safety Tips for New Walker Users
Walkers can help older adults and those with disabilities remain independent and safe by providing stability and assurance. If not used properly, though, walkers and other assistive walking devices (also called durable medical equipment/DME) can cause the accidents they were meant to prevent. It’s crucial to select a walker suited to your needs, learn how to use it correctly and maintain the equipment's integrity.*
The Right Fit for You
Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about design options available, what’s best for your medical condition and appropriate use. There are numerous styles, including:
- Hemi walker
- Standard/folding walker
- Two-wheel/front-wheel walker
- Three-wheel walker/three-wheel rollator
- Four-wheel walker/four-wheel rollator
Each walker provides a different level of stability and strength, so measure your needs before purchasing or renting a walker.
Hemi walker is not like a standard walker. Rather, it is used as a cane but offers more support. A hemi walker would benefit cane users who need a wider base for stability, those who have weakness on one side or have use of one arm exclusively.
Standard/folding walker is what most people imagine when they think of a walker. This can bear the weight of the user. Those who can’t place weight on their foot or leg would find this desirable. Although it’s sturdy, a standard walker is lightweight and portable. Despite that, this walker can be cumbersome because the user has to lift it as they move, which can exhaust their arms. To avoid this, some people place tennis balls on the tips so the walker can glide across the floor. Keep in mind that tennis balls won’t run smoothly over carpeting, and it can become a trip hazard when moving along uneven floors.
Two-wheel/front-wheel walker has two large wheels in the front and rubber tips on the back. You can purchase skis for the back legs that make it easier to slide along, so no lifting is required. It is also foldable and easy to carry. Although the wheels are a definite perk, they may cause falls for those who need to place their whole weight on the walker. Therefore, this walker is best used for additional balance.
Three-wheel walker/three-wheel rollator looks more like a scooter than a walker due to its hand brakes and sportier look. Some are equipped with a basket and/or bag to hold belongings. Some models can fold and the wheels are durable enough for outside use. Because it has only three wheels, this walker can fit through narrow doorways and can turn tight corners in slim hallways.
Four-wheel walker/four-wheel rollator is one of the most popular walkers. The four-wheel’s differentiator is its bench seat, so when users feel fatigued they can sit and rest or scoot with their legs. Like the three-wheel, it features hand brakes, basket for essentials and can be used indoors and outdoors. This type of walker is recommended for those who don’t have severe balance issues and can hold their own weight.
Sizing Your Walker
As a guideline, the handle of the walker should be aligned with the user’s wrist when the user is standing inside the walker. For the four-wheel walker, make sure the seat is not too high or too low, which can cause strain or discomfort. Always review the weight capacity because all walkers have varying weight limits.
Medicare and Walkers
Medicare Part B can cover 80% of the cost of walkers and rollators if it is deemed medically necessary for treatment and is prescribed by a doctor. However, the supplier that provides the walkers and the doctor must be enrolled in Medicare. To learn more about walkers and other medical equipment, visit https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/walkers or speak with your physician.
- Tape or attach a name tag or luggage tag to your walker, so it isn’t accidentally taken.
- If accompanying someone who uses a walker, walk beside or behind them. If they lose their balance, strength or focus, then you are right there to help.
- Jazz up your walker with colorful stickers, reflective tape, paint, etc. Just make sure the decorations won’t become trip hazards.
- Test-run the walker before you purchase it and make sure the hand breaks can engage if it comes with them.
- Always inspect the wheels or tips for debris, especially if the walker is used outside or in public places. Anything stuck on the wheels or tips can make the walker wobbly.
- Replace tips, skis, slides or wheels if they become worn down, which can make them less effective.
- Choose a comfortable grip. Most walkers come with hard plastic grips; however, you may want to buy a softer or textured grip.
- Keep it clean by wiping down grips and wheels/tips to sanitize and remove germs.
- Customize your walker with a basket/bag, tray, flashlight or anything else that you may want or need.
Walkers can help seniors feel more independent and safe, which is our goal too. Our caregivers receive training to assist those with walkers and other medical equipment to perform everyday activities, while still maintaining a high level of self-sufficiency and safety. Contact us today to learn more about ComForCare's in-home care services.
*Always check with your doctor about whether a walker is right for you.