Walk this Way
When it comes to walkers, the options can make a new caregiver’s head spin. A seasoned caregiver can even be challenged to find just the right walker for a loved one, an always important and emotional decision.
A walker that is easily used and transported means more than a simple walking tool to many people. It’s an extension of independence and confidence. The best walker for any loved one is one that works best for them. Caregivers should not force the use of a walker but instead try to encourage the use of the device they feel will impact their loved one’s life in a positive way.
The big choice
Walkers are most definitely not a one-size-fits-all product. A loved one should actually be measured for their walker. Stooped posture will only lead to additional challenges, if elbows aren’t correctly angled when gripping a walker’s handles.
The typical walker has a lightweight metal frame that is easy to lift while walking. It may also have wheels for maneuvering. Those with a heavier metal frame are pushed forward with each step. The walkers without wheels offer more support, but also must be lifted and can trip on uneven surfaces.
From two to four wheels, seats and no seats, walkers come in a large variety of options for every shape, size and need. Here’s a list of traditional walker options:
• seats and storage
• rubber grips for the hands
• rubber tips on the wheels
• baskets and trays for storage
• hand brakes
• foam hand grips
• adjustable heights with leg extensions
• folding features
Moving around town
Whether walking around home, or going out and about for family and social gatherings, a large part of choosing a walker is taking inventory of a loved one’s lifestyle. Do they go out for church on Sundays or off to the bingo hall on Tuesday?
Seniors in their late 70’s and 80’s are at a high risk of falling when using their walkers. These types of falls result in injuries such as fractures, bruises, sprains among others. The reason for a walker in the first place is to help with weakness and balance, so it’s important the walker is picked to fit the person and their lifestyle. A physical or physical therapist is a great resource when determining the best fit.
The biggest challenge a caregiver will face though, is getting a loved one to use the walker once they have it. So many elderly fall because they scuttle through life, afraid of falling. Then they do, and a walker becomes an embarrassment, symbol of age and dependence. It doesn’t have to be that way. Caregivers have the ability to help their loved ones see the walker as a good thing, a way to have a full life, with movement and fellowship.
Today’s Caregiver magazine (caregiver.com), launched in 1995, is the first national magazine for all family and professional caregivers. Each issue includes articles on vital caregiving issues and caregiving resources. Cover interviews include Debbie Reynolds, Dixie Carter, Valerie Harper, Della Reese and Clay Aiken, among many others. © Caregiver.com, Inc.