As we age, many routine tasks get more difficult. From keeping up with household chores to simply getting into and out of the tub, our bodies can make physical activity feel like a burden. However, getting up and active is not only beneficial for our health but allows us to enjoy nature and attend social events, which can be particularly meaningful experiences for seniors. Here, Liberty Resources Home Choices, with offices in the Philadelphia metro area and Allentown, PA, offers guidance on how to use a walker correctly for seniors and their caregivers.
Types of Walkers
Senior mobility is limited, which can require the use of special equipment. While wheelchairs are used for those who cannot or should not use their legs, and canes offer assistance for those with minor balance or stability issues or injuries, walkers allow the user to move around easily, feeling both independent and safe. They even provide much-needed exercise for those who struggle to move like they used to. There are a variety of walker types, including the following:
- Standard walker: Featuring four nonskid, rubber-tipped legs, these models are ideal for those who need reliable stability. They require seniors to lift them for use.
- Two-wheel walker: With wheels on the two front legs, this model is great for those who don’t need constant assistance.
- Three-wheel walker: These models are generally lighter and allow great maneuverability.
- Four-wheel walker: With wheels on each of four legs, these models are best for those who only need minimal help with stability.
- Knee walker: Those who are recovering from a foot injury or surgery should consider this option as it allows one’s foot to remain in the air.
Walkers may come with brakes to help when going up or down inclines. There are also models with carrying baskets or sitting benches that allow convenience when use is needed for extended periods, and most can fold down for smooth transportation.
How to Use a Walker Correctly
Walkers are helpful tools, but you’ll need to learn to use them properly to prevent accidents. Here are some basic methods for use with standard, two-wheel, three-wheel, and four-wheel models:
Sit in front of the open area of the walker and push up from the armrests of your chair or the bed. Avoid tilting or pulling on the walker to get up. If your walker features brakes, make sure they are on. Once standing, firmly grip the sides of the walker and wait until you feel stable and strong enough to start walking.
Now that you’re up, you’ll want to release the brakes if your model has them. Next, you’ll want to push (for wheeled models) or lift (for standard models) the walker a few inches forward, moving it to about arm’s length. After making sure all four legs are on the ground, step forward with whichever leg is weaker, keeping your weight on the palms of your hands. Then take a step with your stronger leg.
Turning often requires small steps, making sure to remain stable throughout the process. If you feel more comfortable or if your knee or hips can’t pivot in tight spaces, consider turning in a larger radius even if it takes more effort.
For sitting, back up until you feel the chair, sofa, toilet, or bed behind your legs. For safety, ensure that all four legs of the walker are on the ground. Reach back one hand at a time to grab available armrests or handrails or simply reach for the toilet seat or mattress. Lastly, ease yourself into the seated position.
Moving Up a Step or Curb
While you should never attempt going up or down stairs with your walker without assistance, you may be in situations where this is necessary, such as getting on or off a curb.
In this case, start by placing the walker on the step or curb if going up or on the ground if going down. Once all the legs are stable, step up with your stronger leg first if going up. If going down, step down with your weaker leg first. In either case, be sure to put your weight on the walker as you move the other foot next.
For safe use, it is always important to make sure your walker is at the perfect height for your size and to ensure the brakes are on unless you are ready to move. It is also best to avoid wet surfaces or unnecessary obstacles, such as thick rugs.
Get the Assistance You Need From Highly Trained Caregivers
Walkers are incredibly helpful to seniors who struggle with mobility and strength. Knowing how to use a walker correctly and safely can allow the elderly to manage everyday tasks with confidence. If you or a loved one needs further assistance, look to the compassionate and friendly staff at Liberty Resources Home Choices in the Philadelphia metro area or Allentown, PA. If you have questions about walkers or want to find out more about the personal care we can offer, contact us today.