Choosing the Best Walker–101-year-old, Aging in Place: Mobility Continues 4 years After Broken Hip Surgery

The “Best” Walker is the Right Walker
(and can change as needs change)

The right cane and the right walker empower elders, enabling them to continue their routines as before. Reduced mobility, on the other hand, is obviously not empowering, creates neediness, and can lead to less contacts with others–not helpful in aging well independently and not helpful to us if we’re caring adult children.

Having the right “tools” makes everything easier–for any situation actually. (Learned this in a “Home Repair” course; found it a truism.) It’s not rocket science that an easy-to-use, dependable walker is the right “tool” to continue mobility and an active life.

But do we realize that the first walker purchased may not be the ultimate walker? Here’s why–

1. We often select quickly (possibly the one used in rehab).
2. We often select the least expensive.
3. Subsequent factors, like balance and aging parent stability may lead to buying a studier walker.

We see many people using light weight walkers with 4 legs, tennis balls or skis on the back legs. Click link to physical therapists’ video before purchasing. It discusses important limitations (ie. light weight compromises stability. It must be picked up every time a step is taken). The research, time and money to purchase a walker that fits needs and gives parents’ confidence is well-spent.

Our first trip to the surgical supply store after R’s release from rehab yielded two walkers: a basic one with front wheels and skis on back legs, and a more expensive, heavier walker with wheels, skis on back legs and a basket/seat (which she never used).

R used the basic walker in the house…until her cane arrived three days later. Basic walker went into the garage. R says once you’ve fallen you need to feel safe when you walk. Ever since rehab, her cane has given her complete confidence to walk…until a year ago. Then serious vision problems began  affecting her balance and confidence. “Bit by bit, then more and more” she used that basic walker from the garage. Last spring she needed a new walker.

Why and how it’s used–

R wanted a tray attached to her walker, but her walker wasn’t compatible with existing ones. Thus, a new walker, with tray, was purchased . According to R it’s less wide (thus more comfortable), very sturdy and weighs less. The skis on the back legs and wheels on the front work fine on carpets. R only uses it in the house. When she goes out she always uses her cane. She feels safe with that.

She switched to her current walker, this Guardian Signature walker plus extras: the front wheels (attachments): $66.75; the back legs’ ski glides: $15; attached fold-down tray: $39.95. 2014 total: $131.80 

While not covered by Medicare, it’s “worth every penny,” according to her. (She still does her own finances.)

The tray is used daily–for moving food from oven to table, refrig to oven, delivered things to kitchen, bedroom etc. Also, R still has easy-care leafy green plants that need watering. She likes taking these plants to the kitchen sink, but holding a cane and carrying a potted plant doesn’t happen! Her current walker with the 2 recessed holes filled a need.

A friend in her 70’s, who had polio as a child, has purchased countless walkers over decades. She now prefers rollators–walkers with 4 wheels, which make them very sturdy and easy to to use inside and outdoors. (I’d never heard the term before speaking with her.)

Rollators come with seats, baskets, trays, cup-holders and various other options.  She has one for indoors which has different “amenities” than the collapsable one used for going out. The latter has a fold-up seat, offering a place to sit if needed, but no tray. It’s less heavy, making it easier to lift into/out of the car. (Grandkids love to sit on it, she tells me.) That said, I know adult children who don’t like taking parents out because it entails lifting a collapsable walker. Do they need lessons?

My friend says four wheels plus good brake handles are very important if the walker is to be used out of the house (think uneven pavement and inclines). Over the years she has purchased walkers on line or through catalogs and some at stores like CVS and Walgreens, where they “fit” the walker to your measurements. The right height is extremely important. Note walkers for shorter and taller people when checking “Related” below for rollator options. (Site selected because of the excellent pictures and information.)

Great gift: Family members contribute to the purchase the right walker. For seniors who are trying desperately to maintain their independence and age in place, the right walker helps parents age well. It clearly has for R.

Related: Rollator models
              Very good video, excellence hints by 2 physical therapists: Walkers: Wheeled vs Standard

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well.

HOLIDAY GIFTS GUARANTEED TO PLEASE AGING PARENTS: THINKING AHEAD

Gifts We Can Be Certain Elders Want

IMG_2319MEMORY TEST: Have your aging parents or grandparents–or great-uncles or aunts– ever mentioned off-handedly or in conjunction with other thoughts, something they need, want or would love to have? And you file it in your memory as a gift idea for later on?

I’ve flunked that. Perhaps I’m not alone. Sunday I was reading posts in my archives and unearthed something I’d forgotten. Sr. Advisor, R, mentioned the retrofitted shower’s hand spray device was big and heavy for her 99-year-old hands according to that post. I had purchased a smallish, relatively light weight one when we remodeled our apartment’s bathroom. Its spray could be adjusted to pretty powerful if necessary. I knew it would be perfect–a needed gift.

To back up: R (who has aged in place in her home of 60+ years) had her shower retrofitted before her return from rehab following her broken hip surgery. She didn’t mention the hand spray until last March when I asked if I could write about her shower redo. That’s when I learned about the hand shower spray. How could I forget between March and November?!

Kohler K-8487Now that I’ve remembered, I will go to the Kohler website and show her the hand spray photo on my iPhone. (She is much less flexible, at age 100, with anything involving change; we try to be sensitive to that). Who knows, in the last 7+ months she may have become accustomed to that big, heavy hand spray! Since we have no tools and aren’t handy, a plumber would need to be part of the hand-spray gift. Considering the total cost, we want to avoid a mistake.

We’ll be with her at Thanksgiving and I know I’ll find a reason to casually bring up the subject. Since my iPhone is never far from me, showing her the photo will be simple. If she still has interest, a gift guaranteed to please will be coming her way at holiday time.

We know our parents pretty well.  Nevertheless, aging does bring changes. I think we all want to give gifts that add to older people’s lives, not give them clutter or something that causes problems. That’s why–from now on–when, especially, an older family member mentions something that is broken, not working, not right, has been lost etc. etc., I’m going to keep a list and pull it out well in advance of a gift-giving occasion. As we try to help parents age well, doesn’t that make sense?

Changing weekly: “Of Current Interest”(right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some free and some fun stuff–to help parents age well.