Using mobility aids safely is the most important thing that the elderly and disabled can do to ensure that when they walk, they’re at a low risk of injury. However, most often people that use mobility aids may choose to purchase and take them home without learning how to to use them properly.
There are a lot of considerations that go into choosing a mobility aid, and they include:
1. Picking the Right Device
The right device is a necessity. You may need a cane, or a walker, or something completely different. It’s essential to pick the right mobility aid so that you can be secure when walking and also not using a device that limits your natural movement.
One of the worst things a person can do is lessen their mobility by choosing a mobility aid that is overkill.
An example of this would be a person choosing to use a walker when they really need a cane. In this case, they’ll:
- Remain very stable, but
- Lose mobility speed and agility
- Weaken muscles over time
Those who use only a cane will be using their backs, hips and other muscles more than a person that uses a walker.
A general rule of thumb is that:
- Canes are needed when there are only balance issues that aren’t too severe. Quad canes can be chosen for a person that needs a little more stability than with a normal cane.
- Walkers are needed when a person suffers from severe balance deficits. A person may need a walker if they have issues with weight bearing. For example, a person may need a walker following knee surgery while they can’t put all of their weight on their knee without pain or buckling.
The right device is essential for your safety. A physician or physical therapist will be able to offer their guidance as to which mobility device you can use safely.
2. Proper Fit Reduces Safety Issues
A proper size is required to ensure that the mobility aid is able to produce the right amount of support for the user. The right fit depends on:
Anyone who is on the heavier side will want to make sure that the device is able to support their weight. For example, a person that is 500 pounds would need a wider seated wheelchair and a model that can hold people that are 500 pounds.
For the most part, people under 300 pounds won’t have to worry about this too much.
The height of the mobility aid will matter a lot. Wheelchairs are more universal, but custom options do exist for anyone who will be using their wheelchair for the long-term.
How do you properly adjust a cane or walker?
- Cane: When the cane is hanging straight down the side, the top of the cane should reach the crease of the waist. Your elbow should be at around a 15-degree angle. If the arm is fully extended, the cane is fit too low.
- Walker: Place the walker in front of you, and allow your hands to hang normally at your side. The top of the walker will need to reach the crease of the waist. When your hands are on the handles, your elbows should be bent approximately 15 degrees.
If you don’t have a properly fitting mobility aid, you’re at a higher risk of injury.
3. Comfort Means a Lot
Comfort and stability mean everything when it comes to a mobility aid. Some people find that their cane causes the skin on their hands to burn, or if the mobility aid isn’t fitted right, it can lead to a lot of discomfort.
There are also times when a mobility aid may actually limit your movement.
A standard walker will need to be lifted and moved with each step. This means you’ll walk slower and the walker may be too heavy and uncomfortable. You may need a rollator instead. A rollator is a walker on wheels and will offer a faster walking experience, lighter weight and more overall function.
Pain or discomfort shouldn’t be the result of using a mobility aid.
You can try to adjust the handle or height of the mobility aid. There may also be accessories or added padding that will allow for the mobility aid to be more comfortable.
If nothing seems to work to reduce the aches, pains or discomfort, you may want to try and choose a new mobility aid, or ask your therapist what can be done to lessen or eliminate the pain altogether.
4. Properly Use the Mobility Aid
Using mobility aids safely will require you to use the mobility aid properly. This sounds trivial, but a lot of people don’t use their devices properly. A few tips to using a mobility aid properly, are:
- Cane: Hold the cane on the side which is strongest. Take a step forward with your bad leg and move the cane forward at the same time. This allows you to bear weight on your bad leg and the cane at the same time.
- Crutches: Normal crutches should be squeezed under your arms as you move them 6” to 12” forward. Place your weight on your hands, ensure you have proper balance and then move forward.
- Walker: Walkers are meant for the utmost in support and weight bearing. Bring the walker forward followed by walking forward towards the walker. Step forward with your weaker leg first followed by your stronger leg. Click here to see which walker is suitable for you.
With these safety tips in mind, you’ll be on the right path to using your mobility aid properly and safely.
Tim is a professional caregiver who has helped hundreds of seniors gain back their freedom and independence. He has been actively helping the senior community for 20+ years.