If you want to know how to select the right mobility device for you, it is always best to discuss your options with a physical therapist or doctor. But there are a lot of circumstances and “hints” that can lead you to choosing the right mobility device.
There are numerous devices to choose from depending on your current physical condition.
Let’s take a look at the most common mobility devices from a top-down view starting with devices for those with an easier time walking down to wheelchairs for people with significant balance- and muscle-related issues.
When to Select a Cane
A cane is ideal for a user that has better balance and can shift weight from one leg to another without any weight bearing concerns. The rule of thumb is that when a person can use a walker with one hand, they’ll likely be able to move to a cane.
Canes can make mobility more fluid and allow for added balance and strength, too.
There are three main cane types:
- Single Tip: Single tip canes are the most common option. These single tips allow for a lighter overall cane and easier movement.
- Quad Cane: Quad canes are meant to add more overall support to the user. The benefits of quad canes are that the larger base adds to the support of the cane and can help to eliminate slips and falls. This is a common choice for stroke suffers. The major downside of a quad cane is that it’s awkward to move and position.
- Forearm Canes: A person that has more problems with weight transfer and balance will do well with forearm canes. These are the choice when progressing from a walker to a cane and will help when both the left and right side if the user has significant strength issues.
If a person is progressing from a walker or wheel chair to a cane, they usually go from forearm to a single tip or quad cane.
When to Select a Walker
A person that needs both hands to balance or has significant weight bearing or transfer issues will need a walker. Even a person that has difficulty sitting up on the end of their bed will find that they can often use a walker. These devices can lead to enhanced mobility and further muscle gain, too.
Walkers can be found in the following:
- Walking Frame: The standard walker is a walking frame that needs to be picked up and moved with each step. These walkers provide the best overall balance to the user.
- Wheeled Walker: Quicker and easier to move, the wheeled walker doesn’t need to be picked up to move (great for shoulder injuries). These walkers are best when a person can walk faster and even walk over uneven terrain. A downside is that these walkers are often difficult to use on grass or carpet.
- Rollators: The rollator has wheels on all four posts vs two stoppers as seen on the wheeled walker. This is ideal for anyone that wants to go on a longer walk and doesn’t need stoppers for added support. Baskets and even seats may be included.
- Knee Walkers: The knee walker is ideal for temporary use. This one-legged walker is meant for people with weight bearing issues on one leg and are propelled with the good leg. For example, a person with a broken ankle or damaged knee may use a knee walker, but this is not a permanent solution in most circumstances. Go here to see our favorite knee walkers
You’ll also find walkers with seats (good for when a person gets tired) as well as stand-assist bars.
When to Choose a Wheelchair
Paralysis, severe weakness, strokes or a high risk of falling are a few of the reasons why people choose a wheelchair over other mobility devices. There is a myriad of different wheelchair types – both able to be propelled by the user and those propelled by another person.
The most common are:
- Motorized: The motorized wheelchair propels a user through a built-in battery. This is the choice for someone with little hand and arm function, and even quadriplegics will find options to help them be mobile again.
- Lightweight: A lightweight wheelchair may or may not be self-propelled, and these wheelchairs are often able to fold to allow for easy transport.
- Custom: Custom built wheelchairs will be fitted to a user and are often able to come apart rather than fold up.
- Reclining: A reclining wheelchair is lightweight and a good choice for anyone with hypotension or contractures. This allows for the redistribution of weight to allow for less sores and discomfort when used. Click here to see some of our recommendations.
And you’ll find wheelchairs for airplane usage, active wheelchairs meant for sports and speed as well as standing wheelchairs which can be used prior to learning to stand upright to help with blood pressure-related issues.
When in doubt, discuss your options with a physical or occupational therapist whom will assess your condition and provide recommendations suited to you.
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.