When you or a loved one is coming home for a recovery, a doctor may recommend the use of a walker or a cane to safely move around the house. In a two part series, we will look at how to choose and use a walker and how to use a cane.
A walker is used to provide support and balance while in motion and may help improve confidence. Typically, walkers are recommended for people with severe arthritis of the knees or hips, weakness in legs or hips or a balance or gait disorder that is moderately severe.
The correct height for a walker is measured from the wrist to the floor. The American Geriatric Society offers some recommendations for how to choose a walker:
- Wear your normal shoes and hold your arm with a 20-degree to 30-degree bend in the elbow. (If your upper arm is at 12 o’clock, your hand points to 5 o’clock.)
- Ask someone else to measure the distance from your wrist to the floor. This measurement should be about equal to the distance from the point where your leg bone fits into the hip socket to the floor.
- If necessary, adjust the walker to match your measurement. Most walkers are adjusted by pushing in buttons on each side and sliding the tubing to the new length until the buttons lock in place.
- If your walker doesn't feel right, ask your physician or physical therapist to check the fit.
In addition, the Mayo Clinic recommends that walker users select a comfortable grip that encourages a steady hand. Some grips are comfortable but become slippery if hands are sweaty, while other grips are too small for people who have trouble grasping things tightly.
The tips of a walker should have non-skid rubber tips that keep the walker from moving too far forward. Check tips and replace them if they’re worn. If you are using a walker on carpeted surfaces, a tennis ball cut and placed over the tips of the walker can ease movement.
A walker can be an important tool in keeping or regaining mobility while in your home or in the community. Choosing the right walker can help the user feel comfortable enough to remain independent.