Every 11 seconds, a senior is treated in the ER for fall related injuries. A death due to such injuries is reported every 19 minutes across the US. Fortunately, the use of mobility devices can make a huge difference.
However, it is important to choose the correct elderly mobility aid that can compensate for the specific physical issues that a senior suffers from. Continue reading to know about the various mobility devices available and how these help.
1. Canes for the elderly
Nearly 10 percent of all seniors across the country use canes as their mobility device of choice, and for good reason. Because they transfer the weight from the lower limbs to the upper body, canes help to reduce pressure on the legs. For this reason, cans are a standard walking aid for those with unilateral muscle deficits and minimal joint issues. Canes are available in a wide variety of styles, such as:
- Adjustable canes: As their name suggests, the length of these canes can be adjusted from the standard 36 inches. Although they are very convenient, they don’t measure up to the stability of quad canes or even of standard canes.
- Quad canes: The four short legs that form the base of these canes offer enhanced support when walking and standing up. Although they are heavier than standard walking canes, their greater stability makes them particularly well suited for seniors with significant balance issues.
- Offset canes: These have distinctive J-shaped handles that improve support and comfort. Offset canes are usually height-adjustable and work well for those who have a weak grip and/or wrist problems but not significant issues with stability and balance.
When you hear the word, what comes to your mind may be the standard underarm crutch given to those recovering from a leg injury. However, the versions available for the elderly are different from the standard/universal crutch, although they have the same mechanical purpose.
An assistive device that transfers the weight of the lower body to the upper body, a crutch rallies the strength of the upper torso for balance and stability. Generally used in pairs, crutches are more obstructive than canes, but they are often recommended and used as long-term walking assistance devices for the greater support and stability they provide. Like canes, crutches too come in a variety of designs, such as:
- Forearm crutches: They have a cuff that fits around the upper arm as well as a hand grip. Also called forearm canes, these crutches provide the support of a regular cane with enhanced assistance in mobility because they engage the strength of the forearm.
- Platform quad crutches: These are a hybrid between a quad cane and a forearm crutch. The base has a quad leg design, while the top has a platform and a hand-grip. The forearm is strapped to the horizontal platform while the hands rests on the grip that can be adjusted for your comfort. Platform crutches are used by seniors who suffer from health conditions like arthritis, cerebral palsy and other conditions that weaken the handgrip.
- Bariatric crutches: Designed to take more load than the standard axillary or even forearm crutch, these are typically used by very heavy seniors.
3. Walkers for the elderly
The four-legged frame of a walker offers more support and balance when compared to canes and crutches. Walkers provide greater stability because the weight is more evenly distributed and supported by both sides of the upper body.
Walkers are generally foldable and lightweight, which helps seniors to maintain their independence. However, they can be difficult to maneuver outdoors. Like other assistive devices, senior walkers are available in different designs, including:
- Standard: This is the regular, metal frame, no-wheel design that is made for seniors who need stability above all else. Despite their light and sturdy frame, they are not very maneuverable, so they won’t work on uneven surfaces and for long distance use.
- 2- wheeled walkers: As their name suggests, these walkers come equipped with a pair of wheels placed on the front legs. Also known as posterior or back support walkers, these are designed to offer support behind the body. To use this walker, a senior will have to stand in the middle of the walker as opposed to having it in front of the body.
- 4-wheeled walkers: These are anterior or front support walkers that are literally used as push walkers. Because they provide support to the front of the body, they work for seniors who need to lean on a mobility aid for support when walking. The four wheels on the frame calls for the use of a larger base, which further improves stability when walking.
Rollators are walkers with seats and wheels that offer greater support when walking. The addition of a seat means that an elderly can take a break when he or she feels like it. A rollator typically comes with hand brakes for improved safety. They are available in two versions:
- 3-wheeled walkers/rollators: They offer the same support as a four-wheeled design but with greater maneuverability. The triangular frames give them a tighter turn radius, which makes them suitable for use in cramped spaces such as narrow hallways and doorways. They are lightweight, foldable and easy to transport. In other words, these rolling walkers with seats are perfect for use both indoors and outdoors.
- 4-wheeled rollator: These have four wheels, which means the frame is wider and provides more stability than a 3-wheeled design. However, the larger width takes away from the maneuverability. So, the four-wheel rollator is better suited for use outdoors.
5. The knee scooter
At first glance, you may confuse a knee scooter for a rollator. Both mobility aids have wheels and a cushioned platform/seat, but that is where the difference ends. A rollator is used much like a traditional walker, so you have to use upper body strength to move it.
In contrast, a knee scooter is propelled by using the strength of one leg. The cushioned platform is not a seat but a knee rest. So, you place one folded leg on the cushion and use the other (extended) leg to push the scooter forward, much like a push scooter meant for kids.
Although this mobility aid has limited use, it does work for seniors who have a non-joint related disability or problem only in one leg and want a walking aid that allows them to stay active.
These offer complete mobility assistance as opposed to the partial support provided by other assistive devices that require a senior to put in some amount of work to move around. Because a wheelchair supports the entire body weight, this is the perfect device for those with serious disabilities that compromise the strength and balance of the upper and lower limbs.
Wheelchairs are available in manual and electric versions. Power wheelchairs are controlled with a joystick and come in regular and all-terrain versions.
Choosing the Right Aid
Remember, half of all falls among those who use elderly mobility aids occur because seniors are either not trained properly to use the assistive device or because the mobility aid is not appropriate for their health condition. You may have noticed that all the assistive devices mentioned above work for specific disability levels. So, it is crucial to choose an aid that is best suited for the specific physical problems of a senior, and for that you will need to seek the advice of a medical professional.