People are often reluctant to consider using an assistive device such as a walking frame. However, most people can walk further and with more confidence with this aid - allowing increased independence.
Important Things to Consider
Generally walkers come with four 6" or 8" wheels. Walkers with 6" wheels work well indoors and have a smaller turning circle. Walkers with 8" wheels are good for outdoor use. Some walkers are three-wheel walkers - which can be used indoors but they are not advisable if you have trouble with your balance. Such walkers do not have a seat.
A seat is helpful if you get tired when out and about. It may allow you to walk further as you are able to stop and sit down to rest. Seats are designed for sitting for a short period only and should not be considered as a substitute for a wheelchair. Being pushed whilst sitting on the seat is dangerous and may also result in damage to the walker. A walker with a seat may have a basket or bag under the seat. A basket needs to be removed before folding and transporting the walker. A bag would need to be emptied of contents or removed before folding and transporting the walker. If the bag is empty this can be folded along with the walker.
Check the weight of the walker if it is likely you will be lifting it into a car or up steps.
Check how easy they are to use. Generally, they operate in two ways - as a temporary brake when you are using the walker and want to slow down or go down a slope - squeezing the brake on the handle. To sit down, the brake handle is pushed down and will click into place. It is important to remember to do this before sitting on the seat.
Check the width of the walker or note down the width of doorframes or other areas in the home when you are looking to buy a walker. Walkers are available in a range of sizes and widths. Generally handle heights are adjustable and on some models the leg height can be adjusted.
Some walkers have a plastic lock which holds the frame together when stowed.
Correct use of a walker
To adjust the height of the handles there is a bolt or knobs on the side of the handle shafts. It is important that the frame is the correct height and the bolts or screws are tightly fixed. The handle should come up to the height of your wrist bone and when you push your frame your elbows should be slightly bent (20-30 degree-angle) and your shoulders relaxed. If you need assistance with the use of a walker in your home or with your posture when using a walker a physiotherapist can help.
Take note of the maximum user weights. Walkers to suit a range of user weights are available.
On some models the seat can be lowered by adjustment of the walking frame legs. This means a shorter person can sit on the chair with their feet completely touching the ground. Some models of walkers are narrower and have a lower seat.
The correct walker should keep you safe and enable you to get out and about doing things you enjoy. However, there are just a few safety measures to remember:
• Always lock the walker wheels before you sit down. As an added precaution (if possible) you can push the walker up against a wall or fence.
• Do not push someone around whilst they are sitting on the walker - they are not a wheelchair!
• Ensure the height is correctly adjusted
• Remember not to use the walker to rise from a chair - push up with hands on the arm of the chair and only hold walker once standing.
Baskets and trays - may come with the walker or bought as additional items. These items can be very handy for shopping or for ensuring your 'phone, books or other items are easily to hand in the home. Take care not to overload or add too much extra weight to your frame.
Walking stick holder - on some models of walkers there is provision for a walking stick holder. Alternatively, they can be purchased separately along with such accessories as oxygen bottle carriers.