Choosing and using a walker
Choosing and learning to use a walker can be surprisingly difficult, but if you have trouble balancing or are at risk of falling, using a walker, even if only temporarily, can save you a lengthy, painful rehabilitation from a fall.
Walkers, which can be purchased from a medical supply company, can come with four wheels, which allow you to move easily if you don’t have to lean on the walker for balance; two wheels, which allow you to lean on the walker as it moves—the wheel-less rear legs prevent the walker from rolling while you’re stepping forward–or no wheels, which, though more stable, also makes for a slightly more cumbersome walker. These last are a good choice if balance is a big concern.
Make sure all wheel-less legs have sturdy rubber tips on them.
Another thing to look at is the walker’s grip. Usually they’re plastic, but you can choose foam grips or get soft grip covers—especially useful if your hands sweat. Or, if your hands are arthritic or you have other trouble grasping with your fingers, you can choose a larger grip.
Once you choose your walker, which is probably adjustable, adjust it so that when you place your hands on the grips, your elbows are bent at a 15 degree angle. Stand inside the walker and let your arms fall by your sides. The top of the walker should line up with the crease on the inside of your wriest.
How to use the walker depends on how much you need to lean on it. If you don’t need to lean on it, you can just push it ahead of yourself and keep going.
If you need to lean on the walker as you move, the first thing you do is push the walker away from you, keeping your back straight. Then, move one leg inside the walker, not stepping close to the front bar. Keep the walker still. Bring the other leg inside the walker. Then, start over again, pushing the walker forward and then stepping into it one leg at a time. Don’t lean over the walker; you need to stay upright to protect your back.
When you have to turn, go slowly and take small steps. Never try to climb stairs with a walker.
Walkers may seem like an unnecessary emcumbrance when you’re already having difficulty walking, but used correctly they can open the world to you again. And vendors make lots of accessories—trays, pouches for the side, baskets for the front, and some can even be fitted with seats. Have a little fun with it! Make it yours.
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