If you’re having trouble walking, using a walker may help keep you safe and improve your mobility. But it can be hard to decide if you need a walker. And if you do need one, there are many types to choose from. Tiffany Kinkade, a physical therapist with Banner Home Care and Medical Equipment in Gilbert, AZ, shares tips on navigating the decisions you need to make.
How do you know if you need a walker?
“Take a look at the quality of your walking,” Kinkade said. You may want to ask yourself these questions:
- Has the distance I can walk changed?
- What does the quality of my walking look like? Do I lean forward, walk slower, limp or catch my foot on the ground?
- Do I feel secure when I walk, or am I afraid of falling?
If it’s becoming more difficult for you to walk, using a walker might be a good choice. Talk to your doctor, and ask if you should see a physical therapist or occupational therapist. “Walkers require sizing and evaluation to find the one that’s the best fit for your body type and physical abilities,” Kinkade said.
What different types of walkers are available?
There are various walkers you can choose from, depending on your needs:
- Front-wheeled walkers have two wheels at the front and legs at the back. They typically don’t have brakes since the legs hold them in place when you’re not walking. They provide good stability, and you can maneuver them within your home.
- Four-wheeled walkers include hand brakes plus a seat you can use if you need to rest. They are bulkier than front-wheeled walkers but are good choices if you need to walk on uneven surfaces.
- Upright walkers support your body under your forearms, so they help align your posture. They can have two or four wheels. However, they are heavy and cumbersome to turn, making them harder to transport.
- Some walkers are designed for people with certain medical conditions. For example, walkers designed for people with Parkinson’s disease provide cues for bigger, more rhythmic steps. Bariatric walkers are wider with sturdier architecture to support larger body types.
How can I figure out which walker I need?
Your physician, physical or occupational therapist and a representative from a durable medical equipment company can guide you through options. Walkers are designed to fit height and weight specifications, so it’s important to have health care professionals guide you through the options.
Medicare and most insurance companies cover the cost of a walker. But you will need a prescription from your doctor that includes your diagnosis. And most insurance companies cover one walker every five years. “So, it is important to get the right recommendation,” Kinkade said.
Once you get your walker, a physical or occupational therapist can teach you the tips and tricks that will help you use it properly.
If you only need a walker temporarily, for example, after surgery or an injury, talk to your physician or a medical social worker. You can find short-term rental walkers in many communities for no or low cost.
The bottom line
A walker can improve your mobility and help you stay safe. Your health care team can work with you to find the right walker for your size and condition. To connect with a professional with expertise in recommending walkers, reach out to Banner Health.
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