As we age, our mobility and balance play a big part in our safety while performing day-to-day tasks, and walkers and assistive devices can help counteract the risks that can come if mobility and balance deteriorate. If used correctly and properly fitted, you or your loved one can greatly benefit from these devices to prevent injury and lessen the risk of falling.
The trouble can come when these devices are improperly sized for the user,in fact, there are an estimated 47,312 fall injuries associated with walking aids among older adults every year.
Here at Prestige Senior Living, we want to offer you or your loved one knowledge and resources to assist in the efforts to prevent falling and injury.
What are the dangers of improperly sized walkers?
Improperly sized and fitted walkers are the main factor in incorrect use of these assistive devices, leading to injury and greater fall risk. It’s common for walkers to be set too high or too low for the individual, causing users to hunch over or rely on the walker to completely support them.
By hunching over and putting their full weight on these devices, severe strain is put on the user’s muscles and joints such as shoulders, arms, and back. These pains and problems can decrease mobility and balance, making it more likely to experience traumatic falls.
Additionally, the external factors that play a role in the risk of falling and injury become greater when you or your loved one does not have a properly sized walker or assistive device. If you or your loved one is leaning forward when using a walker, the line of vision is aimed at the ground, preventing the ability to avoid common tripping hazards.
What is the proper height of a walker, and how should someone use one correctly?
Sofia De La Cruz is the Wellness Coach at Prestige Assisted Living at Mira Loma, and she works with residents to set their walkers to the proper height and provides them with knowledge on the correct use of a walker. She stated in a recent interview, “A lot of them with walkers especially, they hold on to the walker for dear life and push their backs forward and they start getting shoulder problems. And I just tell them, a walker’s a guide. It’s not to hold your weight, it’s to help you and guide you where you are walking.”
Here are some helpful tips from the Mayo Clinic on the desired height of a walker and how someone should use one correctly.
For the proper height of a walker, one’s elbows should be comfortably bent at about 15 degrees while standing inside the walker.
All diagrams are courtesy of the Mayo Clinic.
Once the walker is correctly adjusted, you or your loved one is ready to walk! Keeping your back upright, push the walker one step ahead of you and then step into the middle area of the walker. Repeat this process one leg at a time.
How often should someone get an assessment or sizing done?
If you or your loved one could benefit from a walker, you should consult with a healthcare professional for an assessment and fitting. The initial assessment is done to ensure that you or your loved one will be using the correct assistive devices for their physical and cognitive state.
The Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation provides an extensive document with information for assessing the use of gait aids. On page 4 of this booklet, the foundation recommends that the first assessment “should be done on initial evaluation for the prescription of a gait aid and strongly suggest that it is done yearly or in response to a change in function.” Following, on page 5, is a breakdown of how the clinical assessments will examine a person as a whole to determine the most effective and safe walker or assistive device. Some of the factors that will be looked at include home environment, range of motion, strength, balance, and cognition.
Prestige is here to help
At Prestige Senior Living, our team members can assist residents and family members in properly fitting walkers and providing knowledge and encouragement for utilizing their assistive devices correctly.
If you or a loved one is concerned about falling, our teams are here to help.
Throughout April we’re offering free fall risk evaluations at all Prestige communities.
Our team will work with you or a loved one to determine possible risk factors for a fall, including some basic information on your medical history, medications you or a loved one is taking that can increase the risk of a fall, we’ll check the ability to rise from a chair safely, examine mobility concerns, and ask about safety measures you or a loved one are currently taking at home, such as the ones listed above.
For more information, or to schedule your free fall risk evaluation, contact the community nearest you on how we can help keep you or your loved one safe, happy, and healthy.