Deciding Between a Cane, Walker, or Rollator: Which Mobility Device Is Right for You?

Updated on June 1, 2019
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I was diagnosed with the relapsing/remitting form of MS in 1993. I am happy to share my knowledge for these and other related health issues.

Source

Disability Versus Mobility

As anyone with a chronic health issue already knows, mobility and the freedom of movement that accompanies being mobile is of great concern and can add to one's quality of life.

Gait, balance, and strength issues, can suddenly arise and cause safety concerns or difficulties. How will those issues be addressed? Knowing when to begin using mobility aides can make the difference between successfully continuing with daily routines or injuring oneself unnecessarily. The latter requiring unexpected recovery time putting a drain on physical, mental, and emotional coping mechanisms.

The Walking Cane

Gradual progression of a disease or injury may cause physical limitations as minor as a limp to a more noticeable impairment calling for a brace or splint. This can give way to the need for a walking device such as a basic cane or walking stick.

Often a cane is the first obvious signal of a disability or major injury. It is not uncommon for individuals to put off the decision to purchase a cane even when such a medical device is sorely needed. Outward appearances and perceived wellness can be instantly crushed by using a cane. Being overly concerned about external appearances has caused many to ignore the obvious need of this simple mobility device, even to their detriment.

The most serious injury I ever experienced came as the result of not having my cane with me. I went down a slight incline in a parking lot, lost my balance and found myself falling and hurting my knee. While I was able to walk after the fall, the consequences could have easily been far worse. For months to come my scar served as a constant reminder of the experience. I never again forgot my cane and have had many experiences where relying on my cane prevented me from falling and injuring myself unnecessarily.

Physical therapists can help patients determine the right type of cane to purchase, as well as determining the correct height of the cane and its proper usage. For example should you use your left hand or right hand when using a cane? A skilled professional can provide the answer.

Pick a cane that is liked and will be used regularly. Let it have personal appeal and attractiveness so that it will be looked upon more positively. Consider a walking stick as a substitute for a traditional cane. As long as it serves the desired purpose the style is not nearly as important as the functionality.

Daffy Duck Cane - Black with Green & Black Head

Walking Cane - Unisex translucent duck handle with brass plate band set on a 7/8" tapered hardwood shaft, 36" long w/rubber tip.
Walking Cane - Unisex translucent duck handle with brass plate band set on a 7/8" tapered hardwood shaft, 36" long w/rubber tip.

My first cane was a Daffy Duck Cane. I still have and use it on occasion. I picked it out after being advised that it is best to decide on a cane that is personally appealing, especially when a cane is used for the first time. The cane was whimsical enough to lighten the apprehension accompanying using a mobility device.

 

The Walker

The walker is a great way to maintain balance and coordination when leg muscles are weak or have diminished. Walkers with and without wheels are readily available and sold in countless stores and drug stores. They can be adjusted to the height recommended by medical professionals. Proper use of the walker is also helpful for maintaining good posture and not slumping, which is easy to do.

If arm strength and balance are good, a walker without wheels can be used successfully. However, if leg strength and balance issues are present, a walker with two wheels may be suggested by a physical therapist. Picking up and putting down a walker with every step can be taxing and throw off a user's balance. The goal is to get around as efficiently and safely as possible. Fatigue can creep up on a user and make even simple steps more tiring then need be. Conservation of energy and safety are key considerations with walkers and other mobility aides.

One disadvantage found with wheeled-walkers has to do with the use of plastic wheels. The wheels are usually small and the vibration from the plastic wheels can be extreme, especially in parking lots that are riddled with small cracks and pot holes. The wheels can also get stuck on such uneven surfaces which will thrown off the user's gait, making walking more difficult.

Carpeted areas form no undo problems although many individuals have their walkers fitted with tennis balls to make it easier to transverse different surfaces without difficulty.

The Rollator

When the use of a cane or a walker no longer enables safe traveling in and outside the home, it may become necessary to consider using a rollator in and outside the home.

The typical rollator has 4 rubberized wheels or casters in two size choices. The bigger the wheels the more comfortable traversing outdoors becomes. Thick pile carpet is also easier to move across.

Aside from the obvious solutions to balance and leg strength issue, rollators come equipped with 2 hand-brakes which lock in place. This is very convenient when coming in and out of areas where stepping up or down is involved. The locking mechanisms are added safety features for such circumstances.

Additionally, a convenient seat is attached which can be used when walking becomes tiring and a brief rest is needed. It is not always easy to find a chair at all locations. Using a rollator eliminates the worry that can develop when standing in line or waiting becomes necessary. Most seats also have storage space underneath encouraging hands-free transporting of personal items.

While switching to a rollator garners much more attention than a walker, it also makes kindhearted people more aware and considerate in assisting if necessary.

The Drive Rollator - My Current Means of Transportation

Drive Medical Aluminum Rollator Fold Up and Removable Back Support, Padded Seat with 7.5-Inch Casters, Red
Drive Medical Aluminum Rollator Fold Up and Removable Back Support, Padded Seat with 7.5-Inch Casters, Red

After a decade of using a cane, I found myself graduating from a two-wheeled walker to this type of rollator. It has aided me not only with walking but also with my balance issues. It is sturdier than a typical walker and it does not vibrate when walking on the street. The convenience of being able to sit wherever I am, is also a bonus when fatigue is a major issue. The brakes can be locked so that the rollator does not unexpected move. My rollator is black.

 

Consulting Professionals for Use of Mobility Devices

It is important that a mobility device is fitted for individual use. It can be harmful to take a one-size-fits-all approach.

Mobility Device Specialists are a group of consultants who provide expert advice on proper alignment of patients with specific issues involving balance, strength, height, and weight requirements. They can often be found at places that sell DME's (Durable Medical Equipment) for home use. Some even provide repairs for home equipment.

Physical Therapists are also very knowledgeable and can give instructions about proper usage of medical equipment that will be used on a regular basis both in and out of the home.


Moving Forward with a Disability or Injury

Whether it becomes necessary to use one of the aforementioned devices or not, acceptance is the key. Having the aide you need to allow as full a life as possible is the key to successfully accommodating a given situation.

Whether a temporary or permanent disability exists learn to adjust to it and keep as positive as possible in your circumstance. Make wise decisions and do not allow a false sense of pride or public conception rob you of living the best life you can live.

Source

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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