Walkers for Seniors
There may come a time when walking from place to place becomes difficult. Chances are there won’t be someone around at all times to help you walk safely. It’s times likes these when a walker can come in handy. Walkers are also useful for people after they’ve had surgery and are trying to regain their mobility.
A walker comes in different varieties. The standard model is a simple four-legged framework, mostly made out of aluminum or metal that is used to help a person walk. Walkers are usually waist high so the user can lean on it for support while walking. The walker supports a person’s weight as they walk and is also used to help a person keep balance.
Types of Walkers for Seniors
All walkers basically serve the same purpose, but there are different types to help with individual needs.
- Basic Folding Walker. As the name suggests, this is as simple as they come. This walker is the most common and provides stability for those who need a little extra help walking. It is made out of aluminum and is lightweight. These walkers are best for indoor use. They come in two different styles; one button or two buttons. The one-button style gives the option of only completely opening the walker at once or completely closing it. It’s all or nothing. With the two-button style, each side folds up one at a time. This allows the user to fold up one side and still use the other side for stability. Either one is easy to transport.
- 2-Wheeled Walker. Some people need more than just support when walking. The 2-wheeled walker glides along with the user as they walk with wheels on each of the two front legs. These walkers never leave the floor. Some people put tennis balls on the back wheels to help the walker glide along further.
- 3-Wheeled Walker. This walker looks like a triangle with one wheel in the front and two in the back. The user pushes the walker with the front wheel and uses the back two to balance. This type of walker is best suited for those who need support due to balance and strength issues but do not need a seat to rest.
- Rollator (4-wheeled walker). The 4-wheeled walker is more commonly known as a rollator. This walker has wheels on all four legs and glides along with the user. The user must have enough strength to control the walker so it doesn’t go too fast. These walkers offer great mobility as they have swivel handlebars and hand brakes. They have seats and are also often equipped with baskets which are perfect for seniors on the go. When the user wants to take a break, he or she can lock the wheels and lower the seat to sit.
- Hemi-Walker. Hemi-walkers or side walkers as they’re also called, have four legs but only one handle. They are used on one side of a person rather than in front. They are generally used with people who need help walking or balancing on only one side, such as people who have suffered a stroke.
- Bariatric Walker. These walkers serve the same purpose as the basic walker but can support someone over 300 pounds. Some bariatric walkers can support up to 1000 pounds. They are heavier by design because they are made to hold more weight than the average walker.
- Knee Walker. This walker looks like a scooter and is mainly used by people who need to rest one leg. It is often used by people who have injuries on one side of their body. The user bends his or her knee and rests it on the cushion. The other leg works in conjunction with the four wheels to glide along. There are handlebars to hold on to as well. Some models are also steerable. These walkers are usually used on a temporary basis.
Questions to Ask Before Buying a Walker
Before buying a walker be sure to ask yourself these questions so you end up with the right one for your needs.
- Do I need wheels? Think about whether you need the extra help wheels can provide and if you have the strength to control them.
- Where will I be using the walker? If it’s for mainly indoor use then a standard walker is the better choice. If you’ll be going outside you’ll want to consider a walker with wheels.
- Will I need to rest? If you plan on using the walker to travel consider whether you’ll need to take a break. If so you’ll want a walker with wheels that also has a fold-down seat.
- Can I fold it on my own? Being able to collapse the walker by yourself is key. This is where the one versus two button option needs to be considered carefully.
Are Walkers Covered by Insurance?
Walkers, including rollators are considered pieces of durable medical equipment and are therefore covered under Medicare Part B. The walker must be prescribed by your doctor or other medical professional and can be either rented or purchased outright.
If a senior is covered by Medicaid, be sure to check state regulations because considerations are made state by state. Typically though, walkers are covered by Medicaid.
Another insurance avenue to explore is Veterans’ benefits. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has different programs that may also cover walkers. It’s best to see what may be covered in your individual situation.
There are also some charity organizations that often have medical equipment to give away, such as walkers that were donated. These are often gently used. It is sometimes worth looking into these groups to see what may be available.