According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, greater than one out of four individuals 65 years or older fall at least once a year. These falls lead to 2.8 million emergency room visits and a total of $31 billion spent annually on direct medical costs associated with the falls. Assistive devices, such as canes, walkers, and crutches are instrumental for helping prevent falls. The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research estimates that 4.1 million community-dwelling adults aged 65 or older use mobility devices. However, a significant number of individuals stop using their assistive devices shortly after getting them because they are not fitted or being utilized correctly. When fitted and used correctly, assistive devices increase your sense of security and may help you increase your independence and activity level as well. Please continue to read to learn how to choose an appropriate assistive device that meets your needs.
Canes increase your base of support, which can help improve balance and stability. Canes can also be utilized to redistribute weight from an injured, weak, or painful leg. There are two types of canes: single point and quadripod. A single point cane is often prescribed to help with arthritis pain in a lower extremity. Single point canes are typically made out of wood or aluminum. Both wood and aluminum canes are lightweight and inexpensive. Aluminum canes are adjustable in height, which may be advantageous.
Quadripod canes have four points that touch the ground, which increases your base of support. Quadripod canes, also called quad canes, may be particularly useful if you have hemiplegia, paralysis in one-half of your body. Most canes contain an umbrella or hook-shaped handle. These handles increase your risk for carpel tunnel syndrome due to pressure on the palm of your hand. Therefore, you may want to opt for a flat handle, more commonly known as a shotgun handle because it resembles the butt of a shotgun. Shotgun handles reduce your risk of developing carpel tunnel syndrome by distributing weight across your hand, decreasing the pressure on your palm.
To find the right size cane for you, have someone measure from the crease of your waist down to the floor. When being measured for a cane, stand upright with your arms relaxed at your sides. When you hold a cane at the right height, your elbow should bend at a 15 to 30-degree angle.
A walker is appropriate if you need a wider base of support than a cane can give you or if you have poor balance. Standard walkers provide the most stability because they do not contain wheels. However, they are cumbersome and require good upper body strength, as you must lift the walker completely off the ground with every step you take. Having to lift the walker with every step also results in slower walking speeds.
Front-wheeled walkers, also known as two-wheeled walkers, are not as stable as standard walkers. However, you can walk a more normal pace with a two-wheeled walker. Additionally, if you have parkinsonism, two-wheeled walkers may decrease freezing compared to standard walkers. You also don’t need as much upper body strength to use two-wheeled walkers.
A four-wheeled walker, also called a rollator, is a good option for you if you need more stability than a cane can provide you, but you don’t need to bear weight on your arms. These walkers contain baskets and seats. If you have a heart or respiratory condition, a four-wheeled walker may be a good choice for you because it has a built-in seat. If you have a cognitive impairment, these walkers may not be a good choice for you because they require brake management.
The handles of a walker should be level with the crease of your waist when you are standing upright. When you walk with a walker, you should not have to lean forward.
Crutches may be an appropriate option for you if you are highly mobile and need to use your arms for weight bearing and propulsion. Axillary crutches are inexpensive, but when used correctly, they lead to significant energy expenditure and require a lot of arm and shoulder strength. Axillary crutches can lead to axillary artery compression or nerve compression if they are fit incorrectly. The correct height for axillary crutches is when there are two finger widths between your armpit and the top pad of the crutch. Your elbow should bend at a 30-degree angle when you are using the crutches.
Platform crutches contain a horizontal platform for your entire forearm, which you use to bear weight. Platform crutches may be appropriate for you if you have painful or weak wrists or hands.
Falls are common for seniors. Canes, walkers, and crutches are assistive devices that can help you prevent falls and increase your independence.