It can be complicated to choose the right mobility equipment. There are walking canes, wheelchairs, mobility scooters, rollators, and walkers. What’s the difference, you may wonder? What makes one distinct from the next? Many people know how these mobility aids are dissimilar aesthetically, but are unaware of all the benefits and disadvantages each will offer the user, based on the person’s unique circumstances, preferences, and specific mobility level.
Walking canes are designed to be used by people who can walk independently, but would appreciate added support. Since they don’t offer much support, walking canes are most often used by people who haven’t ever used a walking aid before, but are beginning to find walking distances to be a tad strenuous. They also provide help with balance.
There are many types of canes; there are quad canes, tripod canes, folding canes, bariatric canes, and more. Quad canes feature a four-pronged base, which makes it extremely sturdy. The quad cane is the most supportive walking cane option. Tripod canes are not as supportive, but still more sturdy than standard single-tipped canes. They have three prongs at the bottom, for increased support. Folding canes are quite compact and convenient; they’re there when you need them and disappear when you don’t! They can be folded up into a fraction of their original size, and stored discreetly in your purse or a shopping bag. Bariatric canes are designed to support individuals with a mass body weight that exceeds 300 pounds.
A walker is even more supportive than a cane! It is dependably sturdy; perfect for those with arm function, but not much leg strength. Like with the rollator, he should still be able to take a few steps on his own, but the walker will offer a bit more stable support than the rollator. In order to use a walker, the individual must also have a significant amount of arm function.
The user does not need to be able to walk well on his own in order to use the rollator, but he does need to have some level of mobility and stability; enough that he can take a few shaky steps on his own. He will also need to have arm function, of course, in order to maneuver and hold onto the rollator. Unlike the cane, the rollator offers two-sided support, which allows the user to better maintain his balance. A rollator has a built-in seat, so that the user can take a short break whenever he gets tired out.
Wheelchairs are necessary for those with extremely minimal to no weight-bearing capability. There are two main types of wheelchairs; power wheelchairs and manual wheelchairs. A manual wheelchair requires significant arm strength to maneuver; the user propels the wheelchair by pushing the wheels forward again and again. A power wheelchair requires much less arm strength to move around; the individual just needs to move the joystick just a bit in order to navigate.
Mobility scooters require about the same level of function as power wheelchairs; the only difference is that the user will probably get in and out of the scooter more often than he would get in and out of the chair. This is something to keep in mind if one believes he’ll find it difficult to get in and out of it. Most mobility scooters will either be 3-wheel or 4-wheel. 3-wheel mobility scooters are intended for indoor use, and can make those tight turns in your hallway or kitchen. 4-wheel mobility scooters are meant more for use outdoors; they’re usually capable of traveling through rough terrains.
Make Your Choice
Now that you’re aware of the necessary level of mobility that is required for use in order to use each of these mobility aids, you can decide which would be your best option. Keep in mind, though, that even if right now a specific mobility aid seems to be the ideal choice for you, things can change. Always be sure to reassess your mobility level every so often, to ensure that the mobility aid is still just what you need. Signs that it’s time for a change include the inability to walk short distances even with the aid, pain related to the use of the walking aid, and an inability to maintain proper balance.
We wish you the best of luck finding a mobility aid that will let you stay as active as possible, so that you can enjoy life to its fullest!
Becca S Kaye loves to research and write about any healthcare-related topic, but she especially enjoys educating older Americans about medical equipment, incontinence, and senior health in general. As content editor at AvaCare Medical, one of the nation’s largest online medical supplies companies, she gets to spend her days doing what she enjoys; sharing helpful information with seniors in a concise and straightforward manner.