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An Easy Guide On How To Fit A Walker For Seniors

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A walker can be a very useful assistive device for seniors who need them to ambulate. They can greatly reduce the risk of falling and injury.

Normally, walkers are provided to an older adult by a physical therapist, an occupational therapist or some other healthcare provider. That is when they are fitted for the user. But if you happen to be using a walker that has not been fitted for you, this article will help you.

It is important to make sure that this type of mobility device is fitted properly. Whether it’s a traditional walker or a rollator walker, if it’s not fitted correctly, it can be dangerous and can lead to falls.

How To Know What The Best Type Of Walker To Use?

Before you even begin the process to fit a walker, you should first identify what type of walker is best for your specific needs?

There are essentially two types of walkers to choose from:

  • A traditional (standard) walker – this is your basic regular walker with 4 adjustable legs and an aluminum walker frame. Some have wheels on the front 2 legs and others have no wheels at all.
  • A rollator walker – aka rolling walker or a wheel walker. This has wheels on all 4 adjustable legs. Although some only have 3 legs and of course, 3 wheels. Some rollators also have a flip down seat.

Make sure to choose the type of walker that is the best fit for your current needs.

When you first get the walker that your health care practitioner has recommended, you may still want some help adjusting it to suit your specific needs. It is always a good idea to read and understand the owner’s manual that comes with your walker. If you have trouble understanding the manual, do not hesitate to talk to your medical practitioner or a technical person from the store where you bought your walker.

Traditional (Standard) Walkers

These types of walkers, without wheels, are often used by seniors who need to lean on something for support while they walk. Something that can hold up their weight and is less likely to move.

For users who may not need as much support, they can add gliders or tennis balls or use traditional walkers with wheels in the front. This makes it easier to push the walker forward instead of having to lift it.

Rollator Walkers

My 100 year old mom-in-law uses a rollator because it’s a better option for her. It’s just much easier for her to push the walker than to have to lift a walker in order to move forward. But, some users find that rolling walkers give them a hard time because they can’t control the walker from moving forward too far, which of course can create fall hazards.

Special Petite Walkers

I remember a patient of mine who was very short, I can’t remember how short but the traditional walkers were too tall for her. So we had to order a special petite walker for her. These are available if you need this type.

Once the right walker has been provided for the senior person, then the next step is to make sure that it’s fitted correctly so that it’s as safe as possible. You want the walker to be the right height and the right width as well.

Where To Buy A Walker?

Fortunately, walkers can be very easy to purchase. You can find them at a medical supply store, Walmart, online at Amazon or some other online store.

Click here to see the many different varieties of walkers available.

Easy Steps On How To Fit A Walker

Here are some helpful tips on the best way to fit a walker properly:

  1. The first step is to measure the person’s height. You will need to know how tall the person is in order to ensure that the walker is the correct height. Make sure the person is standing comfortably and that their arms are hanging loosely by their sides. (In other words, don’t force the person to stand up straight if that’s not how they normally walk.)
  2. Next, you will need to measure the person’s hip width. This can be done by placing your hands on either side of the person’s hips and measuring the distance between your hands. It’s important that they are able to fit inside the walker.
  3. With both of these measurements, you can now determine the proper height and width for the walker. The width is important for the person to be able to fit inside the walker but the width is also important to know if it will fit through the home’s doorways, etc.
  4. The next step is to adjust the height of the walker. Leveling your walker is a crucial step in ensuring that you are able to use it effectively. To get started, adjust each leg of the walker so they’re all at equal height and level with one another before moving on.
  5. Choose the right type of hand grips. Some hand grips may change the height of the handles which in turn may change your measurements.
  6. Finally, if you’re using a traditional walker, you may want to add glide skis or tennis balls to make it easier for the user. This is only if it’s necessary for them to use it safely.

How Do You Determine The Correct Height For A Walker?

It is important to make sure that your walker is the proper height for you. If it is too low, you will have to stoop over to use it, which can cause back pain. If it is too high, you may not be able to push it properly.

To determine the correct height for a walker, stand up like you do when you walk, make sure to have your shoes on and allow your hands to hang naturally at your sides.

Have a friend or family member measure from the crease of your wrist to the floor. This number indicates how high from the floor your walker’s handles should be.

What Is The Proper Way To Grasp The Handle Of A Walker?

When grasping the handle of a walker, you should have a slight bend in your elbow (about 15 degrees). If your elbows are bent too much or are too straight, adjust accordingly. This will help to ensure that you are using the walker correctly and that it is providing you with the proper support.

Another way to check that the walker is at the right height is to check that the top of the walker is at the height of your wrist.

Are There Different Sizes Of Walkers?

Yes, there are bariatric walkers for large individuals, narrow walkers, pediatric walkers and more. Be sure to select the proper size walker for your needs.

I remember a patient of mine who was very short and although she was in her mid 80’s, we had to use a pediatric walker for her.

What Is The Average Width Of A Traditional Walker?

Traditional (standard) walkers are typically 25 to 29 inches wide. However, there are also wider walkers available. The narrow walkers are typically 22 to 24 inches wide. These are great if your home has narrow doorways.

Quick tip: To give more clearance using a walker through narrow doorways, trade the two front wheels so the wheels are on the inside of the walker. This makes the overall width of the walker smaller without compromising safety.

What Is The Average Width Of A Rolling Walker?

Rolling walkers, also known as rollators, are typically 24 inches wide. These generally are not suitable for homes with narrow hallways or doorways so please consider this when purchasing a walker.

Of course if you are using a bariatric rollator then they would be even wider. It may be very difficult for someone to use a large walker in a home with narrow doors and hallways.

Standard interior doors like bathroom doors are 24 to 36 inches wide. Make sure to measure your doorways before purchasing a walker.

How Do I Adjust The Height Of My Walker?

Most walkers have spring buttons located on the legs of the walker. This makes it very easy to adjust the height. If you suffer from arthritis in your hands though, you may find it difficult to push these buttons.

To adjust the walker height, first, push the button in on one leg of the walker and and raise or lower the leg to the proper height. Repeat this process with each leg of the walker.

How To Fit Tennis Balls On A Walker

If you live in an area with a high population of seniors you’ve probably seen them using walkers with tennis balls on them. It’s actually quite common and I remember many of my patients with walkers that had those tennis balls attached to the bottom of the legs of the walker.

This is a great way to add some extra stability and traction, especially if you’re using your walker on slick surfaces.

To do this, simply cut a hole in the center of each tennis ball using a utility knife. Once you’ve done this, slip the tennis balls over the legs of your walker. Make sure that they are snug so that they don’t slip off while you’re using the walker.

Of course, you can also purchase some that are already cut, like these below:

You may need to experiment with different sizes of tennis balls to find ones that fit well on your particular model of walker. You can also try different methods of cutting the holes in the center of the balls, such as using a drill or an angle grinder.

Once you’ve found the right size and fit, you’ll be able to enjoy better stability and traction when using your walker.

What Is The Correct Way To Walk With A Walker Without Wheels?

Here are some basic tips to follow to properly and safely use a walker without wheels.

  • You should lift it and place the walker a few inches or no more than an arm’s length in front of you to move forward. Make sure that all 4 tips on your walker are on the ground before you put your weight on it.
  • Then step into the walker.
  • Again, lift the walker and place it in front of you to again, move forward.
  • Again, step into the walker.
  • Look forward when you are walking, not down at your feet. This will help you maintain proper balance and posture.
  • Keep repeating this process until you reach your destination.

How To Use A Walker With Wheels

Some walkers have wheels on the front two legs. Others have wheels on all four legs (also known as rollators). To use a walker with two wheels:

  • Keep it close to your body. Again, when moving forward move it only a few inches and no more than an arm’s length.
  • Don’t try to lift it – simply push it forward slightly.
  • Take small steps into the walker after you’ve moved it forward.
  • Rely on your upper body and the walker to carry most of your weight
  • Use your arms to push the walker forward. Your arms should be at a comfortable 90-degree angle when you are using the walker.
  • Stop frequently to rest and catch your breath. It is important not to over exert yourself when using a walker.

Walker Accessories

I do recommend that in addition to having the walker fitted correctly, adding the right accessories can further help to make using it as safe as possible.

We recommend the following items;

  • Baskets – this is very important and a safe way to carry small items, etc.
  • Ski Glides – these can be attached to a traditional walker to help them glide along the floor (thus reducing and/or eliminating the need to lift the walker)
  • Folding Tray – this can make it much easier to carry your sandwich from the one place to another.
  • Cup Holder – a great way to carry a drinking cup
  • Replacement Wheels – after much use the wheels of a walker, even if it’s just the rear wheels, can wear down. Replacing them is usually very easy.
  • Hand Grips – these cover the standard plastic hand grips on walkers and can make them safer and more comfortable.

Fitting a walker is essential to ensure your loved one’s safety while using it. By following these simple steps, you can have the walker fitted properly and be on your way to helping your loved one regain their mobility and independence.

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