Meeting senior needs with new mobility devices; ensuring safe use
The use of mobility devices by seniors 65 and older is up by 50-percent, according to a report published online by the American Physical Therapy Association. With a growing senior population, and increase in age-related illnesses, limited mobility and fall-related injuries, it's no surprise that seniors over 65 are increasing their use of mobility devices. Moving around is not always an easy feat for many seniors, even with the help of mobility devices.
Mobility devices, such as canes, rollators and walkers help provide support and increase the opportunities for seniors to move around. Along with scooters and motorized wheelchairs, mobility aids enable seniors to continue to enjoy their independence.
When I see someone in a wheelchair entering a store, I unintentionally focus back to my mother's travel wheelchair; the one she used when she lived in Orlando. Her wheelchair was always too heavy for me to lift and place into the trunk of the car. The rear car bumper had the nicks and scratches that showed my failed attempts and the many misses.
Pushing the manual wheelchair over the gravel parking lot outside the old Orlando VA clinic was a bumpy trip to and from her VA's "Orange Team" appointments. Stoic as she was, she still felt every rough piece of gravel being rolled over by the dilapidated wheelchair.
My mom's walker was cumbersome and had no wheels. The few times that she used the walker to step forward, she looked as if she was being yanked and jolted into position.
Seeking advice and meeting the needs of older adults
Before purchasing a mobility device, review with a physician which choices will be the most suitable in meeting the needs of a senior loved one. Make sure the devices are properly adjusted to fit the patient. Some individuals, who opt to buy a cane or walker online or from a store, often fail to ensure proper adjustments are made to new and second-hand devices. Physical therapists can assess, fit and adjust walking devices, in order to prevent debilitating injuries.
When researching rollators and walkers, search and select models that allow seat adjustment and handle height adjustment. If a loved one is leaving a hospital and is given an assistive device to use, such as a walker or cane, make sure these are adjusted before leaving a hospital and going home.
After having surgery in Orlando, a former Central Florida resident, Keith G. was released from the hospital with a set of crutches, a cane and a walker. He fell when he got home. Crucial adjustments to his new assistive devices were never done. Eighteen months later, after having hip surgery in Tallahassee, he showed his new physical therapist the not-so-old cane and walker. She prevented him from using both until they were adjusted. In fact, she noticed that the cane and the walker had never been adjusted to fit his height.
New mobility devices offer improved features
Seniors may be more inclined to travel outside their homes because of improved stability and maneuverability offered by some newer mobility aids. However, some seniors may not want to go out alone because of previous falls and may need the assistance and support of a caregiver.
Rollators and transport rollators
Rollators look somewhat like walkers but have a streamlined design, added wheels, brakes and much more. Rollator wheels are often larger and provide needed stability, such as the Swedish-made Volaris Patrol XL. Rollators are not for everyone; seniors with balance problems may feel some models move too quickly and "roll away from them." Newer streamlined rollators come with added seating to accommodate users who may tire easily and need to sit. A few of these models can be quickly adjusted and converted from a rollator into a wheelchair, much like the Rollz Motion rollator.
Standing wheelchairs and all-terrain wheelchairs
With a growing interest on the health benefits of standing versus sitting, attention has been focusing on the use of standing wheelchairs. A Minnesota VA hospital physician, Dr. Gary Goldish, helped develop an upgraded version of a standing wheelchair with the assistance of biomedical engineers. The prototype was funded by the Paralyzed Veterans of America, according to an article published in the Start Tribune earlier this year.
For a few individuals who can still tackle a rugged wheelchair ride on the beach or through nature trails, fear not; all-terrain wheelchairs offer another way to enjoy nature up close. The Rocket Mobility's Tomahawk is an all-terrain wheelchair that travels over mud fields, rocky roads and more. This off-road wheelchair, made in Lincoln, Nebraska, could make some non-mobility users feel green with envy.
Before selecting and using a mobility device, there are five important aspects to consider:
- Identify the ability and needs of the patient
- Select a mobility device that matches the patient’s needs
- Review mobility options with a physician and physical therapist
- Make crucial adjustments to fit the device for proper use
- Provide the assistance of a trained and able caregiver who can assist in fall prevention
Older adults who are a fall risk and have declining memory and cognition need the assistance of a trained caregiver when using a mobility device. Older adults in the early stages of Alzheimer's and other types of dementia may still be able to enjoy the use of a comfortable wheelchair, walker and rollator. As the disease progresses, the needs and ability of the patient should be reassessed by a physician.
Senior Helpers of Orlando wants to make sure seniors are not left isolated and without the opportunity to engage in healthy activities. Senior Helpers encourages the practice of brain healthy activities and daily physical exercise. If you have a loved one at home who is a fall risk and will benefit from the assistance of a licensed caregiver, call us at 407-628-4357. We will be happy to set up a meeting with you and your loved ones.
Ana P. De Lane
Senior Helpers Orlando Team Member
Use of Mobility Devices Up By 50% Among Adults 65 and Older; published May 7, 2015; PT Motion News; retrieved October 5, 2015, from http://www.apta.org/PTinMotion/News/2015/5/7/MobilityDevices/
New wheelchair gives paralyzed veterans chance to stand on own: Star Tribune; published Feb. 2, 2015, retrieved from http://www.startribune.com/new-wheelchair-gives-paralyzed-veterans-chance-to-stand-on-own/290607961/
Volaris Patrol XL; Eurovema; retrieved October 3, 2015; from http://www.eurovema.se/default.asp?ID=VOLARIS_PATROL_XL&sLang=en-gb
Rollator and transport chair in one go; Rollz; retrieved October 3, 2015, from http://www.rollz.com/?chosenlanguage=us
Rocket Mobility's Tomahawk All-Terrain Wheelchair; retrieved video October 4, 2015, from Rocket Mobility-YouTube; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4uvU9Ubwe0&feature=youtu.be