Find a Walking Aid That Works for You

Posted on Aug 17th 2018 by Florida Blue

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Admitting you need help getting around can be hard. Canes, walkers and scooters are for the old and feeble in some folks’ minds.

One of the most common concerns we hear from the friends and family of our Medicare members is the refusal to acknowledge the limitations on mobility that frequently come with age. Not being able to walk as fast, up stairs or even across the parking lot is frustrating. However, statistics show falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including more than 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths, according to the National Council on Aging.

But, if asked to choose between a walking aid or a stay in the hospital most of us will pick the walking aid. Walking aids come in many forms but are not one-size-fits-all. When it comes to choosing a walking aid, don’t just talk to your friends. It’s always good to also consult with your doctor or a professional for their opinion. The wrong type of assistance could actually lessen your stability. You use a cane that doesn’t really give the kind of support you need when you really should be using a walker.

To start, talk to your doctor. From there, your doctor will either tell you what they think is the best aid for you or will refer you to a physical or occupational therapist. The physical therapist will have you complete a mobility test to evaluate your balance and how well you can move around. They may also have you try out different aids to see which works best for you. Below is a list of common walking and mobility aids to help you get started on your search for the right one.

Canes

  • Canes offer the least amount of support. If you are looking for minimal help here and there, a cane might be the right aid.
  • Canes can help you stand and sit and also provide stability when walking around.
  • Canes require some arm strength. If arm weakness is a problem for you, a cane might not be right.
  • They come in different grips such as a hook (C-grip cane) or a horizontal grip. If you have weakness in your hands, the horizontal grip might be the best option for you.
  • The base of the cane also comes in different styles. The cane can have a single contact point or a quad base. The quad base has four separate feet that provide more stability. These bases also come in different sizes and are usually heavier.

When finding the right cane for you, you should stand up straight with your shoes on and your arms by your sides. The top of the cane should be at your wrist. You should be able to comfortably grip the cane with your arm bent to a 20 degree angle. Try finding an adjustable cane or a cane that can collapse for easy storage.

Walkers

There are three common types of walkers. When choosing the right walker, you should measure from the floor to your wrist. Your elbow should be bent to 20 degrees. Make sure that the walker surrounds you on the sides and the front for the most stability.

Basic Walker: This is the most common type of walker.

  • These walkers are best used indoors and on smooth surfaces.
  • Because there are no wheels, these walkers provide the best stability.
  • Using a basic walker will require moderate hand and arm strength.
  • Most designs have two to four legs and will need to be lifted and moved forward with each step.

Wheeled Walker: This is a basic walker with wheels.

  • Wheeled walkers usually have two wheels on the front.
  • The wheels are usually fixed and do not swivel side to side.
  • The wheels will make it easier to move around and can be used better outdoors.
  • Rollators:

    • Rollators have three to four wheels and are the easiest to maneuver.
    • Most models are made of lightweight material and can be folded for storage.
    • Rollators also come with hand breaks for added safety.
    • They usually include a bench for resting and a basket for storage.
    • Rollators allow you to move around better without tiring out as fast.
    • Rollators do provide stability but may not be the right choice for seniors with significant balance or posture issues.

    If you are unable to walk:

    Power Scooters                         

    • Power scooters are good for seniors who have some arm strength and agility but are not able to walk long distances.
    • You must be able to sit for long periods of time and operate the scooters controls.
    • If you do not have significant arm strength or have arthritis, it may be hard to extend your arms to steer and operate the controls for long periods of time.
    • Scooters come in many different models. They usually have three or four wheels. They can be used for indoors, outdoors or both. There are models for heavy loads and lightweight travel.

    Wheelchairs

    Wheelchairs come in two models, manual and power.

    Manual Wheelchair:

    • You may need a wheelchair if you tire easy, are unsteady, fall often or have a hard time standing or sitting.
    • Your height, weight and hip measurements will determine what size wheelchair you need.
    • They are often very basic with limits to how much they adjust.
    • Wheelchairs are often heavy, so transportation for use outside of your home may be difficult.
    • There are light weight wheelchairs available but are usually only used for people who are unable to self-propel a standard wheelchair or who have specific medical concerns. To get a lightweight wheelchair you must get a special prescription from your doctor.

    Power Wheelchair:

    • Buying a powered wheelchair is a big investment. They come in different models and sizes.
    • They are designed to work indoors and outdoors.
    • You will need to consider your budget, doctor’s prescription and personal preference when buying a power wheelchair.
    • You doctor will determine if you need a power wheel chair and based on this diagnosis, your insurance coverage will be determined.

    Insurance Coverage and Costs

    Walking and mobility aids are covered as Durable Medical Equipment (DME) under your Medicare health plan. Different Medicare Advantage plans offer different DME benefits. For more information about what your plan covers, visit the Florida Blue Medicare page and view your plans Evidence of Coverage.

    You must use CareCentrix, our preferred in-network provider. To get DME you should ask your doctor or physical therapist for a prescription. Your doctor can contact CareCentrix by phone: 1-877-561-9910 or fax: 1-877-860-4999.

    Sources:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2231545/

    https://www.agingcare.com/articles/expert-advice-how-to-choose-a-mobility-aid-190138.htm

    https://www.ncoa.org/news/resources-for-reporters/get-the-facts/falls-prevention-facts/


    Filed under: Medicare News  


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