It can be devastating to watch someone you care about growing older and lose their strength. Often, walking and moving around the home grows more difficult as we age. We might develop weakness in our bodies, leading to difficulties with balance and mobility. Recent research shows the elderly are increasing in population, so you may find yourself caring for an elder sooner than you expect.
How can you help the elderly in your life keep their pride while minimizing fall risks? Difficulty walking may eventually lead to the use of walkers so your loved ones can maintain a sense of independence. What types of walkers or other safety precautions are there? How do you choose? How can you prepare your home for the accessibility needs caring for an elder might bring?
If you are preparing to or already caring for one or more elders, you know that it is paramount to their health and your peace of mind to enable enhanced mobility and prepare to prevent falls in the home.
As you prepare your home to care for the elderly, consider the type of equipment and basic needs your loved one has. Walkers and rollators will take up considerable room in your home.
Clear pathways throughout your home to allow the equipment to pass through easily. Move large furniture against the walls or to the middle of the room as needed to provide straight paths to the rooms that will see the most access. Ideally, create clear walkways from the bedroom to the bathroom and kitchen. Make sure areas are well-lit for easy navigation.
Wires, small furniture, pets, clutter and even rugs may lead to falls if your senior cannot easily navigate around them. Remove clutter, rambunctious pets, and wires from places through which your elder may walk.
If you cannot remove the items, ensure they do not create obstacles in pathways. Bundle wires neatly along the wall, place small furniture in locations that will not get in the way, train your pets to take care, and move clutter on top or inside other objects to reduce tripping hazards.
Walkers vs. rollators
If you have never cared for an aging person struggling with mobility, you may not know the difference between a walker and rollator. A walker does not have wheels. A rollator, on the other hand, has wheels for increased mobility.
Choosing between a walker or rollator will come down to the preferences of both the caregiver and elder receiving care, the environments in which they are most often moving, and the health issues leading to the need for mobility support.
Walkers may be ideal for short-term use, such as in the wake of a recent injury or fall. Often less expensive and lightweight than their rolling counterparts, walkers are often the first step when mobility begins to decrease.
Walkers are best for elderly citizens who maintain some upper body strength. Using a walker requires constant up and down movement of the arms. Most walkers are more lightweight and mobile than some rollators.
Walkers might be suitable for slower-paced movement activities and are generally easy to transport. A walker can be used in areas without ramps, although some help will likely be required.
Rollators have wheels for increased speed and ease. You might find rollators with 3 or 4 wheels, a hand brake, and perhaps a seat for resting. Rollators might be best for long-term use, more severe mobility issues, or simply increased ease of access.
Although they may be bulkier than a simple walker, rollators come in many varieties. The right rollator can make all the difference for sharp-minded yet less-mobile individuals.
Because rollators are often larger than walkers, they may be more difficult to use inside a home. The wheels will require clear pathways, and even a small wire may pose a trip hazard.
Navigating hills, ramps, and slopes will require care and dexterity. While a rollator improves walking speed and ease, help still may be needed in many areas to prevent falls or too-quick movements. Stairs will be even more difficult to manage with a rollator.
Rollators are best for those who enjoy walking outside of the home and while traveling—even if just to the market for fruits and vegetables.
Caring for the elderly in your home might mean more than just creating safe walkways and choosing a rollator over a walker.
In many cases, you might need to install support handles or rails in slippery areas like bathrooms to prevent serious injuries.
Sometimes, you may need to do more work to create an accessible environment in your home. You might also need accessibility equipment for traversing stairs, creating a wheel-chair friendly environment, or preparing your home for the care of non-walking elderly.