The Great Gait Debate: Walker Vs. Rollator
Do you or a loved one need help walking safely? Accepting this can be difficult. Some may see having to use a mobility device as loss of independence, while others may feel more secure because their chances of falling are reduced. They feel more independent because they don’t have to rely on another person to help them get around, and they know they will not be a prisoner in their home.
With the abundance of options available between walkers and rollators, how do you know which one is right for you or, as a provider, which to recommend?
Walkers & rollators provide support for people who need assistance when walking because they have:
- difficulty balancing,
- are at risk of falling, or
- in order to avoid fatigue.
Choosing the right walking aid for you or a patient can be confusing because of the many mobility products to choose from.
Some factors to consider in helping determine which mobility aid might be best:
- Consider upper body strength, because the product may require constant lifting for everyday use; there will be times where you may need to lift the walker or rollator away from uneven terrain.
- Determine if you or the patient can handle having a product with wheels, especially if they have difficulty with stability and balance.
- If you travel outside your home frequently and participate in various activities, you may need to consider how the walker or rollator can be folded for easy storage and transport.
- Take into account your health and factors such as height and weight to ensure you can find a proper fit.
- Your budget or that of your patient should also be considered when evaluating which product would work best.
What’s the Difference Between a Walker and a Rollator?
The main difference between a walker and a rollator is that a walker is a frame with handles and legs that needs to be lifted for movement, whereas a rollator has wheels and is pushed. A walker allows a slower pace while a rollator, with three or four wheels, features hand-operated brakes and may have a seat to use when resting.
The person considering a walking aid should ALWAYS seek the advice of a healthcare professional who can consider individual needs to recommend the right device.
If a person cannot bear weight on one or both legs as the result of a surgery or hip replacement, but is mobile enough not to require a wheelchair, a walker is generally the right choice. Some therapists state that if a person has difficulty walking from the bedroom to the bathroom, they are not ideal candidates for a rollator and should use a walker for extra support.
A rollator, because of its wheels and maneuverability, is best for people who are able to walk, but need a little help with balance and stability. A rollator can conserve the user’s energy because it does not have to be lifted for movement like a non-wheeled walker, allows a faster walking speed, and helps with a normal gait.
It is also important to understand the patient’s comfort level with their strength, area awareness, and agility when choosing between a walker and a rollator. The more comfortable someone is with themself and their device, the less the likelihood they will experience a fall or injury.
What Kinds of Walkers are Available?
A standard walker is a simple, lightweight device without wheels. A user must have enough arm strength to pick up the walker and move it forward one step at a time. Most therapists consider a standard walker the most stable solution for those needing a little extra help.
Two-wheel walkers, which provider easier mobility, are also available for use by a person who doesn’t need quite as much support but is not stable enough to use a four-wheel rollator.
Both types of walkers can be adjusted to accommodate various user heights and are available in both folding and non-folding options.
What Kinds of Rollators are Available?
Rollators come in three-wheel and four-wheel styles. Rollators offer the greatest range of mobility and have front swivel wheels that help with turning. They are equipped with handbrakes that allow a patient to stop the rollator when needed. Most rollators also feature a padded seat and backrest to use when resting as well as a basket or pouch for carrying personal items.
Different rollator models have different wheel sizes designed for indoor versus outdoor use.
For those who just need a little extra support when walking, a three-wheel rollator is usually narrower and can be easier to maneuver in tight spaces. Those who want to walk at a faster speed and do not require a seat for resting may prefer a three-wheel rollator.
An even more unique rollator option to consider or recommend would be a rollator/transport chair combination.
This combination device is ideal for someone who wants to walk part of the time but may get tired and need a rest when they can be pushed by a caregiver or loved one.
The Lumex HybridLX is designed to help users walk independently by giving them the support of a four-wheel rollator, but can easily transform into a lightweight transport chair with flexible backrest and comfortable footrests.
Finding the right mobility solution for you, a loved one or a patient is not an easy task. Keeping you active and independent is important, but doing so safely is just as important. Make sure to consult your healthcare professional to help you in this decision.
Note: For information purposes only, this information is not to be construed as medical advice, consult your doctor.
Cynthia Counts is Vice President of Product Management & Homecare SBU at Graham-Field.
About GF Health Products, Inc.
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, with more than 300 US-based employees, GF Health Products, Inc. is a major manufacturer of healthcare products for the acute care, extended care, homecare and primary care markets. The Graham-Field family of brands includes Basic American Medical Products, Everest & Jennings, Grafco, Hausted, John Bunn, Labtron, Lumex and Lumiscope. Visit www.grahamfield.com or call 770-368-4700.