A caregiver reference guide on basic options for senior assistive devices. Guest post by Joseph Jones of California Mobility.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the number one cause of death and injury among Americans over the age of 65. While decisions on mobility are ultimately up to the seniors themselves and their families, it’s important for agencies and caregivers to understand the various options that exist to help retain senior mobility so that they can be prepared to help recommend options if needed and have the training to provide the best quality of care available.
Assistive devices, such as walking canes and stairlifts, can help seniors maintain their independence, dignity, and mobility while allowing them to live out their golden years with joy and freedom. Here are five assistive devices proven to help seniors stay on their feet.
1. Walking Canes
Walking canes come in an impressive array of sizes and styles, and they are some of the oldest and most affordable assistive devices in existence. If used properly, walking canes help lower the risk of a serious fall by improving balance and stability. They are also highly effective at decreasing the amount of weight placed on lower-body joints, making them popular with individuals suffering from arthritis, as well as those recovering from surgery.
Choosing the Right Cane
The type of cane a person utilizes should depend on their own unique mobility needs. In general, single-point canes, which are the most commonly used canes, are ideal for individuals struggling with arthritis in the lower body, as well as those with brain or spinal cord impairments.
Three and four-point canes are slightly less common, but they are considered excellent options for those experiencing balance issues. Their wider bases provide the additional support seniors need to maintain a healthy gait.
2. Two-Wheel Walkers
Two-wheel walkers, as their name implies, are walkers that utilize only two wheels instead of four. Like walking canes, they have been found to be effective at preventing falls, and they are ideal for older adults with moderate to severe balance issues and individuals with lower-body weakness. This stems from the fact that two-wheel walkers can support up to one-half of a person’s body weight when used correctly. There are also other benefits of walkers, including:
- Walkers (front-wheeled) do not need to be picked up, so they are perfect for seniors with upper-body weakness as well.
- Walkers can decrease joint pain by taking weight off the lower half of the body.
- Walkers have been noted to improve posture while helping seniors rebuild strength and lost muscle.
Learning how to use a walker properly is imperative, and incorrect use can easily result in additional safety hazards for seniors.
Safely moving up and down the stairs can pose a serious issue for many seniors. According to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, more than one million Americans were injured on the stairs in 2017. For anyone caring for a senior, this statistic can be frightening. Fortunately, stairlifts are quickly gaining popularity, and they have helped millions of older adults remain independent and mobile in their homes.
Straight vs. Curved Stairlifts
Stairlifts are easily installed by professionals, and they are a great alternative to placing a loved one in an assisted living facility. If your client has only a single, straight set of stairs, a straight stairlift will usually be adequate. However, if your client’s home has curved stairs or multiple sets of straight stairs, a curved stair lift may be required.
4. Activator Poles
An activator pole is a mobility tool in the shape of a pole that reduces stress on lower-body joints and helps to restore a healthy gait. Activator poles are particularly popular among older active individuals, and like other assistive devices, they can help improve balance, posture, and stability. This device can be used around the house or while walking, and it is constructed of high-quality materials such as aluminum alloy – so there is no need to worry about your client collapsing.
5. Knee Walkers
With an appearance similar to a bicycle or tricycle, knee walkers are assistive devices designed to help individuals with knee problems move around safely. It is often touted as a more effective alternative to crutches, and its durable construction and maneuverability makes it ideal for anyone with lower-body injuries or medical conditions. Like a bicycle, a knee walker features a seat (which the user will place the impacted knee on), steering device, and wheels, and most include a storage basket for everyday items.
When it comes to keeping seniors independent, there are a plethora of assistive devices for seniors to choose from. Having background knowledge of the devices available will help your caregivers be better prepared to help clients with mobility issues. Prior to selecting an assistive device, seniors should consult a medical professional who can help them make the right decision based on their health conditions and mobility needs.