Using a walker takes practice
Many older adults use a folding walker to help them move around more safely and independently. But learning how to use a walker correctly takes some practice. Using it incorrectly can actually increase fall risk or body aches.
First, it’s important to get it adjusted to correctly fit your senior’s height. Next, it’s critical to learn the right movements and some do’s and don’ts to stay safe. After all, the point of a walker is to reduce fall risk!
Folding walker with wheels
Adjust the walker to the right height
If a physical therapist or similar professional can adjust the walker to fit your older adult, that’s the best option because they’re experts.
But if you’ve got to figure it out on your own, use these tips.
A correctly fitted folding walker
The walker should fit your older adult’s arms comfortably. This reduces stress on their shoulders and back as they use the walker.
You’ll know it’s at the correct height when they step inside the walker and:
- With shoulders relaxed and hands on the grips, their elbows bend slightly at a comfortable angle (about 15 degrees).
- With arms relaxed at their sides, the top of the walker should line up with the crease on the inside of their wrist.
How to walk using a folding walker
These movements are the safest way to use a walker. It helps to try it out yourself before demonstrating and explaining to your senior.
- Put the walker at arm’s length in front of you. Take the weight off your hands and gently push the walker forward.
- Use the handles of the walker for balance as you step forward with the weaker leg to the middle area of the walker. Don’t step all the way to the front. If both legs are of equal strength, then it doesn’t matter which one goes first.
- Push straight down on the walker handles as you step the other leg forward until it’s even with the first leg. Safety tip: Don’t push forward because that can cause the walker to slide unexpectedly.
How to safely sit or stand when using a walker
It’s critical that your senior does NOT use the walker to help them sit or stand. Use the arms of a chair that won’t move or slide.
To sit down
- Back up until your legs touch the chair.
- Use your hands to feel behind you for the seat of the chair or chair arms.
- Slowly lower yourself into the chair, using the chair arms for support if needed.
Sit or stand up safely and correctly
To stand up
- Hold the chair’s arms and push up using your arms.
- When standing, hold the walker’s handles.
- Don’t ever pull on or tilt the walker to help you stand up.
Wrong way to stand when using a walker – dangerous!
Do’s and don’ts for walker safety
- Stay upright to protect your back. Don’t hunch over!
- Look straight ahead when walking.
- Always step into the walker, rather than walking behind it.
- Change directions slowly, taking small steps.
- Push the walker too far in front.
- Put the handles too high.
- Try to climb stairs.
Like with anything new, using a walker takes some practice. Try not to get too frustrated with your senior if it takes them a while to learn the ropes.
They may need many gentle reminders, but their safety and ability to get around independently will be worth the extra effort.