The right walking frame
For many people who are unsteady on their feet, the use of a walking frame can provide them with extra support and stability and the security to venture out of their homes.
For those with permanent disabilities or recovering from an injury or surgery and the elderly who are vulnerable to falls, walking frames are ideal for maintaining a sense of independence. While they are good for walking short to medium distances, anything further may require a wheelchair or mobility scooter. Depending upon the model, walking frames can have additional accessories such as a basket for shopping or a seat to meet the user’s requirements.
Here are some key points to consider when choosing the right mobility aid:
A walking frame takes the excess weight off the legs and distributes the user’s body weight into the arms. This may help to minimise any pain or discomfort caused by the weight of the body. The user may then be able to walk for longer periods without tiredness or fatigue.
Choosing a walking frame
It is important to consider the user's height and choose a walking frame that best supports them. An incorrect height, causing the user to bend or stretch excessively would be uncomfortable and make the user reluctant to use the frame. The recommendation is for the height to be taken in the same way as for using a walking stick; measure from the ground to the wrist bone with the arms at the side.
Types of Walking Frames
Four-wheeled, three-wheeled, two-wheeled and immobile/pick-up frames, there are numerous types to consider. The user’s walking and balance requirements will determine the suitability of the type chosen. Advice from a physiotherapist who is aware of the user’s requirements is recommended when making this decision.
Some more considerations
- Will the walking frame be used indoors, outdoors, on smooth surfaces such as in a shopping centre, where there are stairs or uneven areas such as a nature track or path?
- Are there times when the walker will need to be transported either in a car or on public transport? Think about the weight of the frame and its ease of being folded up and lifted by a family member, carer or bus driver.
- Be certain of the comfort of the user concerning the correct height of the handles. Suggest having a trial run before settling on a particular frame. Some people may be so excited at the prospect of this newfound independence or like to avoid too much fuss and say yes just to get the process of choosing a walking frame over with quickly. Enquire about a trial period for the return or exchange of a unit.
- Have a dedicated spot for parking, so it is accessible and easily stored to maintain the walking frame in good condition. If it is being parked on a deck or near a door consider having a cover to protect it from the weather.
New, second-hand, hired?
If you’re considering purchasing a second-hand unit, perhaps from an elderly neighbour, or relative or from a buy swap and sell site such as eBility, this could be a good option to save some money. For short-term use, hiring or the loan of a frame might be the go. The advice is to have it thoroughly checked to avoid getting a substandard and quite possibly dangerous one that will then need to be repaired or replaced prematurely. The intention of such equipment is to enhance the user's mobility, not to increase their sense of anxiety or fear each time they use it.
Making it yours
The use and ownership of personal equipment are often clinical, but your equipment can be customised and personalized to you! It has been nice to notice how people really show their gratitude for the sense of security it provides them. Some decorate their frame with colourful stickers, tape or ribbons. It is in a way, when correctly measured, a true extension of itself. Asking around in your circle of friends or relatives to see what they use or recommend, and visiting mobility aids suppliers are good first steps to start the process of getting a walking frame.