Medical Equipment for Senior Care or Home Health Care
My aging mother is showing signs of needing assistance getting around and more support than a cane can provide. What is the difference between a walker and rollator?
Walkers and rollators are both designed to assist with mobility and stability, making it easier for seniors, disabled persons or recovering patients to get around. Four legged walkers without wheels are the most stable of the home medical devices. These walkers require the user to pick up the device and move it forward, step forward with both feet(one at a time of course), then pick up and move the walker forward again. This is a slower method to move around but the most stable requiring the person to keep both hands on the unit and supplying support on two sides (the person moves within the frame of the walker). Walkers with wheels on the front allow the user to pick up the back of the walker to roll it forward instead of picking up the whole unit to move it. This is a better option for people with less strength. It can allow for more mobility if the person is capable of continuously walking in a forward motion without stopping. The walker is stationary when the person pushes down on the unit for support causing the back legs (without wheels) to plant and prevent the walker from moving. Neither walker style requires brakes which is a benefit for individuals that have little hand strength. Most walkers are made of aluminum to keep the units light weight. Walkers for bariatric people need to be made out of steel instead of aluminum. Most walkers do not offer a seat accessory due to the fact the frame is not designed to hold weight in that manner. Because walkers do not have seats they are not ideal for individuals that tire easily.
Rollators are sometimes referred to as walkers with wheels. Rollators support a person while moving in a similar manner as leaning on a shopping cart and walking. The individual controls the pace at which the unit moves. Rollators come in 3 and 4 wheel designs. The 3 wheel design is for maneuvering in smaller spaces, but is less stable. Several models of rollators come standard with a padded seat. Some offer seats that fold up so the person can walk within the frame of the device for better stability. Rollators will have brakes. The most common type of brake is the loop or cable brake. These are similar to the brakes found on a bicycle and are engaged by squeezing the hand brake. These types of brakes usually come with a locking mechanism which is used when the individual is seated on the rollator. The other style of break is called a pressure brake and is applied to the rear wheels when the frame is pushed down on. Rollators are built more durable since the weight of the unit is not as much of an issue since they are pushed and not picked up to move. They also need to support the weight of a person for sitting. Rollators can have 6” or 8” wheels. The larger wheels are used for rougher terrain. Some rollators offer the folding feature for fitting into vehicles for traveling.
Things to consider when picking out the right device for an individual include the person’s weight, height, mobility needs and stability. Most important is to be sure to fit the unit to the person’s correct weight. Most units come with adjustable height features but be sure to check for this. If a person is very active and mobile they will probably prefer a rollator over a walker, however stability must also be considered. Rollators that allow the person to walk within the frame are more stable than models that are pushed only. Remember the most stable home medical devices are walkers with 2 or no wheels.
As a convenience some people find it easier to have a walker or rollator for each floor of the house or one for indoor and one for outdoor use. It is not uncommon for people to have either a combination or multiple rollators and walkers.
Walker and rollator accessories include pouches, baskets and trays that attach to the front of the unit to assisting in carrying objects while keeping hands free for maneuvering the device. Homes with individuals using walkers or rollators should avoid using throw rugs, since these may cause difficultly for the person using the device and create a safety hazard.