Walker w/seat vs. lite wheelchair for mall trips?

ericasjJuly 12, 2009

Hi-I'm not entirely new here, but I haven't popped in here very often since my mother's stroke last year--life is busy and I just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Hope you don't mind a question from a near-stranger...

My mother has accepted using a cane for short spurts, the walker given to her at the hospital last year for slightly longer distances (2 wheels, no seat), and is using the shower chair that I finally just went and bought over her objections. Now it's obvious she needs something she can sit on during longer shopping trips. She no longer drives, but does like to get out.

Some stores have the battery operated chairs with baskets, and that's a big help. Even leaning on a standard shopping cart does the job if she can sit down for coffee half-way through a grocery shopping trip. But at our local mall, the only wheelchairs available are kept in the center of the mall. I'd have to leave her alone, walk all the way in to get one, bring it back out, then leave her alone again to return it and walk back to the car. It's just not feasible.

She's seen people with those rollator-style walkers with 4 wheels, brakes, a seat and often a basket. But there are so many kinds, and I've read that a physical therapist should really make sure the style and size of walker is correct for the person's condition. Otherwise it could actually be more dangerous for the person than nothing at all. She's not even getting PT right now, and if she were, I wouldn't want to get into a conversation about this in front of her. She doesn't want to spend the money, or for me to spend the money--it's better if, like the shower chair, it just appears!

She is almost 92, seems frail, has a gait problem, osteoporosis and arthritis/disk problems in her back. Her back has been bothering her lately, and her family doctor has given her prescription pain patches. She needs to lean. Her reactions are a bit slow, but mentally she's in good shape.

Anyway, I have my eye on Medline's Deluxe Rollator MDS86810 but reviewers have one complaint about it--it doesn't fold up small enough to fit well in most car's trunks. Between that and worrying about safety--maybe we'd be better off with a super lightweight wheelchair? (Oh, when she was in the hospital she did get used to wheeling herself up and down the halls, using the brakes, etc.)

Anybody have thoughts on this?

Here is a link that might be useful: Deluxe Rollator on Amazon

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Assuming your mom's definitely OK for a four-wheel walker, there is one that is much superior to the others. Mom (97 with one hip replacement and a pin in the other) has had this one for about two years. Several therapists who have seen it have asked for information/source for it because they've seen its so much better than what most of their patients have. Yes, it's more expensive. However in terms of useability, durability, and convenience it's worth it. If this is going to be part of your mom's life from now on (that's how it is for us) you should have a good one. Did a lot of research and sampling. This is the best we found.

Here is a link that might be useful: Best rolling walker IMHO

    Bookmark   July 12, 2009 at 1:48PM
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Asolo, I wish I had seen that walker years ago. I think rolling walkers should serve two customers -- the people who actually use them for walking and also the people who have to fold them up and get them in & out of automobiles. From the description, it sounds like your suggestion fits the bill. I'm going to save that info for the next time my mom needs a new walker.

Erica, although I think Asolo's suggested walker is great, you might find a trip to a nearby medical equipment store informative. Look in the Yellow Pages to find a couple. Then you can go see some samples of what's available and give them a test ride. And you could practice folding them up. Maybe even measure some and get their weights to help you understand what you'll be dealing with. You could ask all kinds of questions too and get a lot more information. You'd get a better sense of the kind of products available and what would and would not work in your particular situation. You might even find the walker Asolo referred to. Call around to see if a local store carries it.

My mom has had three such walkers. The first one we bought did not have hand brakes because my mom was afraid she would never learn how to use them. It braked when she sat down in it. The benefit was that it never rolled out from under her as she was attempting to sit down. That sometimes can be a problem for some people. The disadvantage was that once she sat down, the walker wouldn't move, so I couldn't wheel her at all nor could she scoot herself with her feet.

The second walker she had was similar to the rollator you referred to. She somehow managed to figure out how to use the brakes. The advantage to me was that she could sit down and I could roll her a short distance. I usually did that when we couldn't find a handicapped parking space near the entrance to one of her doctors. I'd roll her from the parked car to the entrance and then she'd use her walker on her own to get to the actual office. That walker eventually developed a weird squeak that wouldn't go away no matter how many times the wheels, bearings, etc. were adjusted. I didn't think it was a big deal, but it really embarrassed my mom, so I got her another rollator about a year ago.

The ability to easily fold up a walker is important to the one who does most of the transporting. That's why it might be a good idea to see some of these walkers in person and try them out. If you go to a really helpful store, you should be able to test run folding the walker up and getting it into your trunk.

You also need to consider how much it weighs. Combine the walker's awkward shape with too much weight and you're looking at back problems for yourself.

For what it's worth, I've also got a transport chair for my mom. These chairs do not have the gigantic front wheels of a traditional wheelchair so they're much lighter in weight. The user cannot propel herself by rotating the front wheels with her hands. It's either someone else pushing the chair or the user just scooting herself along with her feet. I only use the transport chair after a visit to the ER or when I know we're going somewhere that would require extensive walking (like a festival). But the thing to note, is that because of its weight and awkward shape, it's even harder for me to deal with. The lifting up and into the trunk and then up and out of the trunk plus pushing my mom around does me in for several days. I much prefer the rolling walker because it's lighter.

By the way, I'd take that advice about working with a PT with a grain of salt. Who's to say a PT has all the information on the latest brands and models of walkers out there? The biggest danger is someone not using them correctly. Like forgetting to set the brakes before trying to sit down. Or just using one hand to hang onto them. Or moving way too fast. Good luck with your search.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2009 at 4:59PM
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"I think rolling walkers should serve two customers -- the people who actually use them for walking and also the people who have to fold them up and get them in & out of automobiles."

Well said!

If this device is going to be part of your everyday life going forward, it is an important decision. I've had lots of experience with poorly conceived and poorly built versions. You don't want one.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2009 at 5:36PM
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Thanks for all the info. I've added that walker to my Amazon wish list!

For the time being, I went ahead and ordered a transport chair that got really good reviews. As you say, asolo, this sort of thing is going to be part of my mom's life from here on, and I'm sure we'll put it to use even if we get a rolling walker, too. I like the idea that the chair is small enough, folded, to keep in my car at all times and still have room for grocery shopping, etc.

I think I'll take info on the Dana Douglas one to her doctor, to see if she thinks my mom could handle that type ok. At least having the transport chair will help the immediate problem, and buy me some time looking into the walker.

Thanks again!

Here is a link that might be useful: Transport chair

    Bookmark   July 12, 2009 at 8:52PM
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Hi,This is my first post to this forum. I have been lurking for awhile. I am an only child & caregiver for my parents. Mom's doctor gave me a prescription for a walker. I carried the prescription to the medical supply store & the walker was covered by Medicare. The folks at medical supply were very helpful in choosing the right walker for Mom.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2009 at 2:33PM
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The walkers covered by Medicare are the lightweight two-wheeled 'zimmers' which are great for around the house. But the more expensive ones with a seat and four wheels, which are much preferred for distances and any but the most smooth of indoor surfaces.

Welcome, Shadyrestbaskets. You are among friends here!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2009 at 8:04PM
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