Canes vs Walkers and Rollators - Which One Is Right for You?Back to Blog

Canes vs Walkers and Rollators - Which One Is Right for You?

3/16/2015

Mobility

With age often come joint problems, illness, neurological issues and injuries that could leave one with difficulty maintaining balance and in need a helping hand. If instability is a problem, help is available in the form of assistive walking devices which come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials in a range of prices. Canes, walkers and rollators are all excellent options, thereby allowing a greater degree of independence, maximizing mobility and minimizing falls. Armed with some information and, of course, the advice of a healthcare professional, selecting the apparatus that will best suit one's needs may be less daunting.
 
Canes
Canes are the most basic and common mobility aids. They are portable; allow for maneuvering in tighter spaces than a walker or rollator would; are affordable; and are readily available, often only as far away as a drugstore.
 
Standard and Traditional Wooden Canes -- With one point of contact with the ground, these canes feature a hook (or C curve) handle and are designed for patients who need additional but minimal assistance with balance. Standard canes are generally made of aluminum - which makes them lightweight yet sturdy - and are height adjustable, while the wooden cane is not height adjustable. This type of cane may be beneficial to those with mild balance, motor skills or joint/skeletal issues
 
Functional Grip or Offset Handle Canes -- These canes will have a straight grip as opposed to the C curve, providing a more secure grip, better control and stability, and decreased stress on the wrist and arm. If a device is going to be used to bear weight, for example for use by a patient with hip or knee problems, an offset cane might be the best choice.
 
Quad or Tripod Canes -- Canes with three or four feet allow for greater weight-bearing and stability than single-point canes. They are available with a small base, a design that allows for a faster pace, or a large base, which provides more stability but requires a slower pace.
 

There are several features to consider when choosing a cane.
 
Grip - As the main point of contact, a comfortable grip is essential. The traditional round or hook handle could be difficult to hold on to for some. Contoured or padded grips may be more comfortable as well as more secure in the hand.
 
Handle - Certain ones, such as the offset handle, offer more support, while a traditional hook handle provides less. With the hook handle, however, you can easily free up your hands by hanging it over your arm. Additionally, the proper handle will not put stress on your wrist. Ergonomic and offset grips specifically address the stress on wrist, while palm grips reduce strain on the entire arm. Still other handles are available that may particularly helpful for those with weak fingers or arthritis.
 
Tip - Canes usually have a reinforced tip -- often high density rubber -- to increase traction and add stability. As the tips take a lot of wear and tear, replacement tips are readily available.
 
Height -- Improper height can make a cane uncomfortable to use and can exacerbate balance issues. The proper height of the cane should be equal to the distance between the wrist and the ground.
 
Walkers, Rolling Walkers & Rollators
If a cane will not provide suitable assistance, a walker could be the better solution. For those who are at a higher risk of falling or have had major surgery, the wide base on this ambulatory device offers considerably more support. Walkers are easy to use, lightweight, collapsible and inexpensive. They are designed for users with adequate coordination and the upper body strength necessary for lifting and moving the device forward. Those who may lack the strength to lift a walker but who have greater stability and don't want to be slowed down may consider a rolling walker. With two wheels on the front legs, it advances forward with a push but the standard rear legs prevent it from rolling away.
 
Walkers can be equipped with trays or baskets to help carry belongings since both hands are used on the assistive device. The drawbacks are that walkers are a bit more cumbersome and could be difficult to maneuver with in narrow spaces, on uneven terrain or up and down stairs.
 
Still another option is the rollator, which is essentially a walker/wheelchair hybrid featuring four wheels and hand brakes. They are usually equipped with a padded seat and padded backrest. Like a walker, a rollator offers more support than a cane. Unlike a walker, though, it allows those who still like to move about but tire easily a ready spot for resting. It is a good option for those who have difficulty lifting a walker, and its swiveling wheels allow the device to turn and take corners smoothly. Standard wheels of about 6 inches are appropriate for indoor use; larger wheels navigate more smoothly on uneven or rough terrain, though they are suitable for indoor and outdoor use.
 
Rollators come in a range of models, from basic to deluxe, and sizes to accommodate various body types and needs. They are often customizable with optional accessories like cup-holders, baskets, bells and stylish fabrics.
 
All of these devices are meant to keep a body moving. Selecting the proper one is crucial and can make all the difference in promoting self-sufficiency, preventing injury and improving quality of life.

 

To read more about Home Mobility for Seniors, click here.

To read more about Fall Prevention Strategies, click here.

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