Mobility is how well you can walk and move, whether that’s getting to the bathroom or kitchen on your own or doing fun things like going out to lunch with friends and traveling. Many people lose mobility as they age or because of health conditions or surgery. When you can’t walk easily or comfortably you may stay home more, which can leave you feeling lonely and cut off from people and things you enjoy.
Being mobile isn’t just important for your independence. It can also help you avoid some health problems, including depression, incontinence, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Plus, regular walking and movement can help prevent falls by keeping your muscles strong and maintaining your balance.
How can I improve my mobility?
The best thing you can do is get physically active. Do a combination of aerobic exercise to get your heart pumping (like walking or swimming), resistance exercises to build and maintain your muscles (like lifting weights) and stretching to improve your flexibility.
You’re never too old to start exercising. No matter what your age, when you start an exercise program, you’ll benefit. There are many ways to get your heart pumping even if you have trouble walking or are not able to move your body well. You can exercise while sitting in a chair or in a pool using flotation devices. Talk to your doctor for specific exercises.
Mobility aids help you get around on your own without wearing yourself out or worrying about falling. These aids give you greater independence. As a result, you’ll probably rely less on others to help you with daily tasks. You might be surprised to learn how many aids are on the market. They’re designed to fit all kinds of lifestyles and budgets, and they range from low-tech to more advanced options, including canes, crutches, walkers, wheeled walkers (called rollators), manual wheelchairs, pushrim-activated power-assist wheelchairs (called PAPAWs), motorized scooters, and power wheelchairs. Your Sunflower Home Health provider will be able to tell you which mobility aids are right for you and your situation, but we will discuss some of them below.
Canes come in different sizes, styles, and materials. They’re usually lightweight, and some can even be folded when you’re not using them.
There are two main types:
Single-point: These are the most common and have only one point touching the ground.
Multi-point or quad: With these canes, multiple points touch the ground, four in the case of quad canes. They can stand on their own and offer more support than single-point canes.
What do I need to know to walk with a cane?
Canes come in different lengths, so make sure you choose one that is adjusted to your height to prevent back, shoulder, elbow, or wrist pain. To find the right height: While wearing your regular shoes, stand tall with your arms at your sides. The top of the cane should meet your wrist. If the cane is adjusted to the right length, you should have a 20-degree to 30-degree bend in your elbow.
If you’re using a quad cane, make sure all four points are on the ground.
If the main reason you’re using a cane is for balance, hold it in either hand. Otherwise, hold it in the hand opposite your injured or weaker leg.
As you step with your weaker leg, move the cane forward the same distance.
As you step with your stronger leg, put pressure on the cane to take some of the weight off your weaker leg.
Check the tip (or tips) of your cane regularly and replace them when they’re worn to avoid falls.
There are two types of crutches:
Underarm crutches: These are placed under your arms and are generally used for short-term leg injuries.
Forearm crutches: More comfortable than underarm crutches, these have arm cuffs that wrap around the forearms with handgrips for support. They’re better for long-term use.
What do I need to know to use crutches?
- Adjust the height to keep good posture.
- Place the crutches under your arms.
- Move the crutches forward 6 to 12 inches at a time.
- Push down on the hand grips and step past the crutches.
- Find your balance before taking another step.
- Pay extra attention when walking on uneven or wet surfaces.
Walkers or Rollators
- Standard walkers don’t have wheels, while rollators have four wheels, a storage basket, and a fixed or flip-down seat.
- Both can be folded and are easy to transport.
- Standard walkers and rollators are height-adjustable, so always check that yours is suited to you to avoid injury.
- You need both arms to be functioning to use these.
- When using a rollator, put the brakes on before you sit or stand.
- Be careful when moving between carpet and flooring or stepping in and out of an elevator.
- Don’t use your walker on stairs and escalators.
How do I use a walker or rollator?
- stand with your feet in the middle of the walker, holding the grips.
- Use good posture and avoid leaning forward.
- Move the walker forward until the walker’s back legs are even with your toes.
- Step your weaker leg forward into the middle of your walker.
- Step your stronger leg forward into the middle of your walker.
What should I know about transport wheelchairs?
- You can’t propel them yourself. Transport chairs are pushed from behind by another person, like a caregiver or family member.
- They are meant to be used for short outings, like day trips with your family.
- Make sure the chair is lightweight and flexible so that it’s easy to lift, carry, and store.
- Consider the wheel size. Large wheels (above 7 inches) will work well on rough or uneven ground.
- Choose one with an adjustable footrest and comfortable armrests.
- Some have padded seats, but many don’t. Make sure the chair is one you’ll be comfortable sitting in for several hours.
- Check that your home is suited for a transport wheelchair. Narrow doorways can make it hard to use.
What should I know about manual wheelchairs?
- Choose one that’s lightweight and has adjustable wheels and seating. You may also consider one that folds.
- Get the wheelchair set to fit you so you can move around safely.
- Check that your home is suited for a manual wheelchair. Steps, narrow hallways and doorways, and inclines can make it hard to get around by yourself.
- Ask an expert how to use your wheelchair properly, including how to propel yourself (with long, smooth strokes to avoid stressing the upper body) and how to maneuver curbs, turn in a tight space, and travel down a steep incline.
- Always put the brakes on whenever you’re getting in or out of your chair to avoid falls.
What should I know about pushrim-activated power-assist wheelchairs (PAPAWs)?
Unlike manual wheelchairs, PAPAWs help you get over surfaces like grass and gravel. PAPAWs have special wheels with battery-operated motors that attach to a wheelchair. Sensors on the wheels detect when you need more “oomph,” making it easier to move the wheelchair over challenging terrain.
Because you’re not exerting yourself as much as you would with a standard wheelchair, you can often move faster for longer distances.
Here are other things to consider when buying or using a PAPAW:
- Make sure the PAPAW will move through hallways and doors in your home.
- PAPAWs are heavy, adding as much as 50-plus pounds to a wheelchair. Make sure you have equipment to lift and place it in your vehicle.
- You’ll have to check the batteries regularly. Otherwise, moving the wheelchair could be difficult.
Like motorized scooters, power wheelchairs are battery-driven. They’re usually run by a control panel that includes a joystick and set of buttons. They come in three main types based on where the drive wheel is located: Rear-wheel, mid-wheel, and front-wheel.
Here are some other things to consider when buying or using power wheelchairs:
- You can choose chairs with specialized seating systems: Some chairs tilt, raise the legs, and recline, which can be helpful if you can’t get in and out of a basic power wheelchair by yourself or you need to change positions throughout the day.
- Power wheelchairs usually can’t be disassembled for transport. To get around, you’ll need a van with a ramp or automated lift.
- Make sure it can fit your home before you buy it.
- You’ll need to have your power wheelchair maintained to keep it working properly.
What should I know about motorized scooters?
These battery-powered vehicles come in different weights and sizes and have either three or four wheels. No matter how many wheels you choose, though, their basic operation is the same. You turn the scooter on and off with a key and steer with a switch. The seat swivels to the side to help you sit and stand more easily.
If you or someone you know needs help with mobility or mobility aids, please don’t hesitate to navigate to the contact us form and reach out or give us a call at your local office. Those numbers are listed below:
Charleston – (662) 647-0653
Clarksdale – (662) 624-4141
Cleveland – (662)756-4676
Greenwood – (662) 455-3535
Grenada – (662) 294-0726
Indianola – (662) 887-1518
At Sunflower Home Health, we truly believe that education and awareness are the keys to making the Mississippi Delta a healthy and safe place to live, something that we are committed to making a reality.