Buyer's Guide: Selecting the Right Rollator
If you or a loved one has been having issues with mobility, you may be considering purchasing a rollator. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know, including who should use a rollator, the types of rollators, and what to look for when shopping, so that you can be sure to make the best choice.
What is a Rollator?
Rollators, or rolling walkers, are mobility devices with 3 to 4 legs and a broad base of support that provide stability for both sides of the body at once. They have wheels at the end of each leg for easy maneuverability and often feature a seat for a convenient place to rest.
Who Should Use a Rollator?
Rollators can provide necessary balance and stability for those at risk of falling and can more evenly support body weight than other devices, like canes. Using a rollator may be helpful for you if you:
- Have mild to moderate stability & balance issues
- Are recovering from surgery and need support on both sides of the body
- Tire quickly while walking and regularly need a place to rest
- Do not need to lean (weight-bearing) on the walker for balance
If you think a rollator might be right for you, you might want to consider the following pros and cons:
|- Supports both sides of the body
- Easy to maneuver over multiple terrains
- Provides a comfortable place to rest when tired
- Foldable and easy to transport
|- Requires some stability to operate safely|
- Requires the use of both hands and feet
- Cannot be pushed by another person when sat in
Rollator vs. Walker
With four legs and a wide base of their own, walkers provide much of the same support as rollators. The main difference between walkers and rollators is that rollators are fully wheeled with larger casters. While walkers may feature wheels, those wheels are typically smaller and only on two of the four legs.
Most rollators also have other features that walkers do not, including a seat, backrest, and handbrakes.
So, do I need a rollator or a walker?
Many people can safely get the support they need from either device. For them, it's primarily up to preference. Most prefer rollators due to the added convenience of the wheels and seat, but some may find that walkers are a better fit for them.
On the other hand, your physical condition may require you to use a rollator rather than a walker, or vice versa. For instance, those with weak upper body strength may find it difficult to lift a walker and benefit more from a rollator they can push.
As noted earlier, rollators require some stability to be used safely. Because they have wheels on all legs, they cannot safely support as much bodyweight as a walker can. If you have stability issues requiring you to put most of your body weight on your mobility aid, you would likely benefit more from a walker.
It is important to note that Rollators ARE NOT intended to be used as transportation devices. If you need a transportation device, transport chairs or wheelchairs are highly recommended.
Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Rollator
So, what is the best rollator? There's no single "best rollator" in particular; it mostly depends on your personal needs and preferences. To know which type of rollator to get and how to find the best of its kind for you, you'll want to consider the following:
Three vs Four Wheels
One of the first things you'll consider is whether to buy a three-wheel or four-wheel rollator. Both options have their strengths and weaknesses.
Three-wheel rollators are narrower, giving them a tighter turning radius and making it easier for them to fit through smaller passageways. Because of this, many people prefer them for indoor use. They're also more lightweight and portable. However, with only three wheels, these rollators are less stable and don't come equipped with a seat.
Four-wheel rollators are more commonly preferred. Despite being wider and heavier than three-wheel rollators, they are more stable and can accommodate a broader range of weights and heights. They also often come equipped with a convenient seat to rest on if you tire from walking.
In addition to the number of wheels on your rollator, you'll want to take into consideration the size of the wheels' diameter. Most rollator wheels are between 6 and 10 inches, and wheels 8 inches or above are considered "large."
Many people find that a rollator with large wheels is the best rollator for them. Larger wheels allow you to better maneuver the rollator outdoors and over uneven terrain. Consider where you will be using your rollator: will you often need it outside or over different terrains? If that's a possibility, it's best to purchase a rollator with larger wheels.
If you think you'll mostly be using your rollator indoors, 6- to 7-inch wheels could be a better option. You'll most often be moving over even ground, and smaller wheels have a tighter turning radius that is better for maneuvering your rollator inside.
If you prefer a rollator with a seat to rest on, you'll want to ensure it's comfortable. For optimum comfort, look for a rollator with a padded or sling seat. Unpadded plastic seats, while easier to clean, can quickly become painful to sit on.
You will also want to pay attention to the seat dimensions. Most standard rollator seat widths run small, between 13" and 18", but the inside width of the rollator will be several inches wider. To determine the right width for you, measure the width of your backside when sitting on a flat surface. Add an inch or two to this measurement to ensure comfortable seating.
Seat to Floor Height
The seat-to-floor height, or seat height, should allow you to sit comfortably without your feet dangling. Measure the length from the floor to the crease in the back of the user's knee while the user's standing in everyday shoes. This measurement will indicate the seat-to-floor height you should look for in a rollator.
It can be helpful to purchase a rollator with an adjustable seat-to-floor height to make adjustments as needed.
To find the appropriate handle height, the user should stand in their regular shoes with their arms at their side and elbows bent slightly. Measure the distance between the floor and the center of their wrist while in this position. This measurement will be the appropriate handle height for them. You may find that you need to purchase a rollator made specifically for taller or shorter people.
Most rollators will be handle height adjustable, but many users find that the best rollators have a wide adjustment range. That way, it can be adjusted an inch or two higher or lower than the measurement if needed.
Your rollator should easily fit through frequently used doors and passageways. To ensure this, measure what you believe to be the narrowest space in your most frequented locations, such as your home, school, or workplace. Look for a rollator with an overall width at least an inch or two less than this measurement. Most rollators will be between 22" and 31" wide.
The overall weight of the rollator can be substantial, especially if you'll need one that can be transported anywhere. A lightweight rollator is ideal for traveling and easily portable. Lightweight rollator frames are typically made with aluminum, allowing them to be as lightweight as 11 pounds.
Other rollators can weigh up to 26 pounds, but if you won't be traveling with yours often, this may be suitable for you. Be sure to pay attention to the overall weight of potential rollators to find one that is best for your situation.
The rollator's weight capacity should also be considered to ensure that it can safely support the user. Standard rollators can typically support between 250 and 350 pounds. You may find that you need a heavy-duty rollator, which usually has a weight capacity between 400 and 500 pounds.
You should also consider any accessories you may need or want for your rollator in addition to the appropriate specifications.
Most rollators come with a storage basket or pouch, so consider which would be best for you. Many people prefer a pouch because it can collapse with the rollator and store items privately. While baskets store items visibly and have to be removed before collapsing the rollator, some prefer them for their ability to store larger items.
Other accessories may be available to purchase separately. You may want a basket organizer or an organizer pouch to easily store smaller items, a cup/cane holder, or a portable flashlight.
Does It Fold?
Most people find that the best rollators are easily foldable so that they can conveniently be placed in a vehicle and transported if necessary. You'll likely want a folding rollator, especially if you plan on traveling with it.
Are Replacement Parts Easily Accessible?
You will want your rollator to last as long as you need it. The best way to ensure this is to purchase a rollator with readily available replacement parts. This way, if it becomes damaged in any way, you will only have to replace the damaged component rather than the entire rollator.
Sometimes, there will be a link to where to buy replacement parts right on the rollator's product page. If not, you may have to search the company's website for "replacement parts" or contact the company directly to determine if replacement parts are available for the rollator you're interested in.
Types of Rollators
Once you've decided that a rollator is the best mobility device for you, sorting through all of your options can get overwhelming. There are four main types of rollators: four-wheel, three-wheel, heavy-duty, and rollator/transport hybrid.
The four-wheel rollator is the most common type of rollator. As its name suggests, it has four wheels: two swivels in the front and two fixed wheels in the back. These rollators also feature padded seats to rest on, usually equipped with a storage pouch beneath the seat.
Three Wheel Rollator
Three-wheel rollators have one wheel in the front and two wheels in the back, making them slimmer and more compact. However, because they are more narrow, these rollators are not able to be equipped with seats and usually only come with a storage bag.
Bariatric, or heavy-duty, rollators are made with more durable materials and bigger wheels. This makes them heavier, but also more durable and better able to support higher weights safely. These rollators usually have weight capacities of up to 500 lbs.
Rollator Transport Chair Hybrid
These devices allow for the rollator to easily be transformed into a transport chair when needed. Users can walk independently or be pushed by someone else with one cost-effective device rather than purchasing both a rollator and a transport chair. These can be especially beneficial for those recovering from surgery or injury, who only need to be pushed by someone else in the early stages of recovery before transitioning to a rollator.
How to Properly Use a Rollator
In addition to materials, some wheelchairs may offer part variations and different accessories that you can choose. Each choice will depend on your needs and preferences.
When you get your rollator, the first thing you should immediately ensure that the seat and handle height settings are adjusted to your needs. While you've likely purchased the proper rollator for your measurements, it may need to be adjusted to those measurements. You may also find that the right height for you differs from what you measured.
If your rollator's seat height is adjustable, make that adjustment first. Then, adjust the handles to a comfortable height that allows you to push the rollator without bending forward or bending your elbows too much.
To properly walk with a rollator, follow these steps:
- With the rollator in front of you, stand close and grip the handles. Ensure that you are balanced and centered between the rear wheels.
- Walk normally and with even steps. It is safest to put most of your weight on your legs, but keep your hands on the handles and use the rollator for support when needed.
- Use the brakes to keep the rollator close to you and moving at a steady pace.
- To turn, take small steps to pivot your body, keeping the walker in front of you. The walker will turn with you. For tighter turns, engage the brakes on only one side. For example, when making a right turn, engage the right brake with the left break off.
Do NOT use a rollator to go up or downstairs.
To properly sit on your rollator, follow these steps:
- Push down the brake levers to lock the breaks. This will ensure your safety, so the rollator does not roll out from under you.
- With your back to the chair and legs close to the seat, balance yourself with your hands on both handles or both sides of the seat.
- Gently and slowly sit down. To maintain control, avoid sitting with too much force or too quickly.
- Make sure the brakes are still locked.
- Scoot to the edge of the seat and plant your feet directly and firmly under you.
- Lean forward, grabbing the handles or seat to keep balanced and help yourself transfer the weight from your bottom to your feet.
- Slowly turn around and center yourself between the rollator's rear wheels. When you feel balanced, you can unlock the brakes and start walking.
Can You Push Someone in a Rollator?
No, it is not safe to push users in most rollators. If you need a rollator but also need to be pushed by someone else on occasion, we recommend purchasing a rollator/transport hybrid. These rollators transform into transport chairs, allowing you to push someone in them.
How much Do Rollators Cost
Standard rollators can cost anywhere between $60 and $200, while deluxe and bariatric rollators can be up to $350. Three-wheel rollators start at around $80.
Are Rollators Covered by Medicare?
Yes, rollators are covered by Medicare in most cases. A rollator must be deemed "medically necessary" to be covered by Medicare, meaning it is necessary to treat an injury or condition or its symptoms. This can be determined and documented by your doctor, and once approved by Medicare, you will receive a prescription for a rollator from a Medicare-approved supplier.
Can I Take My Rollator on a Plane?
Yes, rollators are considered "Assistive Devices" by the U.S. Department of Transportation and are allowed on airplanes. Because your rollator is an assistive device, it will not be counted toward your carry-on or baggage limit. You will not have to pay an extra fee if you check it with your luggage.
About the Author
Stephanie Schwarten is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelors degree in Professional Writing. She specializes in content marketing as well as both developmental and copy editing.
About Carex Health Brands
Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.
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