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Selecting the Right Mobility Aid

The Buyer's Guide to Carex Mobility Aids

Mobility, or being able to move freely from one place to another, is an important aspect of daily living. Decreased mobility or a lack thereof, whether due to surgery, illness, or aging, can substantially impact one’s ability to live independently or age in place, so it can be helpful to understand what mobility aids are available and which aid might be the best choice for you or your loved one.

There is a range of mobility aids available, including:

  • Canes
  • Crutches
  • Knee Scooters
  • Lifting Seats
  • Walkers
  • Rollators
  • Transport Chairs
  • Wheelchairs

Each aid provides users with different levels of mobility assistance. It’s important to make the right choice so that you or your loved one can move as safely and as independently as possible. This guide can help you understand each option better so that an informed decision can be made.

What to Consider Before Purchasing a Mobility Aid

Health
Health

When it comes to selecting the right mobility aid, health is the first thing to consider. How long are you able to stand up and what motions are you unable to perform? If you only have minor problems standing/walking, then a cane might be best for you. If walking/standing is a greater issue, then walkers, rollators, or wheelchairs may be the right choice. Consult a doctor to see which mobility tool is be for you.

Lifestyle
Lifestyle

When considering lifestyle, think about how active you or the person that will be using the mobility aid is. This is important considering others may have a more active lifestyle and may be on their feet performing different activities. Two people with the same level of mobility issues may require different mobility tools based on their level of activity.

Weight Limit
Weight Limit

Each mobility tool and aid comes with a set weight capacity. Be sure to select the right product that is able to support your/their weight.

Environment
Environment

You or your loved ones environment can heavily dictate which mobility tool they'll need. It's important to do a walk through of your/their house and take note of stairs, tight spaces, doors, and any other obstacles that may hinder mobility. Be sure to consider common places (such as parks, workplaces, stores, etc.) you/they go to. This is often forgotten about and can prove troublesome.

Budget
Budget

Be sure to check with your insurance to see if the mobility aid you need is covered. It's important to get the correct mobility aid and budget can be a deterrent. Select the right model that meets your needs while is also in your price range.

The Continuum of Mobility: A Guide to Decreased Mobility

The Continuum of Mobility is a helpful guide that lays out the stage of mobility that a person is in. It starts with active, where one has little to no issue with mobility. The coping stage is where some mobility support is needed from lifitng seats, walkers, and even rollators. The struggling stage may use the same mobility aids but require more use from them while also potentially needing a transport chair. In the inactive stage, a person has almost no independence and needs significant support from more than one mobility aid and potentially is in a wheelchair.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CONTINUUM OF MOBILITY

The Various Types of Mobility Aids, Products, and Accessories

Canes

Canes can be helpful in assisting those with minor injuries or minor balance and mobility issues by providing support on one side of the body while walking. They come in different styles and designs, such as single-tip or quad-tip and wooden or aluminum, and are often very lightweight and portable.

It is important to note that canes only provide support for one side of the body and do not support the body as a whole. A cane may not be useful for you if your entire body weight needs support.

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Choosing the Right Cane

Single vs. Quad Tip
Generally, canes come in two types of tip options, the single-tip and the quad-tip. Tripod cane tips can also be used but are not as common.

The single-tip cane is the most standard tip option, and for many with very minor mobility issues, it provides all of the support they need from a cane. However, quad-tip canes provide more stability than single-tip canes because they distribute the user’s weight over a wider area rather than resting it all on a single point.

A study done in 2018 found that quad-tip canes provide the most significant improvement in steadiness when compared to single-tip or tripod-tip canes. While this type of cane can be bulky and harder to store, it can stand on its own and may provide the necessary stability for those with a high fall risk and more significant balance issues, such as those recovering from a stroke.

Type of Handle
There are a variety of handle types available when choosing a cane. When making this choice, you should consider the level of comfort required when using the cane as well as any convenience or aesthetic preferences. 

Some of the most common handle options include: 

  • Round: This is the most standard and traditional option, and many choose it for its classic look and ability to be conveniently hooked on a chair or doorknob when not in use. However, this type of handle can be uncomfortable and hard to hold.  
  • Derby: This is a thicker, curved handle that offers more comfort than the standard round handle. It is ideal for those suffering from arthritis, but it is popular among all cane users due to being comfortable and easy to grip.
  • Offset: This type of cane has a bend in the shaft that is designed to position the handle over the length of the shaft to evenly distribute the user’s weight along it. The handle reduces strain on the wrist and is typically padded to provide a more comfortable grip. 
  • Ergonomic: Some canes offer an ergonomic handle, which is designed to be easy to grip and reduce shock and hand fatigue. Depending on the cane, some derby or offset canes have ergonomic handles.
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Buyer's Guide Selecting the Right Walking Cane

Learn more about selecting the perfect Cane

Our Walking Cane Buyer's Guide goes even more in depth into the different types of canes, their uses, key factors to consider, and more.

READ OUR CANES BUYER'S GUIDE

Crutches

Crutches can be most useful for those with temporary injuries that keep them from putting weight on their foot, ankle, or knee. They offer more support than canes but require more upper body strength and coordination to use.

As stated, crutches require upper body strength and coordination and may not be the right option for those who have balance issues. They can also be painful and inconvenient to use, putting stress on the armpit and taking away the accessibility of the arms. Because of this, crutches are typically only recommended for those with temporary injuries and not for those with chronic issues.

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Choosing the Right Crutches

Design
There are two different types of crutches to choose from, underarm and forearm, and knowing what each style provides and requires from you can help you decide which style is best for you.

Underarm Crutches
These are the standard, most common type of crutches that rest under your armpits. While they require upper body strength, they require less upper body strength than forearm crutches. They are typically easier to use but can be uncomfortable because they press against the body and can cause the user to slouch. Because of this, they are more often suitable for those who need crutches for only a short period of time. 

Forearm Crutches

Forearm crutches are more often suitable for long-term crutch users. This is because they take more upper body strength and coordination to use, which can take time to build up. They also tend to be more comfortable than underarm crutches, with forearm cuffs that reduce strain and pressure from the wrist and a design that requires good posture to be used easily.

Other design variations may also affect your choice, including folding crutches for easy storage and different colors or cushion types.

Size
You will want to ensure that your crutches are made to fit your height so that they are comfortable and safe to use. Crutch sizes and height ranges will vary depending on the distributor. Height ranges for Carex crutches are as follows: 

Standard Aluminum Crutches
  • Youth: 4’7” to 5’3” 
  • Adult: 5’2” to 5’10”
  • Tall: 5’10” to 6’6”
Forearm Crutches
  • 5'2" to 6'2"
Folding Crutches
  • Universal size; 4'11 to 6'4"
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Knee Scooters

kNEE sCOOTERS

Knee scooters offer a cushioned place to rest your leg, ankle, or foot while recovering from a surgery or injury. They are a more comfortable and stable alternative to crutches that allow your arms and hands to remain accessible for daily tasks and let you move around efficiently.

While knee scooters may be a preferable alternative to crutches, they can often be more expensive and harder to maneuver around obstacles such as stairs or uneven terrain. They may not be a suitable choice for those needing mobility assistance for a long period of time, as they can become more uncomfortable over time. They may also not be the right choice for those recovering from a knee injury or knee surgery because their weight is placed on the knee.

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wALKERS

Walkers provide stability to those who need help walking due to a risk of falls or significant balance issues. With four legs, they offer firm support that you can place most of your body weight into rather than only one side like with canes. Many walkers are also foldable and easy to transport.

Walkers may not be right for those with weakness in their upper body, arms, or hands, because walkers need to be lifted with both hands in order to be used correctly. There are wheeled walkers or accessories available that remove this limitation, but a rollator or wheelchair may be a better choice if this applies to you. 

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Choosing the Right WAlker

Standard vs. Wheeled
Standard walkers are the most common walkers with four stable legs that stay firmly on the ground and allow you to lean into the walker for full-body support. These walkers have to be lifted in order to be moved, so users should have adequate upper body strength.

As stated above, wheeled walkers can be helpful for those who do not have enough upper body strength to lift a standard walker. They are a hybrid of a rollator and a walker, with wheels on two legs. While these can be a helpful alternative to standard walkers, you may not be able to put as much of your weight into it.

Single vs. Dual Button
Walkers usually come with two different options: single button and dual button. Single-button walkers close all at once with that one button, so they’re able to be folded for transportation easily with one hand.

Conversely, dual-button walkers feature two buttons that close the walker one side at a time. This is useful for people who may want to close only one side of the walker and use the other side to stabilize themselves. However, both hands are needed to close these walkers completely, so those with less dexterity may find a single-button walker easier to use.

Hemi Walkers
Hemi walkers act more like a cane in that they support only one side of the body, but they have four legs that cover a wider area. You might prefer a hemi walker if you need to relieve only one side of the body but would like more stability than a cane may offer.

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cHOOSING wALKER aCCESSORIES

In addition to the different types of walkers, there are a variety of add-ons that you can purchase to make your walker more efficient or convenient to use. A few of them include:

Wheels

If you have been using a standard walker but your upper body strength weakens and you become unable to lift your walker, you don’t have to buy a whole new one. You can instead buy walker wheel attachments, which are easy to slide onto the front legs of a standard walker.

Glide Caps
Glide caps are a more durable alternative to the tennis balls you often see people place on the legs of their walkers. They help your walker slide more smoothly over most surfaces and are typically used on wheeled walkers or in conjunction with wheel attachments.

Platform Attachment
Walker platform attachments are useful for those with poor dexterity or weakened arms, as they allow you to place your weight on your arm rather than on your hand. They attach to one side of the walker and typically have a comfortable strap to keep your arm in place and a handle for added stability.

Basket
Walker baskets conveniently allow you to carry and store items while you use your walker, which can be useful especially for those who run errands with their walker. There are many different options available, including metal baskets with trays, canvas baskets, tote bags, and organizers, that all typically attach to the front of the walker. 

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Rollators

Rollators are a helpful alternative to walkers that do not have to be lifted and take less effort to push. They usually have swivel casters that make them easy to maneuver and brakes for added safety. They also feature a padded seat, offering those who tire easily while walking a place to sit and rest, and many include a space beneath the seat to store items.

It should be noted that rollators aren’t as stable and cannot safely support as much body weight as walkers because they have wheels on each leg. Rollators ARE NOT intended to be used as transportation devices. So, if you need to place much of your body weight on your mobility aid for support, it may be safer to choose a standard walker or wheelchair.

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Buyer's Guide: Selecting the Right Rollator

Learn More About Selecting the Right Rollator

Rollators offer a stable source of support. But selecting the right one can be overwhelming. We've taken the headache away with our Rollator Buyer's Guide. In our guide we cover important aspects such as height, wheel size, seat size, and more to make the selection process easier.

READ THE FULL BUYER'S GUIDE
Lifting Seats

Lifting Seats

Lifting seats safely and gently recline to help those who may have trouble sitting or standing. They can be a much more affordable alternative to lifting chairs and are often portable, allowing them to be used on any chairs or sofas inside the home. 

These are typically available in either electric or self-powered options. Electric lifting seats are powered by batteries or electricity and can be operated with a lever or remote. They provide 100% lift assistance, so they might be the right option for those who need significant assistance sitting and standing.

Self-powered lifting seats, on the other hand, are powered by a hydro-pneumatic gas spring and automatically activate as you stand. Because they don’t require batteries or electricity, they can be used anytime and anywhere, even outdoors. However, they only usually provide around 70 to 80% lift assistance.

While lifting seats can be beneficial, they only provide support to the lower body. You may consider using them with other aids, such as canes or walkers, to maintain balance when sitting and standing. You also should not use lifting seats with a wheelchair, as the chair may move while the seat is in use. 

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Wheelchairs

Wheelchairs can be helpful mobility aids for those who cannot walk or who tire easily while walking. They can be self-propelled by the user if they have adequate upper body strength or they can be pushed by someone else. Most wheelchairs can be customized and come in a variety of designs so that you can find the best aid for your unique needs.

It can be difficult to decide when it’s time to use a wheelchair. There is often the misconception that only those who cannot walk at all and need the full-body support every day should use a wheelchair, but there are many reasons someone might utilize this aid.

Some people, for example, still use a walker or cane and are part-time wheelchair users, only using it on particularly ‘bad days’ or in situations where they otherwise would have to stand for long periods of time or walk long distances. Others may be capable of walking, but it is incredibly difficult and causes more pain than it is worth, so they turn to a wheelchair for the necessary relief.

To determine if you should use a wheelchair, take into consideration how much you struggle with day-to-day tasks and how much you may be missing out on due to your illness, injury, or disability. If your pain or fatigue makes daily living difficult and keeps you from enjoying or partaking in things you enjoy, you may find a wheelchair helpful.  

Choosing the Right Wheelchair

Wheelchair Type

Sizing and Features
Once you decide on a type of wheelchair, each type comes in different sizes and with different features that you will want to pay attention to. 

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Buyer's Guide: Selecting the Right Wheelchair

Learn More About Selecting the Right Wheelchair

Our Wheelchair Buyer's Guide breaks down key factors to consider before purchasing. In it, we go over the various types of wheelchairs, key details to consider before purchasing, and more.

READ THE FULL BUYER'S GUIDE

Transport Chairs

Wheelchairs can be helpful mobility aids for those who cannot walk or who tire easily while walking. They can be self-propelled by the user if they have adequate upper body strength or they can be pushed by someone else. Most wheelchairs can be customized and come in a variety of designs so that you can find the best aid for your unique needs.

Transport chairs are not able to be self-propelled and are intended to be used for short periods of time, so they are best suited for part-time users who can still walk but may tire easily and have someone to propel them when needed. Otherwise, it can be helpful to have a transport chair in addition to a standard wheelchair for an alternative that is easy to fold and lift into the car on a day out.

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Choosing the Right Transport chair

Choosing a transport chair is somewhat similar to choosing a standard wheelchair. You will want to ensure its overall width can fit in and through passageways you need it to and that the seat and back measurements will fit you comfortably and safely. Some other factors to bear in mind are weight and wheel size.

Weight
Because transport chairs are intended to be a more lightweight and portable alternative to wheelchairs, you’ll want a transport chair that will be easy for you or a companion to lift in and out of a car. While all transport chairs are ‘light,’ you might prefer a lighter aluminum transport chair rather than a heavier steel one.

Wheel Size
All transport chairs have smaller wheels than wheelchairs, but their wheel sizes can vary. Consider what terrain you may be using your transport chair on; larger wheels are easier to use over rough terrain.

Transformer Wheelchair
People who are full-time wheelchair users and are considering a transport chair to use on short trips may find that a transformer wheelchair is a great option. Transformer wheelchairs have the large back wheels typical of a standard, self-propelled wheelchair, but those wheels have a “quick release” function that allows them to be removed. Underneath the standard wheels is a pair of smaller wheels typical of a transport chair for when a transport chair is prefered.

This option can be helpful for those who need a standard wheelchair and a transport chair but do not have room to store them both or can only afford one option. 

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Buyer's Guide: Selecting the Right Transport Chai

Learn More About Selecting the Right Transport Chair

Selecting the right transport chair doesn't have to be hard. Our buyer's guide takes the headache out of selecting. In it, we break down key factors such as size, type, wheel size, and more to help you select the right transport chair to meet your needs. 

READ THE FULL BUYER'S GUIDE

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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