Rollators and Walkers: Understanding Your Options

By:
Stephanie Chong

Last month, NNV members and volunteers attended a training on Safe Navigation in the Community offered in partnership with Chevy Chase House and Fox Rehab. Meghan Boone, MPT offered a wealth of information that was too good to keep to ourselves! In this first article of a three-part series, we will address what you need to know about rollators and walkers:

Rollators vs. Rolling Walkers

Rollators and rolling walkers are very popular. There are so many on the market that it can be hard to know which one is right for you.

Rollators come in different colors and styles. They often have a seat, which is a popular option for people who need rest periods. Rollators have a brake for transferring, sitting, or when not in use. Rollators can fold but they are bulkier than a rolling walker and their weight can vary depending on the model. Rollators are a great option for people who need a place to store things like an oxygen tank, but are not recommended for people who are unsteady since the front wheels swivel.  

Rolling Walkers are standard gray walkers with two wheels in the front that do not swivel. Because the wheels do not swivel, rolling walkers are recommend for people who are unsteady. Rolling walkers are light weight, portable, and easy to fold and store. Bags and baskets can be attached to provide storage. Rolling walkers do not have a seat.

How to Pick the Right Assistive Device

The type of assistive device you choose varies by personal preference or need.  The most appropriate way to determine which device is right for you is to have a Physical Therapist (PT) make an assessment and recommend the type of device that’s right for you. A PT can set the device to the right height for you and show you how to use the device properly and safely.

It’s important to set the walker at a proper height if you have a secondhand walker or haven’t had a chance to see a PT for an evaluation yet.  As a general rule, the proper height of a walker is for the handles to be at your hips. You should have a gentle bend at your wrist and elbow so you can stand up as tall as you feel comfortable.

Costs Involved

The cost of these devices varies greatly depending on the model you choose. Walkers can range from $40 to over $400.  According to Medicare.gov, walkers and rollators may be covered under your durable medical equipment benefit. The device must be medically necessary, and the ordering physician and supplier must be enrolled in Medicare.  If cost is keeping you from getting the equipment you need, Iona Senior Services has a loan closet and may have the device you are looking for. To learn more, visit Iona’s website or call 202-895-9448.

Next week we will address fall prevention and what to do when a fall happens.

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