How to correctly size and use a Walker, Rollator or Walking Frame
Three or four-wheeled walkers (or “rollators”) provide more support than walking sticks and are designed for those who:
- can walk reasonably well but need extra support over longer distances
- are at risk of falling when walking
- have difficulties with balance, strength, endurance or coordination
- have pain or instability in any weight bearing joint
- need to rest often when walking
- are recovering from an injury
- wish to reduce the amount of assistance and support carers need to provide
Three-wheeled walkers are easy to manoeuvre but are less stable than four-wheeled models (which have a larger base of support) and are therefore only recommended for relatively stable users. They are generally designed for both indoor and outdoor use and feature either bicycle-style loop hand brakes or push down brakes.
The loop lever hand brakes feature levers that can be squeezed upwards to brake temporarily, or pushed down to lock into place. Push down brakes work by pushing down through the handles which then pushes a spring-loaded rubber stopper, (located between the twin castor rear wheels), down onto the ground. When weight is removed from the handles the brakes will spring off. It is important to practice operating the brakes before selecting a walker.
Adjusting the height:
When adjusting the height of a walking frame it is important to wear everyday shoes and stand in a natural position with hands resting comfortably to the sides of the body. In this position, the walking frame handgrips should sit approximately at wrist crease height. Four-wheeled walkers often come with a seat that is fixed in height so it is important to check that this is appropriate before making a purchase. When sitting on the seat in a comfortable position, feet should be resting flat on the ground.
Using a walker/rollator:
Preparing to Stand Up:
- Engage the brakes.
- Move forward and sit as close to the edge of the chair as you feel comfortable.
- Keep your feet as far under you as possible. Aim to place your toes directly below the edge of the chair.
- Place both hands on the arms/seat of your chair OR one hand on the chair and one hand on the walker. Do not tip the walker by placing too much weight on one side of the walker as you stand.
- Lean forward until you feel some of your weight on your feet.
- Use your legs to stand as much as possible – your arms should only lift what your legs cannot. Use your arms mostly to help keep your balance as you stand.
- Do not walk forward until you have tested your balance and you feel strong enough to walk.
- Disengage the brakes.
Preparing to Sit Down:
- Stand directly in front of the chair, facing away from it. The back of your legs should be almost touching the chair. Do not start to sit until you are balanced and standing still.
- Move the walker a little away from you so that you can bend slightly forward as you sit down.
- Engage the brakes.
- Reach behind for the chair with both hands (preferred) or with one hand and one hand on the walker. Do not tip the walker by placing too much weight one side as you sit.
- Slowly lower yourself using your legs as much as you can.
- If you “plop” into the chair, try leaning a little more forward as you sit and bend your knees to lower yourself to the chair.
Walking with a Wheeled Walker:
- Place your walker ahead of you before you take any steps.
- Gently roll the walker ahead of you as you walk. Keep the walker close enough to you that it is supportive.
- Stay within the base of support, with the frame held at a comfortable position in front of the body
- When turning corners it is important not to spin directly on the spot, but to walk in a wider turning circle.
- If your steps are uneven, it’s best to shorten your longer step rather than work to lengthen your shorter step. The shorter step is usually the step where you have less balance.
- To turn around: stay within the width of the walker even if you are slightly behind. Roll the walker around you without twisting your back – you should always be facing the front of the walker.
- When standing in the kitchen and bathroom: use the counters for your support rather than the walker – but keep the walker within reach
Many walkers have optional accessories such as baskets or bags, trays and oxygen bottle holders. It is important not to overload a walking frame with too much additional weight because this may affect its balance. Most styles of walkers fold for storage or transportation. Gutter frames are available for users needing forearm support.
- How to size and use a walking frame (or “static”, “hopper” or ”pick-up” frame):
Adjusting the height:
1. Stand with your shoulders relaxed and arms by your side
2. The hand grip height should be at the crease of your wrist
3. Use the height adjustment button to change the length of each leg of the frame
4. Ask one of our consultants or your therapist to demonstrate if you are unsure
Getting up from a chair:
1. Place the hopper frame centred and in front
2. Pull feet back, hands on arm rests of your chair
3. Lean forward, push up from arm rests to stand up
Using a walking frame:
- Stand upright with your feet together holding the frame with both hands.
- Lift the frame forward a small distance and put it down with all four tips firmly on the ground.
- Step forward with one leg whilst placing your weight through the frame and then bring the other leg alongside.
- Do not step too far forward. Imagine a line between the back two legs of the frame and do not put your heels in front of it.