Everything you need to know about Walkers and Rollaters

by Mike Kuller, RPh

 The primary purpose of a walker is to prevent someone from falling down.  A cane may help a patient with a weakness or a limp on one side but it will not keep someone with poor balance from falling.

The standard walker has two front wheels mounted on a lightweight foldable frame.  Patients usually start off with this type which is commonly provided to them upon discharge from a hospital or rehab unit.  The least expensive ones have three inch wheels but five inch wheels are the most common.

After using a standard walker for a while, most patients upgrade to a rollater – a four-wheeled walker with a seat and hand-brakes. This gives them a place to sit down to rest or catch their breath.  All walkers have to have a braking mechanism to slow them down or stop if necessary – the standard front-wheeled walkers brake when you exert pressure down on the rear feet.  Rollaters have bicycle-type hand brakes which are squeezed to slow or stop them. Before sitting down on a rollater seat, the brakes must be locked by pushing the brake handles down, to prevent the rollater from rolling back out from under the patient.

Most rollaters come with a standard twenty-two inch high seat for the average height person – some are available with varying seat heights from 18 inches to 24 inches and we sell one with an adjustable seat height.  The arm heights are adjustable on all of the models.  Some rollaters come with smaller six inch wheels, but eight inch wheels provide a smoother ride, particularly outside over asphalt, uneven surfaces, door thresholds and even cracks in the sidewalk.

Walkers are also available with three wheels.  Usually these don’t have a seat but we sell one three-wheeled walker with a seat.  These offer superior maneuverability, particularly indoors, but they can be tipped over by a patient with poor balance.

The walker handles should be adjusted to a height which allows the patient to walk standing up straight with their elbows slightly bent.  If the handle height requires the patient to bend forward when walking, they are adjusted too low.  We take the time to help our customers chose the right rollater for their needs and make sure it is adjusted properly for them.

We carry between 15 and 20 different walkers and rollaters in the store.  Most of our walkers and rollaters have a lifetime warranties so we will make adjustments and repair or replace them free if necessary for the original owner.  We encourage our customers to try them out with a 5-day trial and return policy.