For many clients with restricted mobility, the time they do have to walk or wheel themselves about is some of the most important of their day – it allows them the feeling of freedom and time to interact with their wider environment.
As OTs, it’s important we know how to guide them to the equipment that will allow them to make the most of this time. Here are five questions to ask as you your client make their choice:
How much support do they need when walking?
The easiest way to find out is to take a few steps with them. Make sure it’s enough to get a realistic sense of their capabilities as it might be that they lose strength or balance after the first few steps. As you walk, how much help do you need to give them? Can they cope by holding your hand, or do you need to put an arm around their shoulder or waist? The amount of pressure you feel will give a good indication of the level of help they will need.
Where do they walk?
Does your client go no further than into the care home garden and back, or do they like to take themselves to the shop every morning? What are the hazards they may encounter on their usual route? For patients walking routes with potential hazards such as pavements, slopes etc. you may need to increase the level of stability you recommend. For example, a client who can walk capably across a room with only a walking stick may get extra protection from a Zimmer frame if they are walking on more challenging terrains.
You’ll also need to think about whether the size of the aid you recommend will actually fit all the locations that your clients walk.
How strong is their upper body?
Walking aids that provide a lot of stability such as Zimmer frames can also be uncomfortably heavy for patients that don’t have a lot of upper body strength. Can you find a model or a design that they are able to move easily? It may be that you need to provide more than one solution if their strength runs out during the course of the day.
What is their cognitive ability?
It’s worth bearing this in mind if you are recommending a walking aid that may require slightly complex assembly or management. A mobility scooter, for example, would not be suitable if a patient is likely to forget the controls.
What types of aid are available?
There are a huge number of different walking aids available and it will be up to you to decipher the right one(s) for your client once you have identified all their specific needs. Remember that in many cases a combination of aids will be necessary to accommodate their different movement requirements throughout the day.