Key considerations to help your patients get around.
One key role of an OT is to help our patients lead as normal a life as possible. Enabling them to carry out everyday activities such as walking to the shops or even taking the dog to the park, can be a huge boost for those with restricted movement. By recommending the right walking aid, we can increase a patient’s sense of autonomy and self worth. Here are five factors to consider when thinking about the walking aid your client needs.
Every patient will require a different level of support. Some may get the stability they need with a simple stick to steady them; others will need far more comprehensive support such as a Zimmer frame. Test their capabilities by taking a few steps with them and asking them to use you as support (if possible). You will quickly get a feel of how much they are leaning on you, and therefore how much support they will need when walking.
While all sorts of walking aids are available to help patients with restricted movement get around town or navigate walking paths, if your patient goes no further than the garden of their care home or the corner shop, they won’t require a ‘bells-and-whistle’ walking aid. This is where personal knowledge of you patient is invaluable. What is their daily routine? Do they make trips to areas with potential hazards such as pavements or uneven paths? This may be a prompt to recommend a walking aid with greater stability. Do they take the elevator to their flat? You will need to make sure that the aid you recommend fits!
Different walking aids require different levels of physical strength from a patient. Zimmer frames, for example, take a certain amount of upper body strength to operate, as they can be heavy. Don’t just rely on an initial assessment to determine this; a patient may be able to lift a walking aid once, but may struggle to do so repeatedly throughout the day. Aim to find the right blend of stability and lightness with the walking aid that you recommend.
Some walking aids can be tricky to assemble or manoeuvre. Therefore you will need to consider whether the aid you are recommending is within their cognitive abilities. A mobility scooter, for example, could be hazardous for a patient who is liable to forget the controls.
Availability and Cost
The good news is that there are now a huge range of walking aids on the market, each catering to a very specific need. It may well be the case that recommending more than one aid, to meet a variety of your client’s needs is the best approach to take. Of course cost is a factor; find out what your patient’s budget is before recommending the latest high tech scooter, and check to see if any financial support is available.