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Gaining Independence – When Walking Becomes Too Difficult to Manage by Yourself
I hope this article can help other people who are in the position of helping a loved one achieve mobility and their pride back. My mother, unlike my father when he was still with us, stopped at nothing to continue his daily walks and outdoor excursions. For the last 7 years my mother has been using a cane to walk as many elderly people with mobility impairments do. Her life was interrupted last year when she had a fall and broke her hip which threatened to put her out for 6 months. On top of that she had to wait to have the hip replacement surgery she so desperately needed (she also found out she had Osteoarthritis, which explained the pain in her right hip, which is why she needed the rod in the first place). Her doctor told her that a hip replacement was necessary because the pain in her hip would continue due to the osteoarthritis and her mobility would continue to decrease. During the 2 weeks she was waiting for surgery, I could tell that she was not her old self, and in fact she became depressed. Luckily she was able to have her surgery 2 weeks after her accident.
During the 2 weeks she was waiting for surgery, I could tell that she was not her old self, and in fact she became depressed. Her doctor recommended a walking aid to help her recover faster. We went to the local pharmacy that sold canes, crutches and walkers. We ended up buying her a 4 wheel walker with a seat, hand brakes and a basket (also known as a Rollator). At the time we had no idea what type of walker/roller to buy and what would be best for my mother during her recovery. Her doctor was not very helpful about the options of different walking aids other than saying she needed a walker after her surgery. Honestly, I think her cane no longer provided the support she needed, which may have caused her to fall in the first place. In my mind, whatever solution we found for my mother was one I wanted her to continue using after she got better so she could maintain her mobility with confidence and reduce the chance of another fall. After her accident she seemed afraid to walk even with the help of a walker.
The walker we bought was the type you see everyone using, the type that folds up like scissors and looks like an A from the side view. The walker himself presented his own challenges! We didn’t know at the time of purchase how difficult it would be to get the walker in and out of the car, which proved to be the biggest obstacle to her achieving her freedom and mobility. According to the brochure the weight of the walker was about 12 lbs. which was the lightest we could find thinking it would be useful for my mother so she could lift it herself after her new hip healed. The walker had a support against which to rest when sitting; however, this was an obstacle when she tried to put the walker / roller in the trunk of her car as it was always in the way.
After 2 weeks of owning the walker the frame became very loose. When we first bought the stroller, the frame would hold together well when folded, however, after it was folded and unfolded 4 times a day for 2 weeks, the frame became floppy (she usually went in the car twice a day – every trip required her to lift the walker in the car and back out of the car when she returned). The frame design reminded me of scissors in the way that scissors are stiff when you buy them and over time they open more easily. She would pick up the walker to put it in the car and the frame would open and cause her to struggle and many times she had to put it back and start over which was very frustrating for her. Although the walker only had a weight of 12 lbs. it felt more like 25 lbs to my mother because of how uncooperative the frame was. She couldn’t do that very well by herself so I had to take her places when she had to go to the doctor or to go shopping.
Luckily I live nearby and was able to help her because I work from home, but many people don’t have that luxury. Don’t get me wrong, the walker was still a gift for my mother and she was able to walk again and strengthen her hip muscles which helped her through the 3 months of recovery, but if she was going to be truly independent she needed something. easier to get in and out of the car by yourself. She hasn’t gotten any younger.
Over the next 3 months (post surgery) I noticed other challenges. The cables used for the hand brakes were caught on door handles, obstacles in the car and her purse would get caught on the cables when she stood up after sitting. I even heard her mutter some expletives when the cables got caught on something (this was very shocking to me). She also started complaining about things like how the basket was banging on the doors in her home. I looked around her home and saw ting marks on every door frame at the same level as the basket. The basket was out in front of the walker and it was apparent that the turning radius was limited because of this which is why it crashed into the frame of each doorway. I began watching her use the walker more closely over the next couple of months.
I went for a walk with my mother one day, around her neighborhood, and made a few more observations. The 8 inch wheels on the front of the walker (the ones that swivel to allow the walker to turn easily) seemed to flutter as she walked on sidewalks and pavement. I found that odd because one of the selling points was that it was better for outdoor use because of the big wheels. I could tell the walker was shaking too much like you see with shopping carts and hospital beds. I asked her what she thought about it and she said she wished they didn’t flutter because it made it harder to control her movement and she also said she could walk faster if the wheels didn’t flutter.
My mother has been living in an Assisted Living Center near where I live for the past 5 years since my father passed away. Whenever I would visit her during the 3 months during her recovery from surgery, it always seemed like her walker/roller was in the way especially now that she was no longer using it in her home. After she regained her strength, and the pain in her hip subsided, she found it easier to walk indoors and grab onto the furniture and railings to get around and the walker became a very useful tool to help her walk outside every day and when she came inside. the car Folding it didn’t help because whenever it’s folded it lays on the floor taking up more space than if she left it unfolded in the hallway.
After 3 months of using her walker/roller it was clear that we needed to find something better that would offer the independence she so stubbornly wanted. But every medical supply store offered a similar mallet like the one my mother used just with a different company name on it. I asked myself; why would all these companies manufacture the same product with the same design flaws? We saw about 5 different brands that were exactly the same just different colors and different seat pads or different size wheels. It was clear to me that if I was going to find something better, I would have to look beyond our local market. I turned to the internet to look for something better.
I searched on Google.com with the search term “Rollator”. I went through 4 pages of links for companies selling walkers / RVs just like the one my mom already had. On the 5th page of links I found a company called Dana Douglas Inc. based out of Ottawa, Ontario. When I clicked the link it took me to their rollator page where the first product shown was called “neXus Series” – Our prayers were answered!!! The neXus was the exact product we wanted and it was made in Canada vs. made in China for the one she owned. Here is the link to make life easier for you if you or a loved one had similar experiences to my mother:
The best thing about this product is the way it folds. If you are familiar with wheelchairs and how they fold, then you will understand how the neXus folds. One lift of the red handle that is recessed into the seat and the neXus folds to just 9″ wide and it stands up when folded so my mother could fit it in her front closet and her wheelchair wouldn’t get in the way. her little apartment. The basket goes mostly under the seat so it wouldn’t lean into her door frames. The neXus boasted a “Cable/Maintenance Free” braking system that had a 6 year warranty. I knew my mother would love to have no cables to catch on things. The weight was 13 lbs, which made it a little heavier than the one my mother owned, but its claim was that it was the easiest roller to fold up and get in the car or store. I wanted to see one and try it with my mother and see if she liked it. I went to the store where we bought the other walker and asked if they had heard of this walker, which they hadn’t, but they knew the company name, so that was a good start. I told to the lady about the neXus and that I would like to buy one if it renk would have my mother’s needs. She was a little reluctant to order it at first but when she called Dana Douglas they said if we didn’t like it the product could be returned for credit so the lady wanted to try it. She ordered the neXus and it arrived 3 days later. I didn’t tell my mum it was a bit heavier (only 1lb heavier) instead preferring to get her feedback when she went to put it in the car. My mother was overwhelmed that the product was so much easier to use. First she rolled around the showroom and her first comment was “The wheels don’t seem that sticky”. Apparently this is the only roller with 2 steel bearing per front wheels so the wheels turn easier.
This became very noticeable when she went outside to her car with the neXus and she was able to walk on the pavement and the wheels didn’t flutter and shake which allowed her to maneuver better. The handles were much easier on her hands, the basket was bigger to carry more goods but the biggest thing was how it folded. She lifted herself onto the red handle and easily placed the neXus in her trunk. We later found out that the stroller can stand directly behind the passenger side seat, which made it even easier for her. She said the neXus was lighter than her other roller because she didn’t have to struggle with the frame opening up on her. Another cool thing we found out was that the neXus could fit through narrow doors, which didn’t matter to my mother but her friend lived in an older home with narrow doors. She showed it to her friend and her friend went to the same store and bought one the next day.
My mother has been using the neXus for 6 months now and has regained her independence and freedom. I know she feels better not having to ask me for help because she can move around on her own and travel in her car without worrying about the struggles she had with her old wheelchair. The only bad part was the other roller started collecting dust in my basement. I sold it on Ebay.com just a few weeks ago lol! I went to the store last week where we bought the neXus and the same lady said it is now their best selling roller so I guess everyone is a winner.
I hope you find this article helpful if you find yourself suffering from the same issues as my mother. Good luck with your journey of independence!
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