Mobility Aids - What People With Arthritis Need to Know

Mobility and walking can be impaired if you have arthritis. Canes offer additional support and improve balance when walking. Canes can be adjusted for height to ensure a proper fit. To select the proper length for a cane, stand up straight with your shoes on and arms at your sides. The top of the cane should reach the crease on the underside of your wrist. 

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Before You Buy a Cane

Choose an adjustable cane if you plan to wear different styles of shoes. Make sure you have a good grip of the cane and that the fingers and thumb do not overlap. Shift as much weight to the cane as necessary. Make sure that the tip of the cane is in good condition and that it is replaceable.

When using the cane, hold the cane with the opposite hand of the side that needs extra support. When going up stairs, step with the good foot first, followed by the cane and then the bad side. When going down stairs, step first with the cane, followed by the bad foot and then the good foot.


Before You Buy a Mobility Scooter

If you are trying to maintain your independence, a mobility scooter may be a wise investment. As with most major purchases, it's important to make an informed decision. There are many mobility scooters available. When making your selection, be sure to consider:

  • where you will be using the scooter
  • will the mobility scooter be easy to maneuver inside the home
  • the comfort factor -- how does it feel to you (try them out!)
  • do you need a light, compact scooter or one that is more heavy-duty?
  • price and shipping/delivery options

Before You Buy a Walker

A simple, standard walker can be life-changing for the person who just needs that extra stability and additional mobility to remain independent. Since walkers are crucial items, it's important to have it sized right for you. The height on most walkers is adjustable, but be sure to consider width as well. Check if the walker you choose is sized for an adult, child, or large adult. Some people will want to have wheels added to the front of the walker as opposed to having rubber stoppers on the four legs.

A rollator walker is another option (pictured above). A rollator walker is similar to a standard walker but it has tires and hand brakes. Rollators do not require the lifting of the walker that a standard walker requires as you move along. A rollator, however, requires that the patient be strong enough to control it.


Before You Buy a Wheelchair

There are many people who proudly state that they will "never end up in a wheelchair." If they don't say it, they think it. However, if you have disabling pain and severe mobility limitations, a wheelchair may open your world and allow you to regain independence.

People who are wheelchair-users typically spend a lot of time in their wheelchair, so sizing and comfort are major factors to consider before you buy. Be sure you know the seat width that is right for you, and consider buying a wheelchair cushion to make it as comfortable as can be. If you are purchasing a manual wheelchair, do you have someone who will push you in it? Are there times when you will need to use it without the assistance of another person? Think of your needs and think about how well a wheelchair will serve those needs. Also, make sure your wheelchair is of reasonably high quality—they tend to take a beating.


Before You Buy an Electric Wheelchair

Power or electric wheelchairs are good choices for people who are primarily alone, with no one to help push a manual wheelchair and also for people who lack arm strength to propel a manual wheelchair themselves. Electric wheelchairs:

  • Are powered by a battery
  • Require less physical exertion
  • Easily go uphill
  • Can be managed without extra assistance

Be sure to compare prices and shop with reputable dealers only. Ask your healthcare provider for suggestions on what you will need. Check with your insurance, too—they may cover some portion of the purchase.


Before You Buy a Lift Chair

What can be more frustrating than not being able to get up from a chair? When you sat down, you likely thought you would be able to get up without much problem—but what if you get stuck? I can read your mind right now: "I'll never sit in this chair again"!

As if pain and other symptoms associated with arthritis weren't enough, arthritis patients have to watch where they sit! There is a very practical solution—a lift chair. They are impossible to distinguish from regular recliners. Lift chairs come with a remote and a motorized mechanism that allows the chair to recline or lift. A lift chair gets you back into the living room with your family and allows you to be comfortable in a chair while you enjoy their company.


Before You Buy a Stair Lift

People with mobility problems consider stairs or steps enemy #1. If you are not living in a single story house, stairs can present a real problem. If you can walk but have difficulty climbing stairs, a stair lift may be the solution. Wheelchair users also would need a stair lift if they needed to get to the second story of their home.

A stair lift is not inexpensive, but they aren't unaffordable either. Learn about them from a reputable dealer. Ask about the benefits of an electric stair lift or rechargeable stair lift. Which is right for you?

No matter what mobility aid you are considering, ask for your healthcare provider's advice first and always consult with reputable medical supply stores for more guidance.

By Carol Eustice
Carol Eustice is a writer covering arthritis and chronic illness, who herself has been diagnosed with both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.