Approximately 40 percent of senior citizens (15.7 million people) over the age of 65 suffer from at least one disability. Of those people, two-thirds struggle with mobility limitations and require the help of a mobility aid to get around.
In many cases, mobility limitations are easy to spot. But, sometimes, they can creep up slowly and it's hard to tell if you or a loved one is actually struggling and in need of a mobility aid.
Read on to learn more about the signs that you or someone you know might need a mobility aid, as well as tips on how to choose the right one.
Signs Someone Needs a Mobility Aid
Some of the most common signs that indicate someone needs a mobility aid include:
Frequent stumbles and falls
Becoming easily exhausted (this is an especially important sign in people who suffer from neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and/or post-stroke weakness)
Chronic pain, especially pain that accompanies or hinders movement or any type of excursion
Suffering from a condition that limits mobility, such as arthritis or osteoporosis
You may also need a mobility aid if you live in a place that has poor weather (lots of rain, snow, etc.). This can make sidewalks slippery and difficult to navigate and can increase your risk of falling.
How to Choose the Right Mobility Aid
If any of the above situations apply to you and you think you might need a mobility aid, it can be hard to decide which type is right for you. These steps can help you make the best decision for your needs.
Meet with Your Doctor
The first thing to do is schedule an appointment with your doctor. Don't just take the advice of a friend or relative. Even if their condition is similar to yours, it's important to meet with a medical professional and get their opinion. You could end up making your mobility issues worse if you just buy any old mobility aid and don't get it properly fitted to your body.
Your doctor will also be able to recommend additional therapies to complement your mobility aid and potentially minimize your need for it. For example, they may suggest physical therapy to help you naturally improve your mobility — that way, you'll only need to use your aid on special occasions and won't be fully dependent on it before you need to be.
Get Familiar with Different Types of Aids
It's also important to get familiar with the different types of mobility aids you have to choose from. Some of the most common aids include:
Canes: Canes can support about 25 percent of a person's body weight. Generally speaking, they are the best mobility aid for people who have minimal balance issues, generally good hand and arm strength, and just need a little extra stability
Walkers: A walker provides more support than a cane, but it still requires a moderate amount of hand and arm strength. They can usually support about 50 percent of a person's weight.
Manual wheelchairs: If walking isn't accessible, a manual wheelchair allows you to get around without putting any strain on your legs. A decent amount of upper body strength is still required for maneuvering a manual wheelchair.
Power scooters: A power scooter is another good option that can help you get around without walking. Some people lack the dexterity necessary to control a power scooter, though.
Power wheelchairs: For people who lack the dexterity needed for a power scooter, a power wheelchair can be easier to use since it just requires the push of a button.
Consider the Cost and Insurance Coverage
Finally, you'll need to take price into account. Your insurance provider may cover a significant portion of the cost of your mobility aid, especially if your doctor says that it's necessary. This is another reason why it pays to work with your doctor when making this decision.
Keep in mind, though, that most insurance providers will usually only pay for basic mobility aid models — you'll have to foot the bill for any extra features that appeal to you