Concerning Jerry’s case below, obtaining a walker wheelchair may be the perfect in-between option in order to avoid prolonged sitting and to maintain the standing strength that he has left.
Jerry is an 81 year old male who resides in a private home with his wife. Both are quite independent in completing daily tasks in their home, but rely on their kids for transportation and for groceries. Jerry has been relying on a walker for the past 5 years now, but has recently experienced several falls in the last six months. Fortunately, none of those falls have resulted in any injury thus far. However, Jerry is concerned because the falls always happen while he is using his walker. Due to arthritis and weakness in both legs, his standing balance buckles every once in a while. He’s not quite ready to give up walking in order to use a manual wheelchair on a daily basis, fearing that he’ll lose the stamina he has left if he sits all day.
For some aging individuals, there is this underlying disdain for wheelchairs. They feel if they give up walking entirely, then their health condition will just go downhill from there. In some cases, they would be right especially if they decide to get a wheelchair prematurely. The point is, the phrase “if it still works, use it” holds true.
So, what is a walker wheelchair? They are also called “transport chairs” or “rollators” depending on the product. Take a look at the following products to get a visual understanding:
- Hybrid design: use primarily as a Relator while easily transforming into a transport chair when user needs a short rest
- Lightweight frame: durable, aluminum frame weighs only 22 lbs making it easier for users to move about freely
- Ultra-compact design: easy to assemble without the need for tools and folds effortlessly for convenient transport and storage
- Easy-to-use handbrakes: allow for short and longer period braking when used as Relator and transport chair
- Comfort and support: soft, polyester backrest and 18" Wide mesh seat
A walker wheelchair is what it is, a walker and a wheelchair merged together. The seated option provides on-the-go rest breaks but still allows the user to walk whatever distance they deem comfortable.
The following are some considerations that should go into purchasing a walker wheelchair:
The user’s medical conditions
Do the current medical conditions and symptoms suit the purposes of the walker wheelchair? For example, an individual with quadriplegia or zero voluntary use of their legs would find the walker portion completely pointless for their needs. Additionally, and individual with weak trunk strength would have serious trouble sitting up without complete support thus this set-up would be quite unsafe. Users, like Jerry, would have to have some safe ability to stand and to walk with very little assistance outside of the walker. They would also have to be able to transfer from sitting to standing and vice versa with relative ease while using the walker for support. Lastly, the user doesn’t have to have a ton of upper body strength to self-propel the wheelchair because there are no wheels for that purpose.
The weight-bearing capacity of the product
This should really be only a concern for persons who classify in the bariatric weight category (confirm with your physician if this is the case for you). Many of the walker wheelchairs available online will list the weight capacity in product information If the customer weighs over 250 lbs, then they need to be exploring walker wheelchairs that are labeled “bariatric” which are probably located with reputable medical equipment companies.
There is a huge safety hazard for bariatric persons who attempt to use a standard walker wheelchair on a regular basis, primarily in sitting. The castor wheels are not very big and do not provide a sturdy foundation. If a heavier individual sits in the walker wheelchair, it creates a top-heavy situation in which the person is more likely to tip out of the chair (especially if they hit unpredictable, outdoor surfaces).
The height adjustment feature is generally located in the handle bars and can be adjusted in increments. Each walker wheelchair has its limits at short and long ends, so read the measurements carefully per product and consult with a physical therapist to determine an appropriate height setting. Medical equipment companies that specialize in walker wheelchairs might have resources for persons who are atypically short or tall and require height adaptations that online products don’t have.
Think about what the walker wheelchair will be used for. Will the product be used primarily indoors? Outdoors? Both? Online products will usually list whether or not it is equipped to handle outdoor surfaces. Evidence that it can usually lies in the size of the castor wheels (bigger wheels are more effective for variable surfaces). Walker wheelchairs that are made of material that won’t rust due to water exposure work great for outdoor purposes.
None of the rollators or walker wheelchairs convert into standard wheelchairs; rather, they resemble transport chairs which are designed for assistive propulsion from someone else. The brakes and the handle bars are accessible to only the pusher when the user is in a seated position. If the use is interested in a chair of a self-propulsion nature, then they need to redirect their search to manual wheelchairs with wheels and brakes accessible to them.
Walker Wheelchair Miscellaneous parts
Analyze the walker wheelchairs that you are interested in and observe specific pieces that you could add or do without. Some come with storage baskets, back supports, foot rests, cup holders, and extra padding. Rollators that come with a seat but lack foot-rests are not designed to be treated like transport chairs. Often, you’ll see people try to propel these types of rollators with their feet. This is NOT a safe option, so if you’d like to have the luxury of a transport chair, purchase the walker wheelchair with foot rests.
Place of purchase
Assess the company in which you decide to purchase the walker wheelchair. Read all product information and available warranties. Read all guarantees and the estimated life expectancy and common repairs on each product. In some cases, medical equipment companies accept insurance coverage for walker wheelchairs with a valid doctor’s order. If you have trouble with affording a walker wheelchair purchase, it never hurts to look into the referral route.