Choosing the Right Mobility Aids for the Kinesthetically Challenged
While balance or equilibrium issues involve different sensory pathways largely related to the inner ear, kinesthesis sensory input, as it relates to movement, occurs throughout the body via a network of sensory systems that relay tension and compression signals to the muscles, in addition to sending sensory signals for touch. People who have suffered from orthopedic and neuromuscular illnesses, injuries, or disabilities, can often become "kinesthetically challenged," which can impact, to varying degrees, a person’s ability to perform everyday activities, including traveling from one place to another in a timely manner.
The good news is, there are a wide range of specialized devices that can help you or a loved one remain active and mobile. Choosing the right mobility aid for a person is important in order to improve that individual’s quality of life. They come in the form of walking aids like canes, crutches, walkers, and rollators, as well as wheeled devices like wheelchairs, mobility scooters, and power chairs. Mobility aids also include patient lifts, which serve as transfer systems that can hoist kinesthetically challenged individuals who need to be moved.
Whether permanent or temporary, mobility impairments can be effectively addressed with the right mobility aids. If you are a patient, a personal care attendant, or a family or friend of an individual with mobility impairment, please read this guide before deciding to get a particular aid or device.
Consulting a healthcare professional
You are strongly encouraged to consult a healthcare professional, usually a physiotherapist, when considering the best type of mobility aid for your unique needs. Visit your local health services provider to get a comprehensive assessment of your condition, injury, or disability. Often times, mobility challenges can be addressed by other kinds of intervention, like medication or rehabilitation. Such interventions can work in synergy with a chosen device to improve your mobility, function, and quality of life.
Common mobility aids
Mobility aids can come in the form of walking equipment that provide stability and balance to users, thus facilitate their walking. There are also mobility aids that come equipped with wheels.
Canes – Canes or walking sticks are usually used by people with reduced balance. Readily available in different lengths, materials, and strength, canes can be used to provide counterbalance when one leg or one side of the body is weaker than the other. Take note that incorrect use of a cane can increase your risk of falling,
Crutches – Usually used in pairs, crutches help make your base of support wider, thus providing stability when you walk. Crutches come in two basic types, namely forearm (lofstrand) crutches and underarm (axilla) crutches. There are also less common types like leg support crutches and platform crutches. Crutches are typically recommended for individuals who can walk by themselves but need support for one or both sides of the body. The user should have good arm, shoulder, and hand function to be able to use them.
Walkers – Walkers or walking frames provide a wider base of support for people with inadequate balance or weak legs. Walkers allow users to off-load a significant amount of their weight to the arms, helping reduce discomfort and pain in the legs. Walkers, however, require the use of both arms to be used effectively.
Rollators – Rollators are wheeled walkers that are more easily maneuvered compared to regular walkers. They come in two-wheeled, three-wheeled, and four-wheeled varieties and have handbrakes to prevent them from running away. Rollators are often equipped with seats and baskets as well.
Wheelchairs and transport chairs – Manual wheelchairs and transport chairs are chairs fitted with wheels, providing mobility for a seated user. Designed to be used by individuals who can’t walk, manual wheelchairs are self-propelled while transport chairs and designed to be pushed by an attendant or caregiver.
Mobility Scooters – Mobility scooters are power-operated scooters. They can be operated instantly with the help of a key. Mobility scooters are available in three-wheel or four-wheel varieties. Three-wheel mobility scooters are often chosen for their light weight and easy maneuverability, while four-wheel mobility scooters are often seen as more robust and more stable.
Power Chairs – Power chairs are basically wheelchairs that are propelled with the help of an electric motor, just like mobility scooters. There are many different power chairs available in the market, each one having a different set of features designed to address the patients’ specific needs.
Patient lifts – Patient lifts are assistive equipment used in medical facilities, nursing homes, and residential settings to move patients between resting places.
Remember, it is important to try any equipment first, or consult with your doctor or physical therapist before deciding which device best suits your needs.
Alzheimer's Association - www.alz.org
BrightFocus Foundation - www.brightfocus.org
Fall Prevention Center of Excellence - www.stopfalls.org
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