Do you have difficulty walking? Than it is time to discuss the dreaded “F” word…….Falls. I know, a word no one wants to talk about. Falls are one of the leading causes of hospitalization for people over the age of 65. This number is much higher for anyone who has been diagnosed with a neurologic condition such as parkinson disease, multiple sclerosis, ataxia, demyelinating diseases, balance disorder, and spinal cord injuries. If you are considering a walker prevent falls and improve your walking, than this post was written for YOU.
First, we need to decide if a walker is the right next step for you. This is where an assessment by a physical therapist would be helpful. Once you and your therapist have decided you need a walker, the next step is to choose the BEST walker for you.
In today’s walker market, you have many walkers to choose from. Many look the part, however, very few actually prevent falls and provide the stability necessary to walk with confidence. The U step walker sets itself above the rest. Before I dig into everything I LOVE about the U step, lets break down the leading competition. That is the beloved four wheel rollator. This is the walker you see in every restaurant, store, airport, and theme park. It is the one all the “cool” people use. Right? Well, I am not sure who started this fad, but it was NOT a therapist. Let me tell you why.
The Four Wheel Walker or Rollator
The breaks are just all wrong for several reasons.
- They don’t always prevent the wheels from rolling. This usually starts to happen as soon as the wheels show any signs of wear. The breaks just can’t grip onto the surface of the tire.
- You have to squeeze the handle to engage the breaks. Really? Who has enough time in the midst of a fall to remember to squeeze the breaks. And lets not even imagine what happens if you take your hand off for a second to reach for something and you lose your balance. Now you have to react fast enough to get your hand back to the handle and squeeze it to keep the walker still while you use it to regain your balance. Yikes!
The 4 wheel walker has a seat. This is great for those who need to take rest breaks when walking longer distances. The problem? The seat is located inside the walker. This space is where the user is supposed to be standing. With the seat occupying this space, the user must stand further back causing a forward bent posture. No Bueno.
So, what is the right walker if you need a seat with a good breaking system?
The U Step
The U step walker has solved most of the problems found in the traditional rolling walker. Let me break down all the things I LOVE about this walker.
U Step Breaks
- The breaks are some of the most secure breaks on the market. I have tried to get the breaks to slip on the wheels and it is just not possible.
- One of the most genius features to the breaking system is the “reverse” break. It is called a reverse break because you must squeeze the handle to actually unlock the breaks. Therefore if your hand comes off the walker the breaks automatically engage. This eliminates the need to have quick responsive hands when in the midst of a fall.
U Step Tension Lever
- The U step has a feature that allows the user to add tension to the wheels. This is particularly great for individuals diagnosed with Parkinson Disease who have a festinating gait (a quickening and shortening of a normal stride).
U Step Seat to Handle Position
The seat is smaller and is positioned in front of the handles allowing the user to keep the appropriate position between the handles
U Step Base Depth
The base is great because it extends behind the handles. This gives a person stability if they have a tendency to fall backwards. When the user loose balance backwards, the walker will not tip backwards. This combined with the secure breaks means it will not roll backwards either. Smart.
Weight of the U Step
Now this can be a good AND a bad thing. The walker does weigh quite a bit more than the traditional rolling walker. This may make it more difficult to transport (lifting it in and out of a car). But really this is a small price to pay for the benefits it offers as far as stability. The added weight gives the walker added stability increasing its effectiveness to prevent falls.
Do you have Parkinson Disease?
Than this walker is the only one on the market that also offers additional features specifically for balance and movement problems with this diagnosis.
The Laser for Parkinson Disease
The laser is designed for those who suffer from freezing and difficulty initiating movement (both are characteristics of Parkinson disease). The light provides a visual target which is proven to help a person initiate a step
The Metronome for Parkinson Disease
The metronome provides an audible “tempo”. This audible cues has also been proven to help those who suffer from freezing episodes to regain a normal “tempo”. Parkinsons disease effects motor planning (the brains ability to plan a desired movement in advance). The metronome has been proven to eliminate the motor planning (simplified explanation). Instead the brain planning each step, the person now just respond to the beat of the metronome.
The one downside to this walker is the price. This walker starts at about $400-$500 where as the rollator can be purchased for around $200. However, what is the cost of a fall? The CDC (Center of Disease) reports in 2012 a cost of a fall injury was $34,294. So is a couple hundred dollars worth it? I will let you decide.
Link to U step Walker Website
Here is a direct link to purchase this walker
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