Nurse Teaching on Walker Safety Precautions for Seniors
If a senior on home health care service is using walker, nurses can use this teaching to educate them about the walker safety precautions.
List of walker safety precautions-
- Clear all the cables and cords that can be on the way for the walker. They can entangle to the walker legs and lead to impaired balance and fall.
- Maintain the floor dry. Wipe any spillage immediately. Any wetness of the floor can contribute to slipping, loss of balance, and fall injury.
- Wear comfortable clothes when using walker. Loose and frizzy clothing on the lower body can get entangled with the walker legs, compromise balance, and lead to fall.
- Always wear appropriate non-skid footwear while using walker. Walker users stand the risk of hurting their feet with the walker legs sometimes, while maneuvering with the walker around. Having shoes on can offer protection against any injuries to the feet.
- Make sure the carpet in the house is evenly spread and secured. Uneven carpet with bumpy contour can obstruct the walker legs, impair balance, and contribute to increased fall risk.
- Make sure you perform timely inspections on the walker or have it inspected, as recommended, to ensure the device is in proper functional state. Also, make sure the walker seat is stable and supporting your weight enough while sitting on it. If the walker is wobbly or if the walker seat is unstable or you notice the structure broken, have the walker repaired or replaced. Using a broken walker or one with unstable legs and seat can result in serious falls and accidents.
- Make sure the walker in use is of appropriate height. The handles of the walker should be level with the wrist crease with you standing upright against a wall wearing your regular walking shoes and hands falling on the sides freely. The height of the walker can be adjusted accordingly. Do not share your walker with family and friends, as the heights of individuals could differ, and the walker height could have been adjusted without your notice. Using a walker of inappropriate height can compromise your balance resulting in increased risk for fall. Keep a watch on the walker height periodically and adjust it to your requirement, as needed.
- Firm grip on the walker handle is important to prevent the device slipping out of control and contributing to a fall. Using a walker with ribbed handles can help enhance the grip. Individuals with inflammation in the small joints of the hands have limited range of motion in the fingers contributing to poor grip. Walker with large handles, padded or foam handles can offer better grip for such individuals. Handles too big for your grip also can contribute to poor grip and enhance fall risk. Make sure the walker handles are of appropriate size for you. This is also one reason for you not to share your walker, as the size of grips can vary between individuals.
- If you have a folding walker, make sure to open it completely before starting to use. When getting the walker to use from a folded position, make sure to open it completely before starting to use it. The walker should be locked in open position before use. Walker that is partially open can lead to poor support, impair balance, and contribute to fall.
- Make sure all the legs of the walker are touching the ground evenly. Uneven walker legs can impair the balance of the walker and make it wobbly, which can enhance your fall risk. The legs of the walker must be sturdy enough to support your weight.
- Make sure that the rubber tips at the end of walker legs are not worn out. These caps are slip resistant, offer improved grip on surfaces, and prevent the walker from slipping away, especially while on smoother surfaces. Worn out rubber tips disturb the even placement of all the walker legs on the ground, impair balance, and offer poor grip on the surfaces, which can increase fall risk for users. Replace the rubber tips at the end of walker legs periodically, as recommended.
- Plan your trip ahead, while using the walker. If you think you cannot reach your destination or complete the trip without taking a break, please listen to your instinct. Take a break, sit, relax, and resume your walk. Be aware of your endurance levels and plan your breaks accordingly, as needed.
- While the walker is in use, hold the handles tightly with both the hands. Do not try carrying any items, such as, a book or cup, with one hand and navigate your walker with the other hand. This can offer poor support, alter gait pattern, compromise safety, and increase your fall risk. Walkers with a small bag attached to carry essentials can be of additional help.
- Always step into the walker and do not walk behind the walker. Walking behind the walker can result in inadvertent leaning forward to maintain hold on the walker, which can impair the balance, resulting in a fall.
- While the walker is in use, do not try carrying any items on the walker seat. Trying to protect the item being carried from falling off the walker, you could compromise the walker stability, which can compromise balance and increase your fall risk. The walker seat is only to be used for rest during a break, if you feel tired while using the walker.
- Do not use walker to climb up and down the stairs or get on to escalators. This can result in serious falls and accidents. So, individuals using walkers must learn to plan their life on a single floor or have arrangements made for an elevator. If an elevator is not possible and climbing stairs is unavoidable, plan to have different walkers for each floor being accessed. You can choose to use a cane while climbing up and down the stairs, with additional support offered by the siderails on the stairs. Also, it could be difficult sometimes to get the walker into a smaller spaces every time it is accessed, such as, restroom. In that case, you can choose to leave one walker in there that you can use while in the restroom or use a cane and bathroom counters for support instead of the walker.
- Do not advance the walker too far ahead of you. This could lead to the user hunching and leaning forward to hold the walker, which can compromise the balance and lead to fall. Consistent hunching over the walker can injure the back and lead to backpain.
- While using the walker, plan ahead to change the directions slowly and by taking small steps. Look straight ahead while walking, to be prepared for and avoid the oncoming obstacles on your way. This can also help to be prepared and safely change directions, as needed. Being inattentive during ambulation with the walker and sudden change of directions can lead to the user colliding with the structures around, such as, corners and furniture, lose balance, and trip off resulting in a fall.
- While turning around with the walker, make sure you have enough room to turn around along with the walker at the same time. Turn around slowly by standing upright, holding the handles of the walker with both the hands tightly, and taking small steps. While turning around, turn the walker around too with yourself standing comfortably within the width of the walker and maintaining yourself parallel to the front of the walker. Do not attempt rapid and random twists to turn around, as it could twist the spine and result in serious back injury. Also, rapid twists and jerky movements could compromise the balance in users, especially senior citizens, and lead to falls and accidents.
- While the walker is not in use, do not rely on the walker for support to sit down or stand up. The walker could not be a support good enough to support the weight of your entire body during these acts and so, could slip off, leading to a fall. If possible, try supporting your body with both hands against some solid piece of furniture, such as, bed, chair, sofa, or bench, to sit or stand up. If this is not possible and you have one hand on the walker, you should have the other hand against a solid piece of furniture, which supports your weight during sitting or standing.
- While the walker is not in use, leave it parked close by within an arm distance reach and you should be able to grab your walker easily. Stretching too far to reach out to the walker could impair balance and contribute to enhancing fall risk. Also, while the walker is parked, make sure it is not blocking the traffic and contributing to fall risk for someone passing by.
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