How to Safely Use a Walker

Elaine Whitford News

If you happened to have driven past the Five Points Center for Active Adults in Raleigh last week, you may have noticed a smiling crowd gathered in the parking lot, eagerly watching as Jenny Womack, Clinical Associate Professor for UNC’s Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, demonstrated and offered advice on the best ways help those who use assisted mobility devices safely enter and exit a vehicle. This exhibition was the finale of the presentation Womack gave at last month’s Lunch and Learn, an event co-hosted by The Center along with Resources for Seniors, Inc. and Wake County Community Resource Connections for Aging and Disabilities, where community members are invited to learn about a variety of topics related to aging.

As Womack showed off the many different styles of walkers, wheelchairs, and canes that volunteers and loved ones may see when working or visiting seniors, she mentioned that, even a seasoned pro should take a little time now and again to update or refresh her skills in helping those who use these devices.

For anyone interested in learning more about Jenny Womack’s presentation, check out the video highlights from the Lunch and Learn and the tips below.

General Tips for Assisting Someone Using a Cane or Walker
By Jenny Womack, MS OTR/L

Walking with a person using an ambulance device such as a cane or walker is getting the support they need from the device. If you would like to stay close by in case of balance or security issues, try these tips:

1. If the person is using a walker, do not take their arm – it impedes them moving their arms forward with the walker as they step.

2. Consider placing your hand near, but not necessarily on, the small of the person’s back so that you can offer support if they lean backwards. The walker will give support if they lean forward.

3. Mirror their walk by walking beside them at the same pace and turning slightly toward them.

4. If the person is using a cane, walk on the side opposite the case so that they can freely swing it.

5. Consider letting the person take your arm by bending your own arm at the elbow and allowing them to slip their non-cane side arm through yours.

If you can, let the person walk independently and simply stay nearby for comfort.