Many mobility aids can improve the life of seniors and people with disabilities. Rollators are one of the most popular, allowing people to move more easily and gain more independence. But what exactly is a rollator?
A rollator is a walking frame that has wheels at the bottom. It includes three or four wheels, an in-built seat, and handlebars. It allows you to walk more easily on most surfaces and rest if needed on the chair. You may also attach accessories like baskets to a rollator.
In this guide, we answer the question “What is a rollator?” and cover the main characteristics of a rollator and how it differs from other devices like a walker. We also outline the pros and cons of rollators. Lastly, we help you decide if a rollator is the best option for you or your loved one.
Rollator Vs. Walker: What’s the Difference?
The difference between a rollator and a walker is in the wheels and the seat. Both are mobility aids that provide support and allow you to move across different terrains without assistance. However, they have distinct designs and serve different purposes.
Walkers have four legs and a solid frame to help stabilize the user. They usually have flat feet with rubber stops, although some types may include wheels. They allow users to lean their weight against the device and move with it.
Rollators have a similar design to walkers. However, they always include either three or four wheels, depending on the frame design. They also include seats that allow the user to rest after moving. They are strong enough to enable the user to support their weight and also take breaks.
A 2019 study in Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies and Health suggests that rollators are more effective than walkers. Walkers without wheels cause users to tire faster, use more energy, and move shorter distances.
Therefore, rollators are better options than walkers for more severe mobility problems. However, both can be effective in improving the quality of life. Walkers also tend to be cheaper, so they may be a more budget-friendly option.
What Are the Different Kinds of Rollators?
There are many types of rollators on the market. They may include any of the following features:
When choosing the best rollator for you, you should consider your needs and living space. Opt for a model that can move through your house and will allow you to maneuver outside.
What Is a Bariatric Rollator?
Bariatric rollators can support higher weights than standard models. For example, a bariatric frame may hold anywhere from 350 to 700 pounds (159 to 318kg). To be sure, you should double-check the maximum load capacity of each bariatric rollator.
These devices may also have a lower seat. This design feature allows the user to sit and rise more quickly without putting as much pressure on their legs.
Bear in mind that bariatric rollators are heavier than standard models, so they can be harder to steer and transport.
Who Needs a Rollator?
Rollators are an excellent option for people who need more balance and mobility. There are several reasons why someone might need a rollator, including old age, balance disorders like Parkinson’s, or an injury.
Movement problems are common with old age. Seniors may struggle with any number of conditions, with the most common being arthritis and osteoporosis. These chronic conditions can make it harder to move.
Arthritis is widespread in older people. It is a kind of joint disease that causes inflammation, pain, and stiffness. People with arthritis find it harder to move. They may be unable to climb or walk without the assistance of a tool like a rollator.
Osteoporosis is also prevalent among the aging population. It is a type of bone loss that makes the bones weaker, thinner, and more breakable. Osteoporosis causes back and body pain and a worsened posture that makes it harder to move.
However, younger people can also struggle with mobility problems. In younger populations, movement problems are common among people living with obesity and less income.
The common causes are:
In any of these cases, people may struggle to move without the balance and support of a mobility aid. They are good candidates for rollators.
Parkinson’s disease is common in people over the age of 60. This disease can be debilitating and generally gets worse as time passes.
Common symptoms of Parkinson’s include:
Because people with Parkinson’s struggle to maintain their balance, they can fall over easily. This can cause further injuries and distress. Therefore, a rollator can help them to maintain their balance and avoid pain.
There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, so patients rely on treatments to reduce their symptoms. A rollator can be part of a long-term approach to this disorder.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is a general term for a variety of different lung diseases, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It is a common consequence of cigarette smoking, chemical fume exposure, and air pollution.
Symptoms of COPD include:
COPD makes it harder to breathe, especially after exercise. People with this condition need to move slowly and rest a lot to avoid making their symptoms worse. Rollators can be helpful because of the in-built seat, which allows the user to rest as needed.
Heart failure happens when the heart doesn’t work as it should. It can no longer pump blood efficiently throughout your body. It is a common condition among people who have high blood pressure or coronary artery disease.
Some of the symptoms of heart failure include:
People with heart failure may only be able to move and exercise for short periods at a time. Therefore, a rollator allows them to stop and sit down while they catch their breath and slow their heart rate.
Who Should Not Use a Rollator?
When evaluating if someone should use a rollator, you should consider these factors:
People who need to lean their weight heavily into a frame are not suitable candidates for a rollator. Because of its wheels, it can roll and slip out from under the heavy weight on top. These people are better suited to a traditional walker or a wheelchair.
Rollators are more comfortable to maneuver around corners and in smaller spaces. However, you need decent abdominal strength to move the rollator while walking. Therefore, people with weak abdominal muscles may struggle to use this tool.
Those that do not have the strength to stop the weight of the rollator also should not use it. Most units include brakes that slow the device but do not stop it completely. If a person cannot halt themselves, they could fall or have another accident.
Lastly, rollators are not a good option if you need to transport it a lot. They do not lie as flat, nor are they as lightweight as traditional walkers. Therefore, they can be more challenging to transport in any vehicle.
Are Rollators Safe?
If used correctly, rollators are safe. However, there are some dangers if you misuse them or are not suitable for this mobility device.
There are a few immediate dangers to using rollators:
However, you can avoid these dangers by ensuring that a rollator is a suitable device for your physical needs. If you lack the strength to use the brake and stop the rollator, it isn’t a good option. It is also not suitable if you need to lean a lot of weight on the device.
There are also some long-term dangers to using a rollator:
However, you can mostly reduce these dangers by choosing a rollator that fits your body. The arm grips should be at the correct height for your dimensions, and the device should support your weight. Your doctor or physiotherapist can help you size a rollator to your body.
How to Safely Use a Rollator
How to stand up from a rollator
How to sit down on a rollator
How to walk with a rollator
How to maintain a rollator:
If you want to learn more about how to safely use a rollator, you can watch this video.
Are Rollators Covered by Medicare?
Medicare covers walkers (as does Medicaid in some circumstances) including rollators. They classify them as durable medical equipment (DME). This means you can gain coverage if you have a medical need and prescription from a doctor. However, some other criteria determine the kind of coverage.
Your doctor and the rollator supplier must be part of the Medicare program. Otherwise, Medicare will not pay out the claims. This ensures that they meet the standards of safety that the US government requires.
You will have to pay 20% of the amount approved by Medicare. This amount may cover the rental or purchase of a rollator, depending on your specific medical needs. However, this is only valid if your doctor accepts assignment, where Medicare will pay them the remainder.
There may be other costs associated with using a rollator. These expenses could include insurance and additional medical charges. You should thoroughly discuss your options with your medical professional.
Rollator Pros and Cons
There are various advantages to using a rollator:
There are also disadvantages to using a rollator:
In conclusion, rollators are mobility aids that roll across the ground. They may have either three or four wheels, with an in-built seat as well. They can usually support up to 250 pounds (114kg), although bariatric rollators may withstand 700 pounds (318kg).
Rollators are suitable for a range of users. These users include people with mobility issues, Parkinson’s disease, heart failure, or those with injuries. However, they are not a good option for people who need to lean their weight on the chair. Otherwise, it can roll out and cause a fall.
They can help people to regain mobility and independence, as well as lessen the symptoms of various chronic illnesses. However, rollators must be adjusted and used correctly to avoid accidents or long-term problems.
Overall, rollators are not the cheapest mobility aids on the market. However, they can provide the comfort and movement needed to get around. If you suspect that you need a rollator, we recommend asking your medical professional for further information.