In 2010, a few short months after my ALS diagnosis, I found myself having to rely full time on a rollator. I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t happy at all. But now, nine years later, it’s become my ever-present silent buddy, and I can’t imagine my life without it!
Are you struggling to accept using a rollator? Or wonder which one to buy? Following are my top tips and suggestions:
Manage your mindset
At first, I only saw the negatives. I thought rollators were for old people and my friends would surely avoid being seen with me. I knew that using a rollator meant I finally had to accept that I had ALS.
Of course, when I showed up pushing a rollator, no one thought less of me and my friends treated me the same as before. Yes, some awkward moments do happen. Hugging requires a wee bit of choreography, and I need assistance navigating crowded restaurants.
But my mindset has evolved. I now appreciate that my rollator helps me walk better and maintain my independence.
Find the right match
People with a wide variety of conditions use rollators, but not all models work well for those with ALS. Avoiding falls is our No. 1 priority, so lightweight, inexpensive, drugstore models can’t be counted on to stop us from tipping over. Choose a model that feels sturdy and has a wider base, quality parts, and big wheels.
A rollator fitted with 8-inch wheels can take on lumpy grass, gravel parking lots, and cracked cement ramps with the ease of an all-terrain vehicle. Big wheels don’t get caught in brick walkways and, hey, they look cool, too!
Baskets may look handy, but make sure they are accessible. My rollator has a snazzy zipper bag located low and on the front side — exactly where I can’t reach it! So it goes unused. I’ve since hung a small bag near one handlebar to hold my cellphone, hanky, and other essentials.
The same caution goes for the seat. Sitting down on a rollator may seem like a good idea, but may not be the safest thing to do. Like many with ALS, I have trouble getting up from a regular chair. Standing up from the seat of my rollator can be hazardous. I look like I’m trying to get out of a bucket seat in a sports car!
Be mindful and safe
I pay attention to what I’m doing, my surroundings, and the type of surface I’m rolling over. Brick walkways are treacherous, and often I’ll ask my husband to hold my elbow while I navigate a downhill ramp.
Always lock down at least one hand brake when not using your rollator. More than once I’ve been sitting in a chair with my rollator unlocked and it rolled just out of my reach.
Here’s a good tip: At the bathroom sink, I swing my rollator directly behind me and lock the brakes. This transforms it into an emergency landing pad, should I happen to teeter backward.
Readers of this column know I am now the proud owner of three rollators: one in the house, another on the back porch, and the third stowed in our van. The setup makes for an easy transition from one end of the house to the other and for going out and about.
If you have tips of your own, share them with us in the comments below. Together we can learn from each other, and together we can learn to live well while living with ALS.
Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.