Changing My Rollator From a Foe to a Friend

Dagmar Munn avatar

by Dagmar Munn |

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My ALS symptoms showed up in my feet and legs in 2010. Normally strong and coordinated from years of gymnastics and fitness classes, my lower limbs became weak and unreliable. That’s when my neurologist recommended I begin using a walker.

To be precise, she meant I use a rollator. Although most people use the terms interchangeably, a rollator is a walker with wheels. Walkers are those aluminum, wheelless, hospital-issued devices often used by patients recovering from hip or knee surgery.

But being told I needed one meant I had to accept that I wouldn’t recover. My ALS was a permanent condition and my new normal.

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Reimagining the Rollator

Meeting my rollator

When my brand-new rollator finally arrived, all I could think of were the negatives. It was black, and had four wheels and a basket. Why, I bemoaned, weren’t there better color choices? I wanted a rollator that would blend in with my surroundings and completely disappear when not in use.

When I entered a room, I believed the first thing people noticed was my rollator. In photos, it showed up beside me, and if I hugged a friend, my gangly rollator became entangled in our embrace. At bedtime, it was the last thing I saw before turning out the light and the first thing I glimpsed in the morning.

But now, 11 years have gone by, and I’m still thankfully pushing my rollator. Thankful my symptoms haven’t progressed, and thankful my attitude has come around to see all the positives of owning and using a rollator.

What helped change my mind?

First, I sought the support of my fellow ALS patients.

On the ALS News Today Forums, we had lively discussions about our rollators. The best brands, the best price, rugged all-terrain rollators, and those that can convert into a wheelchair.

We shared helpful tips, and I even shared many of my own in the column, “Learning to Roll Through Life with Rollators.”

Looking back, I realize that the evolution of my mindset from initially disliking rollators to wanting to improve them, to now liking mine just the way it is, has come a long way.

I now have two: one is fire-engine red, the other blue. When out and about, I count on my rollator to visually alert others not to bump into me. It’s also a safety barrier, automatically creating a healthy space between me and another, which is so important during this current world health crisis.

I can’t imagine my life without one.

Do you use a rollator, or have you just begun using one? Share your tips in the comments below, try a few of mine, or join the discussion on the ALS News Today Forums.

Together, we can support each other as we learn to live well with ALS.

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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.

Comments

Tina Duker avatar

Tina Duker

Thank you so much for sharing your positive outlook and humor. Your story gives many people hope.

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Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

I appreciate your positive comment, Tina :)

Susan gGuarcello avatar

Susan gGuarcello

Hi Dagmar, I read a post of yours that someone asked you. What would you do differently? One of your replies was get a rollator sooner. So I went out and purchased a red rollator. One of the best things I’ve done. It’s a great help with my balance and self confidence to get around safely. The bonus is I can put things on it instead of having to carry them. I’m experiencing weakness in my arms and everything feels so darn heavy. Now I need some new advice. My voice is becoming weak. You mentioned in another post a voice assist speaker. Could you give me some recommendations. Anyone here that has recommendations please chime in.

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Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

Hello Susan, I'm glad your rollator is working out so well for you.

Yes, I've found help by using a "personal voice amplifier" and wrote about it here: https://alsnewstoday.com/columns/2020/01/28/speaking-dysarthria-voice-amplification-microphone-vocalization-symptoms/ and a follow-up: https://alsnewstoday.com/columns/2020/02/11/microphone-voice-hear/
the amplifier is here: https://zoweetek.cn/product-item/zoweetek-10w-portable-mini-voice-amplifier-with-wired-microphone/
Also, consider retraining yourself to learn to speak & breathe from your diaphragm, https://alsandwellness.blogspot.com/2020/01/how-blowing-bubbles-helps-me-breathe.html in addition to pronouncing words differently. This should help explain what I did when my voice started weakening over 4 years ago: https://alsandwellness.blogspot.com/2018/03/als-dysarthria-use-these-innovative.html
Best, Dagmar

Susan Guarcello avatar

Susan Guarcello

Dagmar, thank you for all your help. It’s really appreciated.

Reply
Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

I in turn, appreciate knowing you are one of my regular readers :-) Dagmar

Carolyn Barry avatar

Carolyn Barry

I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on your rollator. I too have felt my rollator is a bit of a friend and certainly has become an extension of me, in a strange sort of way. I also have 3 rollators, one for upstairs, one for downstairs, and one in the car for away from the house. It is a godsend in the bathroom, as I need to alternate sitting and standing, and it certainly gets me to where I want and need to be. I have 3 different brands of rollators and I'd say I have a favorite, though the color red is a bit too flashy for me :-) It's funny though because since it's the one I use when I'm out, I get constant compliments on the color! This one definitely rolls the easiest, and I actually chose this one because it is a bit narrower than others and fits easier through doorways. I am also like you, in that whenever someone moves it away from me, when I am at the dentist or doctor for example, I feel a bit of unsettledness, with it not being next to me. It's good to read your similar feelings about yours, as it's not like I even know anyone else in my day to day travels, who can relate to how this all feels. Thanks once again for sharing your 'friendship' with your rollator :-)

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Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

Carolyn, I'm high-fiving you across the miles! Your words made me smile. And I am happy what I share is so close to what you are experiencing as well. Best wishes to you. Dagmar

Janet McElhanon avatar

Janet McElhanon

Dagmar, I had no idea what a rollator was until reading your posts a year ago. I started with a brace when my right foot dropped, then used a cane, and finally bought my metallic blue rollator. I don’t walk anywhere without it and use the locked seat frequently.
I am close to 3 years from when my first symptoms started and a year and a half from official diagnosis. When I found your blog/forum it was hope and information rolled into one- you have inspired me to fight and do what I can to help myself live the best life possible as long as possible. Happy holidays

Reply
Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

Gwen, thank you for sharing your experiences and "journey" with your rollator :-) It sounds like we had the same symptom progression (and progression from cane to rollator).

I appreciate knowing that my writings and the forum have kept you inspired - - - may we all learn to live well (and long) while we live with ALS. Best wishes to you and yours this holiday season! Dagmar

Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

Thank you Janet! As one of my good pALS-friend would say, "keep on, keepin' on!" Good holiday wishes to you too. Dagmar

Gwen McMartin avatar

Gwen McMartin

Hi Dagmar, I've been using a rollator for about three months. I initially resisted (before my diagnosis in October), thinking I'm only 71. My PT said it's temporary along with the cane to prevent injury from falls. Well, of course, now it's not temporary. I have one in my car, (covered by Medicare) and one in the house loaned by the ALS Association. When taking walks (albeit short and slow) it is great to take a break and sit. I call it my portable chair. The one in the house is great for transporting stuff, since it is very hard to walk and carry something. Thanks so much for the article. This illness takes a lot of getting used to.

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Kimberley Colpman avatar

Kimberley Colpman

Love to hear others perspectives. I have had ALS for 3 years and am now starting to experience slower walking and less strength on stairs. I used to walk min 1.5 hrs/day now I am at 30 min. Its a difficult transition as my life was very full physically (climber, weight training, running, yoga etc) and I am used to working my body hard. But is that the right thing?? My conundrum.... a rollorator is on the horizon but what is the 'right' timing? I want to keep walking independently to keep what muscle strength there is, and working hard for that is not foreign to me. I find these decisions to take on 'adaptive' devices and help difficult, as you mentioned b4, if someone is doing everything, you dont maintain your own muscle strength and agility. Its a tough one to figure out for sure. Thank you for sharing

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Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

Kimberly, I understand your hesitancy in transitioning to using a rollator. I suggest you be aware of how often you are losing balance and needing to grab onto something nearby to steady yourself - - that is a sign you need a rollator. I've found that I can maintain my "good-posture" and strengthening routines all while using a rollator. It is not a replacement or barrier to walking well - - think of it as being there for safety, and so you CAN keep on walking well. All the best to you! Dagmar

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