Check-in Services for Seniors Who Live Alone

 

Are there any services you know of that check in on elderly seniors who live alone? My 84-year-old father won't wear a lifeline help button and I worry about him falling or having a medical emergency and not being able to get to the phone to call for help.

Depending on where your dad lives, there are check-in call services, volunteer visiting programs and a variety of technology options you can turn to that can help you keep tabs on him. Here are several to check into.

Daily Check-in Calls


To make sure your dad is okay every day, consider signing him up for a daily check-in call service program. These are telephone reassurance programs run by police or sheriff's departments in hundreds of counties across the country and are often provided free of charge.

Here's how it would work. A computer automated phone system would call your dad at a designated time each day to check-in. If he answers, the system would assume everything is fine. But if he doesn't pick up, or if the call goes to voicemail after repeated calls, you (or whoever his designee is) would get a notification call. If you are not reachable, calls are then made to backup designees who have also agreed to check on your dad if necessary. If no one can be reached, the police or other emergency services personnel will be dispatched to his home.

To find out if this service is available in your dad's community, call his local police department's non-emergency number. If the police or sheriff's department in your dad's community does not provide a daily check-in call program, there are a number of companies you can turn to that offer similar services directly to consumers for under $15 per month. A few programs to check into include the CARE senior calling program (Call-Reassurance.com), CareCheckers (CareCheckers.com) and IAmFine (Iamfine.com).

Volunteer Visiting Programs


Another option you may also want to consider is finding a volunteer visiting program. These are usually run by churches, community groups or social service agencies.

These programs provide volunteers who will visit older adults in their homes usually for an hour or two once a week. The volunteers provide companionship as well as the reassurance that someone is checking in on a regular basis. They can also alert you if they notice your dad's health or living conditions start to decline.

To find out if these services are available, check with local churches or call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 to find groups or agencies near your dad.

Technology Solutions


There are a number of different technologies that will help keep your dad safe at home and help you keep an eye on him from afar. For example, for safety and peace of mind there are medical alert systems, which provide a wearable "help button" that would allow your dad to call for help anytime he needed it. Some of these systems also offer wall-mounted buttons that can be placed near the floor in high-risk fall areas, like the bathroom or kitchen, if he will not wear a help button.

If you want to keep daily tabs on your dad, there are wireless sensor-monitoring systems that he can put in his home that will notify you if something out of the ordinary is happening. There are also video monitoring cameras that have built-in motion and sound detection to let you know when something is detected and two-way audio that will let you talk and listen to him.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published September 22, 2017

Youth Foundation offers grant cycle

The Washington County Youth Foundation has been steadily working to be ready for the start of this year’s fall grant cycle.  They will be conducting a meeting at the Washington County Community Learning Center on September 28th at 7:00 pm to distribute grant applications. One adult and one youth representative from any organization wishing to apply for a grant should be present at this meeting.  The Youth Foundation offers grants for youth directed community service projects. 

Judy Johnson, Executive Director of the Foundation, commented, “The Youth Foundation has been offering a grant cycle since 2002.  They have funded many youth-directed community service projects.  It is so exciting to see youth and adults working together for the betterment of Washington County.”

At the September 28th meeting, representatives from the Washington County Youth Foundation will discuss the application process for the grant cycle.  Any organization wishing to apply for a grant should be represented by at least one adult and one youth.  However, this is not a mandatory meeting. 

Applications will be due by October 16, 2017, 3:00pm in the Foundation Office and the grant awards will be announced in November.  For more information, you can call the Washington County Community Foundation office at 883-7334.

The mission of the Washington County Community Foundation is to engage people, build resources and strengthen our community.  For more information, visit www.wccf.biz

 

Buying a New Car for an Older Driver

 

My parents are looking to buy a new car. Can you recommend some good resources that can help them evaluate and choose a good car for older drivers?

With more than 40 million licensed drivers in the United States age 65 and older, many automakers today are designing vehicles that are friendlier for older drivers. But what makes a good car for seniors? For many, top priorities include finding a vehicle that is easy to get into and out of, has simple adjustments for fit and comfort, is easy to operate, has good visibility and is safe, reliable and a good value.

To help you narrow your vehicle choices, Consumer Reports (CR) and the American Automobile Association (AAA) offer some great information and tools to assist you.

CR Best Cars


Consumer Reports recently released its rankings of the top 25 new cars for senior drivers. Each vehicle on the list offers excellent or very good ratings in categories like reliability, safety, road-test performance and owner satisfaction. In addition, many of the vehicles offer a variety of features that are extremely important to older divers, such as:
  • Easy front-seat access: Vehicles with low door thresholds, wider door openings and step-in heights make getting into and out of a car easier for those with physical limitations.
  • Good visibility: Being able to see well out of the front, sides and back of a vehicle is important for drivers of all sizes.
  • Simplified controls: Easy-to-read gauges and simplified/intuitive controls for changing the radio, shifting gears and adjusting the heating and cooling is a high priority among older drivers.
  • Bright headlights: Powerful headlights can make driving at night easier for people with decreasing or compromised vision.
The rankings also considered extra safety features (standard or optional) like backup cameras, automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warnings and blind-spot warnings.

CR's picks include a variety of compact and midsized sedans and SUVs, two minivans and a station wagon from seven different automakers. Here is its top 25 ranking, starting from the top: Subaru Forester; Subaru Outback; Kia Soul; Subaru Legacy; Kia Sportage; Toyota Highlander; Toyota Prius V; Toyota RAV4; Honda Odyssey; Nissan Rogue; Honda Accord; Ford C-Max Hybrid; Hyundai Sonata; Toyota Camry; Subaru Crosstrek; Toyota Sienna; Honda CR-V; Honda Pilot; Kia Forte; Ford Escape; Toyota Corolla; Kia Sorento; Ford Flex; Hyundai Santa Fe; Hyundai Tucson.

For more information on CR's top 25 list, see ConsumerReports.org/elderly-driving/top-25-new-cars-for-senior-drivers.

AAA Tool


Another great resource that can help your parents evaluate and choose a vehicle that meets their needs is the AAA online tool "Smart Features for Older Drivers."

At SeniorDriving.AAA.com/SmartFeatures drivers can check the problem areas, such as diminished vision, cognitive decline, limited upper body range of motion, decreased leg strength, arthritic hands, weight conditions and height limitations. The tool will identify vehicles that have the features that will best accommodate the driver's needs. Although this tool looks at model-year 2016 vehicles, in many cases the features shown are carried over to 2017 models.

They also have a Smart Features brochure you can download that will tell you what to look for in a vehicle to best accommodate your needs.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published September 15, 2017

Exercises that Help Ease Arthritis Pain and Stiffness

 

What exercises are best suited for people with arthritis? I have osteoarthritis in my neck, back, hip and knee and have read that exercises can help ease the pain and stiffness, but I do not know where to start and I certainly do not want to aggravate it.

Many people who have arthritis believe that exercise will worsen their conditions, but that is not true. Exercise is actually one of the best treatments for osteoarthritis.

Proper and careful exercises can help reduce joint pain and stiffness, strengthen muscles around the joints and increase flexibility. It also helps manage other chronic conditions that are common among seniors with arthritis, such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Recommended Exercises


Determining exactly which types of exercises that are best for you depends on the form and severity of your arthritis and which joints are involved. It is best to work with your doctor or a physical therapist to help you develop a personalized exercise program. The different types of exercises that are most often recommended to seniors with arthritis include:
    • Range-of-motion exercises: These are gentle stretching exercises that can relieve stiffness and improve the ability of your joints to move through their normal range of motions. These exercises should be done daily.

    • Strengthening exercise: Calisthenics, weight training and working with resistance bands are recommended (two or more days a week) to maintain and improve your muscle strength. Strengthening your muscles will help support and protect your joints.

  • Aerobic exercises: Low-impact activities like walking, cycling, swimming or water aerobics are all recommended three to five times per week to help improve cardiovascular health, control weight and improve your function overall.

It is also important to keep in mind that, when you first start exercising, you need to go slow in order to give your body time to adjust. If you push yourself too hard you can aggravate your joint pain. However, some muscle soreness or joint achiness in the beginning is normal.

To help you manage your pain, start by warming up with some simple stretches or range of motion exercises for five to 10 minutes before you move on to strengthening or aerobic exercises. Another tip is to apply heat to the joints you will be working before you exercise and use cold packs after exercising to reduce inflammation.

If you experience significant pain while you are exercising, you may need to modify the frequency, duration or intensity of your exercises until the pain subsides. Alternatively, you may need to try a different activity (e.g., switching from walking to water aerobics). It is important to note that if you are experiencing severe, sharp or constant pain, large increases in swelling or your joints feel hot or red then you need to stop and see your doctor.

Exercising Aids


To help you exercise at home, the Arthritis Foundation offers a variety of free online videos (see Arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/exercise/videos) to guide you through a variety of exercises. There are also arthritis exercise DVDs that you can purchase for a few dollars through Collage Video (CollageVideo.com, 800-819-7111) or the Arthritis Foundation Store (AFstore.org).

Also see Go4life.nia.nih.gov (or call 800-222-2225), a National Institute on Aging resource that offers a free exercise guide that provides illustrated examples of different exercises.

If you need some motivation or do not like exercising alone, ask your doctor about exercise programs in your area for people with arthritis. Hospitals and clinics sometimes offer special programs, as do local health clubs and senior centers.

The Arthritis Foundation also conducts exercise and aquatic programs for people with arthritis in many communities throughout the U.S. Contact your local branch (see Arthritis.org/local-offices or call 800-283-7800 for contact information) to find out what may be available near you.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published September 1, 2017

How to Stop Unwanted Junk Mail and Guard Against Mail Fraud

 

My father receives over 100 pieces of junk mail every week and I just discovered that he has given away nearly $5,000 over the past few months to many of the solicitors who mail him this junk. Can you offer any tips on how I can stop this?

Millions of Americans get bombarded with unwanted junk mail these days, including "mail fraud" schemes that you and your dad should be careful to guard against. Here are some tips that may help.

Mail Fraud Alert


While junk mail comes in many different forms—credit card applications, sweepstakes entries, magazine offers, coupon mailers, donation requests, political fliers, catalogs and more—the most troublesome type is mail fraud. This type of junk mail comes from con artists who are trying to take your money.

Mail fraud can be tricky to detect because there are many different types of schemes out there that may seem legitimate. Some of the most common mail scams targeting seniors today are phony sweepstakes, foreign lotteries, free prizes, vacation scams, fake checks (see FakeChecks.org), donation requests from fake charities or government agencies that do not exist, get-rich chain letters, work-at-home schemes and inheritance and investment scams.

If your dad is getting any type of junk mail requesting money in exchange for a free gift or if he's receiving checks that require him to wire money, you need to call the U.S. Postal Inspector Service at 877-876-2455 and report it.

Unfortunately, once a person's name and contact information is included on these mail fraud lists, also known as "suckers lists," it is very difficult to be removed from the list. This is because criminals regularly trade and sell mailing lists of people who they believe to be susceptible to fraud and the scammers will not remove names when they are requested to do so.

Knowing this, a good first step to help protect your dad is to alert him to the different types of mail fraud and what to watch for. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service can help you with this. They offer a list of the different mail fraud schemes at PostalInspectors.uspis.gov.

Another option is to see if your dad would be willing to let you sort through his mail before he opens it so you can weed out the junk. You may want to have the post office forward his mail directly to you to ensure this.

If your dad feels compelled to donate to certain charities, ask him to let you check them out first to make sure they are legitimate. You can do this at charity watchdog sites like CharityNavigator.org and Give.org.

Reduce Junk Mail


While scam artists are not likely to take your dad's name off their mailing lists, most legitimate mail-order businesses will. Start with the Direct Marketing Association, which offers a consumer opt-out service at DMAchoice.org. This won't eliminate all his junk mail, but it will reduce it. The opt-out service is $2 for 10 years if you register online or $3 if you register by mail.

To put a stop to the credit card and insurance offers he gets, call the consumer credit reporting industry opt-out service at 888-567-8688 and follow the automated prompts. He will be able to choose to either opt out for five years or to opt out permanently. Be prepared to give his Social Security number and date of birth. You can also do this online at OptOutPrescreen.com. If you choose the permanent opt-out, you'll have to mail in a form.

You should also make sure your dad's home and cell phone numbers are registered with the National Do Not Call Registry (DoNotCall.gov, 888-382-1222) to reduce the number of telemarketing calls he receives.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published August 25, 2017

Finding Money for Long-Term Care

 

What resources can you refer me to for long-term care financial help? My 84-year-old mother needs assisted living or nursing home care, but we do not have a lot of money and she does not have long-term care insurance.
If your mother does not have a long-term care insurance policy there are several resources you should look into that may help pay for her care depending on her particular circumstances.
Medicaid: The first thing to understand is that Medicare (the government health insurance program for seniors 65 and older and individuals with disabilities) does not cover long-term care. This includes nursing home care, the costs of assisted living facilities and home aide services (unless your mom is receiving skilled nursing or therapy services too). Medicare only provides limited short-term coverage, which includes up to 100 days for skilled nursing or rehabilitation services after a hospital stay.
However, Medicaid (the joint federal and state program that covers health care for individuals who have very low income) as it currently stands, does cover long-term care facilities and in-home care. To be eligible for coverage, your mother must have a very low level of income. Her countable assets cannot be more than around $2,000, including investments.
Note that most people who enter a nursing home do not qualify for Medicaid at first, but pay for care out-of-pocket until they deplete their savings enough to qualify. Contact your state Medicaid office (see Medicaid.gov) for eligibility details.
Veterans aid: If your mom is a wartime veteran, or a spouse or surviving spouse of a wartime veteran, there is a benefit called "Aid and Attendance," which can help pay between $1,153 and $2,127 a month toward her long-term care.
To be eligible, your mom must need assistance with daily living activities like bathing, dressing or going to the bathroom. In addition, her yearly income must be under $13,836 as a surviving spouse, $21,531 as a single veteran or $25,525 as a married veteran (after her medical and long-term care expenses). Her assets must also be less than $80,000 excluding her home and car.
To learn more, see Benefits.VA.gov/pension or contact your regional Veterans Administration office or local veterans service organization. Call 800-827-1000 for contact information.
Life insurance: If your mom has a life insurance policy, find out if it offers an accelerated death benefit that would allow you to receive a tax-free advance to help pay for her care.
Another option to consider is selling her policy to a life settlement company. These are companies that buy life insurance policies for cash, continue to pay the premiums and collect the death benefit when she dies. Most sellers generally get four to eight times more than the policy cash surrender value.
If she owns a policy with a face value of $100,000 or more and is interested in this option, ask for quotes from several brokers or life settlement providers. To locate some, use the Life Insurance Settlement Association member directory at LISA.org.
Tax breaks: If you are helping out your mom financially, you may also be able to claim her as a dependent on your taxes. This could potentially reduce your taxable income by $4,050, which you could use for her care. To qualify, you must pay at least half of your mom's yearly expenses and her annual income must be below $4,050, excluding Social Security. For more information, see IRS Publication 501 at IRS.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p501.pdf.
If you cannot claim your mom as a dependent because her income is too high, you may still be able to get a tax break if you are paying at least half her living expenses and they exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. These expenses include her medical, dental and long-term care costs. You can include your own medical expenses in calculating the total. See the IRS Publication 502 (IRS.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p502.pdf) for details.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.
Published August 18, 2017

Low-Cost Wireless Plans for Older Smartphone Users

 

My dad is interested in downsizing his smartphone wireless plan and is looking for the best low-cost options. He uses his phone primarily for talking and texting, but also wants to have some cellular data for checking email when he does not have WiFi access. Do you have any recommendations? There are several great low-cost deals I can recommend for older smartphone users who are looking to save some money by paring down their cell phone plan. Here are three possible options to consider.

Republic Wireless


If your dad is an Android smartphone user, Republic Wireless (RepublicWireless.com) offers one of the cheapest deals available for light data users. Republic uses a mixture of Wi-Fi and cellular networks—Sprint and T-Mobile specifically—to transmit calls, texts and data. This patented technology automatically offloads as much as possible to WiFi networks when available, so he will consume less data than he would with traditional carriers. Republic's no contract service plans start at $20 per month for unlimited talk, text and one gigabyte (GB) of data. If your dad needs more data, their $30 per month plan provides 2GB, and $45 per month buys 4GB. How much data will your dad need? The best way to find out is to check his current phone bills. The average smartphone owner uses between 2GB to 3GB of data each month, but most seniors use less than 1GB. To use Republic Wireless, he will need a compatible Android phone (iPhones are currently not compatible) or your dad can buy a new phone through the company. It currently offers eight Android phones with prices starting at $99.

Consumer Cellular


Another excellent low-cost option for lighter data users, and one that caters to older adults, is Consumer Cellular (ConsumerCellular.com). Rated the number one wireless service by Consumer Reports seven years running, Consumer Cellular offers a variety of "pay for what you need" talk and connect plans that will allow your dad to choose exactly what he wants. Consumer Cellular's talk plans start at $10 per month plus 25 cents per minute, which may be an option if your dad is an infrequent caller. Otherwise they offer $15 per month for 250 minutes, $20 per month for 1,500 minutes or $30 per month for unlimited minutes. Consumer Cellular also offers connect plans for text messages and cellular data. These plans cost $2.50 per month for 300 texts and 30 megabytes (MB) of data, $5 per month for 2,000 texts and 200MB data, $10 per month for unlimited texts and 500MB, $20 per month for unlimited texts and 1.5GB, $30 per month unlimited texts and 3GB or $40 per month for unlimited texts and 5GB of data. Consumer Cellular, which offers 5% monthly fee discounts to AARP members, also allows customers to utilize their own smartphones by offering free SIM cards. Alternatively, customers can purchase a wide variety of Android and Apple iPhones or the senior-friendly Doro 824 SmartEasy.

Lifeline Program


If your dad's income is low enough, another option to check into is the Lifeline Assistance Program. This is a federal program that provides a $9.25 monthly subsidy that can go toward your father's smartphone service. To qualify, your dad will need to show that his annual household income is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (which is $16,281 for one person or $21,924 for two people) or that he is receiving a government benefit, such as Medicaid, food stamps, SSI, public housing assistance, veterans pension or survivor's pension benefits or that he lives on federally recognized tribal lands. To apply, he can contact a wireless provider in his area that participates in the Lifeline program (see LifelineSupport.org or call 800-234-9473) and ask for an application form. He will want to check all wireless providers in his state because some offer better services than others.Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published August 11, 2017

WCCF and ROI offering $25K in Grant Funding for Out-Of-School STEM Learning

Regional Opportunity Initiatives (ROI) has awarded Washington County Community Foundation a $25,000 grant for Out-of-School STEM Learning.  The purpose of the program is to partner with our local schools and organizations to create inspiring STEM learning environments for our youth. 

Standards for this wonderful grant opportunity include:

  1.  The program creates an inspiring STEM learning environment for all youth.
  2. STEM resources, equipment, and supplies support STEM learning.
  3. The STEM program engages families, schools, and community.
  4. Staffs receive professional development that increases their confidence and ability to facilitate STEM learning.
  5. The program provides opportunities for youth to learn STEM content, skills, and knowledge.
  6. The program utilizes a variety of data to measure the impact of its STEM program.

Eligible expenses for grant funding include program planning, professional development and part of program implementation, actual implementation, program materials, and scholarships for STEM participants.  Grant dollars may not be used for one-time events not related to an ongoing STEM program or staff time (unless a plan for sustainability is defined and realistic.

If your school or organization would like to apply for this grant, applications for the grant can be found in the Grants section of the Washington County Community Foundation website at www.wccf.biz and are due by September 25, 2017. 

For questions, please contact Judy or Lindsey at 812-883-7334.

The Washington County Community Foundation will begin accepting applications immediately for this opportunity. 

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

 

Finding Help for Seniors Addicted to Opioids

 

I'm worried about my 72-year-old mom who has been taking Vicodin—an opioid medication—for her hip and back pain for more than a year. I fear she's becoming addicted to the drug but I don't know what to do.
 
Opioid addiction is a national problem that is hitting people of all ages, including millions of older Americans. Here is what you should know and do to help your mom.

The Cause


The main reason opioid addiction has become such a problem for people over age 50 is because opioids have become a commonly prescribed (and often overprescribed) medication by doctors over the past two decades. It is being used to treat many different types of pain and diseases, including arthritis, cancer, neurological diseases and other illnesses that become more common in later life. Nearly one-third of all Medicare patients—almost 12 million people—were prescribed opioid painkillers by their physicians in 2015. That same year, 2.7 million Americans over the age of 50 abused painkillers. Taken as directed, opioids can manage pain effectively when used for a short amount of time. However, because nearly 5% of those treated will develop an addiction or abuse the opioid medication, people should be screened and monitored when using an opioid for a long period of time.

Signs of Addiction


Your mom may be addicted to opioids if she cannot stop herself from taking the drug and her tolerance continues to increase. She may also be addicted if she keeps using opioids without her doctor's consent, even if it is causing her problems related to her health, money, family or friends. If you think your mom has an addiction, ask her to see a doctor for an evaluation. Go to a family doctor, her prescribing physician or find a specialist through the American Society of Addiction Medicine (see ASAM.org) or the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP.org). It is also important to be positive and encouraging. Addiction is a medical matter, not a character flaw. Repeated use of opioids actually can change the way the brain functions.

Treatments


Treatment for opioid addiction is different for each person, but the main goal is to enable your mom to stop taking the drug and avoid using it again in the future. To help her stop using the drug, her doctor can prescribe certain medicines to help relieve her withdrawal symptoms and control her cravings. These medicines include methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. After her body detoxifies, behavioral treatments such as individual counseling, group or family counseling and cognitive therapy can help her learn how to manage depression, avoid the drug, deal with cravings and heal damaged relationships. For assistance, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) confidential help line at 800-662-4357 or visit SAMHSA.gov. The SAMHSA has individuals who can connect you with treatment services in your mom's state. Also, if you believe that your mom has a doctor who prescribes opioids in excess or without legitimate reason, you should report him or her to the appropriate state medical board. For contact information visit FSMB.org.Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published August 4, 2017

How to Choose the Right Type of Walker

 

How does one go about choosing a walker? I have some balance issues along with arthritis in my knee and could use a little more help than a cane provides. When it comes to choosing a walker, there are various styles and options to consider, but selecting the best one for you will depend on your needs and where you'll be using it. Here are some tips to help you choose.

Types of Walkers


There are three basic types of walkers on the market today. To help you choose, consider the type of support you'll need. Then, pay a visit to a medical equipment store or pharmacy that sells walkers so you can test-walk a few (see Medicare.gov/SupplierDirectory). Here are the different types you will be able to choose from:Standard walker: This is the most basic style of walker. It has four legs with rubber-based feet (no wheels), is very lightweight (around 6 pounds) and costs between $50 and $100. This type of walker must be picked up and moved forward as you walk, so it's best suited for people who need significant weight bearing support or who are walking very short distances.Two-wheeled walker: This has the same four-leg style as the standard walker except it has wheels on the two front legs. This allows the walker to be easily pushed forward without lifting. The back legs glide across the floor providing support while you step forward. This type of walker works best for people with balance issues and is priced at around $60 to $120.Rollator: This is a rolling walker that has wheels on all four (or three) legs. This type of walker is best for people who need assistance with balance or endurance inside or outside the home. This walker does, however, require some upper body strength in order to prevent the walker from rolling out from under you. Rollators typically come with a built-in seat, basket and hand-breaks. For those with hand arthritis or gripping problems, there are rollators with pushdown brakes that engage with downward pressure and will lock when you are seated. Rollators typically cost between $75 and $225.

Other Tips


After deciding on a type of walker, there a few additional things you need to double-check to ensure it meets your needs. First, if you have a larger frame, make sure the walker's weight capacity will support you. If you choose a rollator, make sure to test the seat to ensure that you can comfortably fit between the handgrips. Always check the height of the walker to make sure that it is set appropriately for you. To do this, stand with your arms relaxed at your sides. The handgrips of the walker should line up with the crease on the inside of your wrist. You also will want to ensure that the walker folds easily for transport and storage and that it is light enough to lift into your car. Test the handgrips to make sure they are comfortable. Also, be sure you measure the doorways in your home to ensure your walker will fit through them. If you have narrow doorways consider installing "swing clear" offset door hinges. This would be a simple and affordable way to widen your doorways an extra two inches. Walkers also have numerous accessories that can be added for your convenience, such as—food tray attachments, tote bags for carrying personal items, oxygen tank holders and tennis ball walker glides that go over the feet of a standard walker to help the walker slide across floors. For more tips on how to choose and use a walker, visit Mayoclinic.com/health/walker/HA00060. It is also a smart idea to work with your doctor or a physical therapist, as Medicare will cover 80% of the cost if you receive a written prescription for a walker.Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published July 28, 2017

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