A walker with a built-in seat can be a handy device, but if used the wrong way the seated walker could become a serious hazard.
"They roll and they have a seat…The beauty of them is that patients think well look I can walk a little bit. I can go to the mall and if I get tired I can sit and wait," said Pam Kekich, physical therapist at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.
The walkers seem practical, not dangerous, but according to Kekich, "the danger lies in the fact that it can be too short" or too tall.
She said the walkers are sold without a prescription and therefore not under a doctor's supervision. They often are not positioned at the correct height, said Kekich.
"If you have a walker that is too short, you're bent over…If you have a walker that is too tall your arms are up in the air and you don't have the balance to walk like that," explained Kekich.
The hunched position for a walker that is too short can cause the walker to push too far forward in front of the user.
"You don't have the body posture and reflexes to be able to use them properly. If you're going to have it roll out from underneath you," said Kekich.
Another big problem: many users are sitting on the walker's seat and then pushing themselves like a pseudo wheelchair.
"Unfortunately what they're doing is they're pushing themselves backwards and that's whenever the accident happens," said David Franklin, Director of Security at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.
Franklin said he has seen several accidents in and around the hospital because people can catch a crack on the floor, bump into an object or even another person.
"Wheels catch and it flings them over backwards and what happens then is that they hit their head, their back and their shoulder," described Franklin.
He has also seen family members or friends pull a person while they sit in the walker.
"The walker could fall backwards and cause injury to you or the family member," said Kekich.
All it takes is one fall for a senior to end up in the operating room.
"It is something that as a physical therapist that I see everyday several times a day because patients have come in with broken hips and other injuries from falls," said Kekich.
Franklin worries it is a growing trend.
"They use them more and more and I'm afraid we're going to see more of these accidents," said Franklin.
Kekich added that brakes can be another problem because those with fatigue or arthritis could have trouble grasping the brakes properly and slip. She does not recommend the seated walkers for her patients.
The rollator, as Kekich calls the seated-walkers, are meant for mobility with good posture and for sitting in a stationary position.
Copyright 2011 KPLC. All rights reserved.