When to Shift: A Discussion of Mobility Devices
For people with mobility-related disabilities, choosing which mobility aid to use, or even having one at all, is a complex and personal decision. I use a walker, along with a recumbent bicycle, to get around.
I discussed this issue with various colleagues who also use mobility devices. One colleague recently transitioned to using a power wheelchair from a manual chair.
He said he changed to using the power chair after having some seating issues with the manual, and, in doing so, he noticed some pros and cons. He has more energy when using the power chair because he doesn’t have to propel himself, but he has noticed his arms becoming weaker and that he has gained weight. He said if there were better seating options available, he would continue using the manual chair instead.
Personally, although I have sometimes have balance problems, I choose to use my walker instead of a manual wheelchair. I do strength and stretching exercises to work on my balance. I prefer to use the walker because, although it’s more physically demanding, I keep muscles in shape that I wouldn’t be using in a manual chair.
My mother walked for many years with a cane. When she moved to a new home with a wheelchair-friendly environment, she transitioned to using a manual wheelchair—and never walked again. Her muscles atrophied and she lost too much coordination. I want to retain my walking ability as long as possible.
There is a time for many people when using a more accommodating mobility aid may be necessary. I personally recommend using the device that engages as many muscles as possible as long as possible—use it or lose it.
Tom H Thompson is a peer advocate in Missoula and can be reached at email@example.com