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Posted by Mike Phipps on July 14, 2021
Photo by lisafx from iStock
Hi everyone, it’s Kate here, Ability Superstore’s resident Occupational Therapist, or OT. My subject for this guide is the humble Zimmer Frame – a really helpful walking aid that has been around for years.
Most people will have heard of Zimmer frames and will have a good idea of what these mobility aids look like.
They are probably one of the most well-known type of walking aids available. We recently wrote about the – History of the Zimmer Frame – have a read by clicking here.
As an OT, I usually refer to these daily living aids as walking frames, rather than Zimmer frames, as Zimmer is just one make.
A walking frame is a frame with grip handles on the top and four points of contact with the floor. These four points of contact can be either (1) two wheels at the front of the frame with rubber ferrule feet at the back, or (2) be four wheeled, or (3) just be a frame without any wheels at all.
These mobility aids tend to made of lightweight aluminium to make them easy to use however, they are strong and sturdy and can support different weights.
Zimmer frames tend to be used by people who have reduced and limited walking ability and who require quite a lot of stability and support when they walk and move around. They can often be seen in people’s homes, hospitals and care homes, and there is a huge selection available.
There are two main types of walking frames available – folding and non-folding. Within these two types of walking aids, there are different options. There is also a choice of accessories that you can buy, too.
Folding Zimmer frames do exactly what they say on the tin – they fold down for easy storage when they are not in use, or for ease when travelling.
These mobility aids have four sturdy, height-adjustable legs, easy to grip handles, and are straightforward to fold and re-assemble.
Folding Zimmer frames can come without wheels, or have two wheels, or four. The set-up depends on the person using the mobility aid and their ability to walk, and how much support they require. Many of these walking aids are height adjustable, too.
These aids have non-slip ferrules on their feet if they do not have wheels, similar to walking sticks.
Zimmer frames are strong, sturdy, durable and long-lasting. However, I would say that generally, someone needing to use a mobility aid of this type may need some help with folding and assembling the product.
Walking frames tend to be used by people who require quite a lot of stability and support when walking. Therefore, they may have some difficulty in bending and reaching down to fold and assemble the mobility aid. Whilst this will not be the case for everyone, it is something to consider if a folding walking frame is to be transported.
Not surprisingly, a non-folding walking frame does not fold, but the frame is usually height-adjustable.
As with folding walking frames, non-folding Zimmer frames all have four sturdy legs and easy-to-grip handles. Again, these mobility aids can come with either four wheels, or two wheels, or no wheels at all.
All non-folding walking frames are height adjustable so that they can be set to the correct height for every person. There are also forearm, or trough frames available, for people who need forearm support, or who may have difficulty gripping and using a standard walking frame. As with the folding type, there will be non-slip ferrules on the feet for extra stability and safety, if there are no wheels.
Zimmer and walking frames provide a lot of support when walking. They are often used when people need a slower-moving walking aid and quite a lot of stability to help with their safety and confidence.
There is a wide range of walking frame accessories available for both folding and non-folding frames. Most of these accessories are designed for storage, including caddy trays, baskets and bags.
There are also glide skis available that are used to replace non-slip ferrules and to help reduce wear and tear on floor surfaces and carpets ensuring a smooth, gliding motion.
As an occupational therapist, I am a fan of the Buckingham Caddy. This provides an ideal way of transporting food, drinks and other items around the home.
One of the main things to consider and get right is the height of the walking frame. A Zimmer frame shouldn’t be too high, or it puts a strain on your arms. Walking frames also shouldn’t be too low, as that would strain your back, causing poor posture and stooping.
The correct height of a Zimmer frame is from the floor to the wrist bone when your elbows are slightly bent. While the walking frame itself is height adjustable, it is best to choose a frame within the correct height range, so it can then be adjusted more specifically to your needs.
Another point to consider is the width of the Zimmer frame and how much space there is around the home, particularly when getting through doorways. There are narrow walking frame s available if doorway widths are tight.
When thinking about the height and width of your walking aid, you also need to consider your height. A wider frame will generally be more stable and therefore better for someone who is tall, or heavier.
The next point to consider is whether the walking frame needs to be folded for storage and transportation, or not. For some people, this is a key point to bear in mind.
For some people who need to use the Zimmer frame all the time and do not intend to travel, a non-folding type may be best.
Sometimes, having a wheeled mobility frame is better, as the back of the frame can be lifted whilst pushing the front forward. If used correctly, this allows the user to walk more smoothly and naturally.
Often, having a wheeled walking frame is easier however, for some people, the wheels may make the frame move too fast for them.
Finally, another important consideration is a person’s level of grip. For some able people who have difficulty with their hands and have a reduced grip, a forearm walking frame, or trough model can be better, for example, for someone with severe arthritis affecting their hands.
Traditionally, walking frames, or Zimmer frames, have often been used in hospitals and care homes however, as an occupational therapist, I increasingly see people using these walking aids in their own homes.
A walking frame is an ideal mobility aid for people with very limited walking ability and reduced balance, who walk relatively slowly and need quite a lot of support and stability. These mobility aids are easy to use and assemble and provide safety, security and independence to those who have difficulty getting around.
There are so many different types of Zimmer frames available to suit a variety of people and homes. They are a solid, strong, reliable, and hard-wearing aid that can often reduce the risk of falls when used correctly.
Rollators are another popular form of walking device. Rollators provide mobility and come in different versions suitable for both inside and out. Don't forget, walking sticks also provide support and mobility, too!
The Customer Care Team are always happy to provide advice about any item you can purchase on the Ability Superstore website. So, if you have a question about one of our walking frames, or walking aid accessories, or any other product on the website, do not hesitate to get in touch and give us a call. You can call us free on 0800 255 0498, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.