4 Things to Consider When Choosing A Mobility Aid For Psoriatic Arthritis
Last updated: April 2023
5 years after my first psoriatic disease diagnosis, I received my first mobility aid. Since then, I have collected a fleet.
I have an old-school hospital-style metal walker for home use, crutches, a rollator-transport chair combo, a manual wheelchair with elevating legs, and a power wheelchair. I am thankful for each one of them and the purposes they continue to serve.
Mobility aids and psoriatic arthritis
It's important to note that I didn't acquire all of these sweet babies simultaneously. They came into my life one by one as my mobility needs evolved. I do not believe that there is one perfect mobility aid that addresses the needs of someone with psoriatic arthritis.
It is no secret that within my PsA advocacy work - I advocate for the use, convenience, and importance of mobility aids. For those with chronic conditions, these aids improve our quality of life and allow us to take our lives back.
Here are some things to consider when choosing your first mobility aid while keeping your future needs in mind.
Do you use a mobility aid?
Consider all the pain points
Pain and balance issues are usually the reasons someone considers purchasing a mobility aid. Unfortunately, many people only consider the pain that walking or standing creates and fail to recognize other pains that could be triggered when using certain types of mobility aids.
For example, I was thrilled when I bought my first walker with four wheels and a seat. It met my needs for balance issues and gave me a place to rest when my back and feet needed to rest. But what I didn't consider were the pains using it would create.
Pushing a rollator over rough surfaces triggered pain in my hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and neck. Then there was the strain on my back and arms whenever I had to lift the device over a bump, curb, or step. That additional pain became a reason for going out less rather than more.
Thankfully there are more rollator options available today that help patients with other pain points and mobility. One example is the style that has raised armrests so that there isn't pressure on your wrists while pushing.
Getting around unassisted may not be doable if you suffer from shoulder, elbow, or hand pain. It may mean having to rely on people pushing you. The same should be considered when thinking about a manual wheelchair.
Think through your activity goals
What do you want a mobility aid to help you do? Do you want to join the family for evening walks? Would you like your mobility aid to extend the amount of time you spend out?
Your goals are essential when choosing a mobility aid. Let's look at joining the family for an evening walk first. How long and far are you able to walk without a mobility aid? Is the reason for needing one solely for balance issues? Or does your body need a place to rest after walking so far?
If the balance is the only issue, a rollator that is kind to your pain points would be a perfect solution. But, if your body gives out before the end of the walk, a rollator/transport chair would be a better option because it gives you a place to safely sit while someone pushes you the rest of the way.
When looking to extend the time out of the house, think about what shortens your recent outings. Is it pain from walking/standing or physical fatigue from a lack of back support or ability to rest? A rollator is excellent if you just need to have a place to sit after walking.
If you cannot walk more than 30 minutes a day and your goal is to keep up with friends and family for 5 or 8-hour outings, a power or manual wheelchair might be a better option.
Take a look at usability
Usability is the easiest way to use the mobility aid independently. Would you be able to take it in and out of the house without injuring yourself? What about loading it into your vehicle and unloading it?
We all want to remain as independent as possible. Still, if using a particular mobility aid independently is causing more pain, you may need to choose a device that is controlled by someone else. Again, the options available today are fabulous compared to 20 years ago.
One of the features that sold me on my power wheelchair is the assistant bracket. This bracket allows me to move the joystick to the back of the chair where my husband can take control if I find myself experiencing extreme brain fatigue and unable to operate it myself.
The mobility aids that make it possible to stay out longer are not ones that I can load/unload myself. Our solution is to one day add a lift to our vehicle. Until then, I can use my rollator for trips to the post office and other errands that don't require much walking.
Cost and insurance coverage for mobility aids
Finally, the thing that is probably the most concerning is how much is improving your mobility going to cost. Most insurance plans cover little, if anything, towards the types of mobility aids you will require. At this point, I have both good and bad news. Let's rip off the bandaid and deal with the bad first.
Mobility aids should be used and seen as preventative care for those living with debilitating conditions. To push for this change, we as patients need to be asking them to cover these items even if we know that our request will be denied.
Why? Because if nobody asks, they will never understand the need for mobility aids in the psoriatic arthritis community.
Remember that if your insurance company denies your claim, it isn't that you do not need one. Nobody knows your body like you, and if a mobility aid makes your life with PsA less painful and easier, nobody can stop you from purchasing one.
Now for the good news. There are so many affordable options available. My first wheelchair was gifted to me by the church our family attended. My first walker was given by a friend who recovered from hip surgery and no longer needed it. I bought my first rollator on sale from my grocery store's pharmacy.
Except for my power wheelchair, my second wheelchair, crutches, and rollator/transport chair combo were purchased online. I bought my power wheelchair through another online retailer. Many retailers offer payment or layaway plans.
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