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Rollators can help seniors and other people with mobility issues lead more active lives. They can make a big difference for those hoping to age in place and remain in their own homes for as long as possible. To get the most out of these mobility aids, you need to know how to operate and maintain the key components.
The braking system on a rollator is one of the most important parts. Being able to operate the brakes correctly and adjust them as needed can help you use your rollator more safely and easily. In this guide, we’ll introduce the types of brakes found on rollators, explain how to lock them, and provide instructions for making rollator brake adjustments. By the end, you’ll have an overall better understanding of rollator brakes and be ready to operate them wherever you go.
First things first: A rollator is a walker frame with four wheels attached to its legs. When you compare a rollator vs. a walker, the wheeled models are often easier to operate. With a rollator, you don’t have to lift your mobility device as you walk. Instead, you can continuously take small steps as your rollator rolls along with you, just like a wheelchair does when someone pushes it. Overall, rollators can be easier to use for those with no previous experience walking with a traditional walker or cane.
For all their benefits, the wheels on a walker can lead to some safety concerns. When moving downhill, a rollator might start to move too quickly, posing a risk that it could slip out of grasp. Plus, navigating tight spaces or making a sharp left or right turn can be tricky in some cases.
To address these issues, manufacturers usually add brakes to the handles of walkers. By employing the brakes, you can slow down your walker to maintain control. Many rollators take things one step further with locking brakes. By locking the brakes, you can completely stop your walker from rolling. This feature increases stability when you want to stand in one place or take a break and sit on a rollator’s built-in seat.
Rollators have different types of brakes. Although variations exist, there are generally three main types of rollator brakes: loop lock, bicycle-style, and push-down. Let’s take a look at each type of brake, one by one.
Loop lock brakes are easy to identify because they have large plastic loops positioned under the hand grips. These loops are parallel to the handles and easy to quickly access. When you want to slow down your rollator, you squeeze both loops. When you want to activate the locking mechanisms, you usually push the loops downward. To continue walking, you then pull them back into their original position.
As their name suggests, bicycle-style hand brakes draw inspiration from bicycle brakes. The brake controls are levers positioned below the handles. To slow down, you simply squeeze the brake levers. Locking mechanisms on this type of brake vary. In some cases you may push the levers down. Other designs require you to move a pin or press a button to lock.
Push-down brakes are an alternative to bicycle-style and loop lock brakes. They can be a good option for individuals with declining mobility who have difficulty squeezing due to a weak grip, arthritis pain, or another health condition. These brakes are built into the handlebars, so you only need to push down on the grips to slow down movement. By applying even more pressure, you can then lock the brakes.
The downside to this type of brake is that it can take some time to get used to it. Some users may find themselves accidentally engaging the brakes or locking their rollators when they don’t intend to.
The correct way to lock the brakes on your rollator walker will depend on its design. Be sure to check the instructions included with your mobility aid for specific directions. Although there will be differences from model to model, the following steps are usually involved when you lock the brakes on a rollator.
Before locking the brakes, get the rollator walker into the proper position. If you’re planning to sit or stand for a while, move off to the side out of the path of foot traffic. Line your walker up how you want it, straightening the front and rear wheels out as much as possible.
Once you have your rollator in position, find the brake handles. As explained above, they may be loops, levers, or built into the handles of your rollator.
Upon locating the brake handles, employ the locking mechanism by doing one of the following:
Before you lean your weight onto the rollator while standing or sitting down on the seat, double-check your work and be sure that the brake lock mechanism is activated. To do so, just try to push the front wheels of the rollator forward. If the rollator easily rolls, the brakes likely aren’t locked. In this instance, try again by repeating the process from Step 1.
To ensure safety, follow these tips when locking and operating rollator brakes.
If you plan to remain stationary while standing or want to sit on the seat of your rollator, be sure to lock the brakes. Otherwise, the rollator may slip out from underneath you when you apply your weight.
The brakes on a rollator work independently from one another. Each one has its own cable that connects to the hand brakes positioned below the grips or integrated into the handlebars. This design can help you make tight turns with your rollator.
When you need to turn, apply the brakes on the side that you’re turning toward. This will slow down the wheels on one side while allowing the other to move freely, making it possible for you to turn. Here’s a quick reference for how to make right and left turns and slow down your rollator:
Maintaining proper posture while walking with your rollator can improve stability and reduce stress on your muscles, bones, and joints. Here are the components of proper posture:
If you find it difficult to maintain proper posture, or your arms are too bent or too straight, you may need to adjust the height of your walker.
Most rollators have a brake adjuster that allows you to make the brakes more or less sensitive. Continue reading to find out why this feature is helpful and how to make a rollator brake adjustment as needed.
Brake sensitivity has a big impact on ease of use. If the brakes are too sensitive, your rollator may lurch to a stop too sharply, potentially setting you off balance. On the other hand, brakes that aren’t responsive enough could make your rollator difficult to control and pose safety risks.
Often, the brake adjuster on a rollator is a small nut located where the brake cable meets the brake. Locate the mechanism on your rollator, consulting the owner’s manual as needed.
To adjust the brakes, you typically tighten the nut to increase sensitivity and loosen it to reduce it. However, you should refer to the specific instructions included with your rollator to find out which way to turn the nut.
After making adjustments, try employing the brakes to see how they perform. Readjust as needed until the braking system is ideally set for your needs.
Just like the brakes on a car, the braking system on a rollator needs regular care to keep your mobility aid working properly. Follow these tips to maintain your rollator brakes.
Even heavy-duty parts will suffer wear and tear over time. As a result, it’s important that you keep an eye on the brakes.
Once per week, examine the braking system. Do the brake pads show any signs of wear and tear? Are the cables kinked or worn? Do you hear any squeaking when you employ the brakes? If you answer yes to any of these questions, it may be time to replace components of the braking system.
To work properly, rollator brakes need to be clean and well lubricated. Wipe them down and reapply lubricant as often as the manufacturer recommends. Be sure to only use cleaning products and lubricants that the instructions recommend to avoid damaging components of the braking system.
If operating your rollator proves to be difficult even with practice, consult a healthcare provider or physical therapist for assistance. For problems related to the brake system functionality or for help getting replacement parts, get in touch with the manufacturer.
Looking for a new rollator walker? Check out the rollators available at Because Market.