Just because you're a senior with a bad foot doesn't mean you have to give up hope on maintaining your mobility. You just need to find a good alternative to crutches, right? While knee walkers, or knee scooters, are popular for some, they certainly aren't for everyone. Before you rush out and get one for yourself or an aging parent, here's what you need to know.

Prime Candidates For Knee Walkers

The knee walker is an assistive medical device used by patients who are recovering from surgeries or injuries and are unable to bear weight on their foot or leg. They are popular with those who have torn Achilles tendons, foot fractures, sprained ankles, or diabetic foot sores.

Knee walkers are great for those who aren't a good candidate for crutches, either due to arthritis in the hands, pain in the upper body, or the fact that they simply lack the upper body strength that's needed for crutches. They are also ideal when a wheelchair isn't an option for whatever reason. The knee scooter is also advantageous over crutches for the simple fact that it keeps the injured foot elevated making the foot and ankle less prone to swelling.

Age Restrictions

Age really doesn't affect who can use a knee scooter. Because of the way it's used—by placing the knee on a padded surface and pushing with the good leg while steering the handlebars—the most important factor in determining whether someone should use a knee walker is their ability to maintain balance and utilize good coordination. 

Think of it this way—you will be using your legs and hips for most of the support whereas crutches mostly rely on upper body strength. If you have good balance and are able to place weight on the knee of your injured leg, you should be able to use a knee walker without any difficulty.

What a Senior Should Look For In a Knee Walker

So here's the thing. Although age doesn't really factor into the equation when deciding whether or not to use this medical device, you still want to be sure you're taking every precaution for getting around safely. A good knee walker for anyone, but especially for senior adults, will have the following features:

  1. Hand brakes—This is important for being able to stop quickly when needed without relying solely on the uninjured foot.
  2. Four wheels—Some knee walkers have only three wheels, which makes them a little more difficult to maneuver and more prone to tip over, particularly on uneven ground. Four wheels are sturdier and safer all the way around.
  3. Steering ability—Not all knee walkers can be steered. If at all possible, get one with two handlebars that steer easily for more movement control.
  4. Right size—The importance of getting the right size knee scooter can't be stressed enough. The wrong size can make it harder to use, leading to very sore legs, hips, and muscles. To measure properly, have the patient wear their shoes and bend the injured leg at a 90 degree angle, right at the knee. You'll need to measure the distance from the bottom of the knee to the floor. Use that number to choose the right model and size, keeping in mind that some of them are adjustable if needed. 

Average Cost and Medicare Coverage

Cost depends on whether or not you rent or purchase. If you need it long term, obviously purchasing a knee walker is the best option. But if you only need one for several months or so, you can probably find one within the $100-200/monthly range, depending on where you live and what features you insist on having. 

Medicare Part B covers a number of medical devices that are ordered by your physician. This is great news if you and the doctor or supplier of the device are also enrolled in Medicare. If that's the case, you will probably only have to pay 20% of the approved cost.