Of the nearly 800,000 Americans who suffer strokes every year, 70% will be able to walk within six months. While this is an encouraging statistic, transitioning from a wheelchair to a walker after a stroke requires commitment and professional guidance.
1. Never Use Your Walker By Yourself
Learning to walk after a stroke isn't a solitary pursuit. If you attempt to stand with your walker by yourself, you could easily fall and injure yourself, which would set back your recovery and limit your mobility further.
Instead, work with a physical or occupational therapist until you are comfortable standing. He or she knows the safety guidelines for standing from a wheelchair, such as:
- Turning off the battery on Jay Hatfield Mobility power wheelchairs to prevent sudden movement
- Anchoring the wheelchair with brakes or other devices
- Positioning the walker correctly for maximum stability
Wait until your therapist tells you to practice on your own. Even then, ask a friend or family member to work with you at home, even if he or she is just in the next room in case you call for help.
2. Learn Your Personal Verbal and Psychological Cues
A stroke alters the way your brain processes information. Many stroke sufferers must change how they send commands to their muscles for activities like walking and lifting, and verbal cues are among the most productive.
When you want to stand up, for example, your legs might not automatically shift into a weight-bearing position from your wheelchair. You might have to speak the words "stand up" in order to facilitate communication between your brain and muscles.
Your therapist might use other cues or triggers to help you transition to a walker, such as:
- Manually stimulating your muscles
- Writing down instructions if you communicate better in writing than verbally
- Introducing floor exercises to rebuild muscle strength and control
3. Keep Your Wheelchair Nearby
As you become more confident using your walker, you might be tempted to shove your wheelchair in the attic and forget about it. For safety, however, keep your wheelchair nearby in case you experience fatigue or dizziness.
Many stroke sufferers adopt a hybrid approach to mobility. You might use your walker for most everyday tasks, such as:
- Preparing meals
- Answering the door or telephone
- Getting dressed
- Visiting with friends
However, when you leave the house, the wheelchair might still be practical. Use it for shopping and other long expeditions that might cause too much fatigue with the walker.
Everyone recovers differently from a traumatic event like a stroke, so don't rush yourself. If you aren't ready to transition fully to walking with a cane or walker, keep working with your therapist until you reach your desired state of mobility.