Are mobility scooters the answer when someone becomes frail and can no longer walk?


MY MIL has mentioned to us several times lately (I have heard her say this to people who call her or that she calls as well) that when she can no longer walk she will just buy one of those scooters.

I personally feel that she should stay mobile/active herself - I fear that once she stops moving and decides to sit on a scooter all the time that basically 'it's all over,' Am I wrong?

We told her that all those smiling faces on TV are ACTORS - and they are YOUNG and in good health (she is 87 ). We keep telling her that what you don't use you LOSE. We have already decided that once she cannot get up and down herself and in and out of bed herself - we will make other arrangements for her care. I cannot lift her (she weighs twice what I do) and my husband has rotator cuff issues and can no longer lift her.

She can barely get out of her recliner now on her own (we have even modified it by placing it on a taller base so that it is higher and extending the arms for more 'push'). She has used a folding walker 100% of the time for almost 3 years now. Much of the time - she does not lift her feet when she walks - she just shuffles. I have to lift her legs in and out of the car - she can no longer lift them herself. She uses bed-rails to help turn in bed. She uses a beside commode because walking 15 steps to the toilet is too far. She has a bedroom suite with walk in shower and stool and sink - but refuses to walk that far most of the time.

She has definitely become frail in the last year.

Has anyone else had experience with mobility scooters - pro and con?

They are not always covered by Medicare. I watch her ride scooters at Wal Mart and the thought of her bumping into and scraping everything in our home does not thrill me. (of course she didn't MEAN to) I realize that the scooters for home use are smaller - but they still depend on the driver not to run into things. She backs into clothes racks, knocks over displays, etc at stores. The last time she drove the car (3 years ago) she came home with a huge dent in the door and didn't know how it happened. Someone must have run into her. :0) (we don't know what happened to the other guy :0(

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Everybody is different. My mom has a large outdoor scooter and that's what makes her feel independent and gives her freedom. She's 93 and has one lower leg amputated. In the house she is mostly in her wheelchair. She still does her best to exercise and before winter walked a half mile with her walker (with rest stops.) But the scooter allows her to visit friends, go to book club at the library and visit her favorite spots. For her it is a godsend. She eventually decided not to attempt driving again after her amputation in large part because she didn't want to risk causing an accident.
But it all depends on the person and their environment. My Mom has lived in the same small town for thirty years. We are all quite confident that someone would help her if she got stuck somewhere. (Once she hit a pothole and couldn't move it, nor get off because she can't walk without a walker or rail. But she was quickly spotted and helped, and then she was back on her way.)
My Dad watched her and decided he wanted one, bought one used from a friend and then never used it. So it all depends.
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I agree, Midkid - I've concluded they're an expensive pain in the neck, and create at least as many problems as they solve. My mother fell in love with one that the makers claimed you could "easily" dismantle and put in the boot of your car. She had visions of driving herself to town, parking up, whipping this gizmo together in no time at all and then off she'd zoom round the shops...

I rang the company and asked them how much the battery weighed (they were pretty cagey about that, but I told them they couldn't speak to mother until they'd found out for me). I filled a box with the equivalent in canned foods, and showed it to mother. She gave me a filthy look and declined to attempt to lift it. That shot the fox.

My tiny great aunt had one, too; but she didn't drive, just used it locally. Once it got vandalised by bored teenagers with nothing better to do. Another time it got her to her GP's office all right, then ran out of battery power and left her stranded there, too far to walk home; so I went and collected her while exSO got the job of pushing the dam' thing back for her. I would say it was nothing but a flaming pest, but there was one occasion when I spotted her from my car as she tootled merrily past the stores - "as I stroll along the Bois de Boulogne with an independent air..."

Round here where I live now, they're all the rage among younger people who are overweight to the point of being immobile. Imagine their GPs' dilemma: do I requisition a scooter to maintain my patient's independence, or do I insist that he gets off his a** and walks before he gains so much weight he can't even if he wants to?
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I agree wholeheartedly...large scooters are great for outings or events where a slow walking person would otherwise just stay home, but constant indoor scooter use leads to greater frailty. Eventually their muscles loss prevents them from even getting on and off the scooter and falls occur when they try to transfer. I also bought my Dad a huge outdoor scooter (think golf cart frame!) which enriched his life when he used to go miles down dirt country lanes, feeling the power and freedom. Being for occasional use, it was great. It was his  constant use of  his little scooter, indoors and out, that lead to his drastic deterioration. My Dad actually landed twice in the hospital with weakness that was diagnosed as "de-conditoning due to lack of exercise." Also, scooters can destroy walls, doors, cabinets, baseboards...and upholstered furniture.
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Daddy had Parkinson's and mother ordered one of these for him. What a joke, He already felt like a total invalid and this HUGE chair just made him mad and took the last of his dignity. He used it ONCE.
Mother WANTS one--in fact, dad's old one is still at brother's house, but it hasn't been maintained and surely wouldn't work...(12 years left in the outdoors??)
I agree--once she has given up and given in to this, she will go downhill super fast. She barely moves now. Shuffles, slides her feet with her walker...her place would need to be modified to get into the rooms and brother is not going to do that. Once she is that immobile, she would no longer be able to wash herself, use the toilet, prepare her little meals or do anything but the crosswords and work her puzzles. And how will she get in and out if there is no one home to help her? I can't lift her, brother is very strong and HE can barely move her.
I see the scooters as being last resorts for outings, perhaps, but not in a small apartment.
On the upside, for the "able bodied", they were a hoot for taking the little kids outside for spinning wheelies (slow ones).
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I wish I had never bought a scooter for my 87-year-old dad who was temporarily unsteady on his walker after a minor surgery. Prior to this he was living alone and walking with a walker down to the corner store. The scooter basically wrecked his life. He loved the false feeling of mobility, so he quit walking completely and this refusal to exercise robbed him of muscle strength until he could no longer transfer from bed or chair. Three years later, with no new ailments except weakness, he can't even go to the toilet himself and had to leave the socially stimulating independent living facility he loved and move into a nursing home he hates, losing all his friends and not being able to make new ones because this crowd is mostly far along in dementia. His mind is fine, but the scooter's convenience made it too easy to quit walking, which ruined his body and the rest of his life. Now even though he could still walk a bit with a walker, he feels it is too hard a struggle for him to start exercising again. Maybe scooters are fine for visiting zoos and other outings that take a lot of walking, but I would urge every senior to avoid scooters as long as they can struggle to put one foot in front of the other. Or if they have excellent self-control, to use the scooter half the day and walk the other half.
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Fortunately the danger posed by elders being unable to control their mobility scooters will probably turn out to be just a blip in our cultural experience. The Google self-driving car that just completed 300,000 miles without an accident, the inexpensive Ford Focus that can park itself, and other advances suggest that the days of incompetent drivers are limited.

Meanwhile, maybe the elders who can't truly handle their scooters should be required to use an audible warning device similar to commercial trucks backing up so that we can all be on alert to run for cover.
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There is a definite downside to the scooters and power chairs. They require a lot of room to operate. Many people's houses will not accommodate them. The bathroom doors are often too narrow, the entrances to doors too angled, the furniture too big, etc. to operate the chairs without some major renovations. Then there are the ramps and vehicle lifts. Little cars won't support the lifts, so you have to buy a vehicle that will.

Then there are the sidewalks. Many neighborhood have sidewalks that have bumps and dips where the segments have settled or stuck out over time. The chairs won't work on them.

We have a scooter and chair. The house is built all wrong to use them. And the sidewalks are impossible to navigate with all their bumps and lumps. I don't know why my parents ever bought these things. I guess they saw the ads and didn't think of the specific requirements for the chairs. My mother is also scared to death of her chair. She can't do the joystick. She has always had trouble with electronics. Even the remote control is a challenge to her. She has never driven. She has never used the chair she ordered. I would love it if she would donate or sell them. The scooter is outside going to waste and has a dead battery. I plug in the power chair every couple of months to keep its battery juiced up.
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Just found this forum. I have been a victim a few times, now, of an out of control mobility scooter driver. I was hit while in Spain, a few years back, at an amusement park. An individual drove her scooter into a darkened theater attraction where there was only standing - no seating. She hit me at full speed and knocked me down. It was a terrible injury, but nothing was broken. I could barely walk for a few weeks, though. I was tapped in a store, on another occasion. Last night, I was in WalMart, at the returns counter and in front of several employees, when a woman pinned me against a bunch of shopping carts from behind. I didn't see it coming and next thing I knew, I was in agony. I, again, sustained a fairly painful injury. I complained, immediately, to the employees that were standing there, to get her off of me, but before they could get from behind the counter, the woman had backed up and left the area. I was shocked and very angry at being, once again, hit by one of these vehicles.

I don't consider myself to be in anyway discriminatory of individuals with disabilities, but I am tired of being a victim of their reckless driving. I would imagine someday it will result in my legs or back being broken. AND if I had been a child or another elderly person, I could easily have ended up in the hospital or worse.
The WalMart individuals seemed unmoved by the whole thing. I made them call a manager and spoke with him for several minutes about my concerns. He seemed relatively unmoved, as well. I am not a litigious type, but I was so angered by their apathy I was tempted to threaten a lawsuit. I imagine though that without serious injury or proven loss of income, etc., it would be more trouble than it's worth.

I really don't see this turning out well, with our aging population. If this isn't gotten under control and some type of laws and requirements on who can operate these vehicles aren't put into place soon, I see tragedy ahead. I just hope I can figure out a way to stay out of these drivers' way. I also am going to think very carefully about ever using a scooter, myself. I pray that I have the mental capacity and dexterity to drive with care and if I don't that there are regulations in place to prevent me from operating a scooter.
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Well, I have patients who use them, and the good part about scooters is that if you have some use of your lower body, you can get up and down from them easily; the seats swivel, the tiller can be used as a support, and the platform is not high, so that getting into the seat is facilitated. A lot of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy or adult SMA patients with moderate to severe proximal weakness can use them well as long as trunk control is reasonable for sitting in an office-style chair rather than needing full support. So rather than just sit in a recliner, you may at least get that much muscle use. I had really wanted my mom to get one and SHE refused, though she could not walk far at all and could barely push her manual wheelchair due to pain and weakness from arthritis and lack of exercise. For some people, a scooter means being able to get out into the community, or to get around a home or facility independently and safely, and the overall increase in mobility may lead to better mood and more rather than less "exercise" to some degree. It is very possible to use a scooter or wheelchair of any sort to expand horizons and go places you could not otherwise get to, rather than *instead* of walking whatever distance you can actually walk. As a rehab professional, I tend to see the person who uses equipment to do more things as more independent and free than a person who simply, and usually progressively, limits themself to what they can access without any assistive devices.

My mom was one who just limited herself, and it was painful to watch. She gave up reading rather than use magnifiers; she decided she "hated" Bingo when it got too hard to get there. She could have come shopping with me instead of just yelling at me or the neighbor when we got the wrong thing at the store.

The ability to move yourself around your environment, even if there have to be limits because of cognition and safety, is huge psychologically and reduces anxiety and depression quite a bit. We will try to get patients who are recovering from Guillain-Barre syndrome to use power chairs even in the hospital even though they may end up walking quite well in a matter of weeks just for that reason alone.

On the down side, I do agree that some of the companies selling scooters are unethical. Some people have been sold equipment that they do not need, do not actually qualify for, and/or cannot use, and this is so wrong when so many who genuinely need equipment can't get it and health care dollars are so scarce. You do have to be able to stow the equipment if you are using it somewhere you have to drive to, though there are van services availble for a fee, and some scooters are lighter weight and easy to put on a trunk-mounted carrier then take the few steps back around to your car door if travelling independently. And if you are going to get something, get it before entering a skilled nursing facility because it is not generally covered once you are there...the facility is considered responsible on the basis of the coverage for the stay, and they will typically provide a very basic manual transport type of chair only, and maybe a plain foam cushion.

Re other concerns: It does not take as much skill to operate a scooter as it does a car, and vision does not have to be perfect - it really does not have to be any better than it does for walking mobility. I still keep a picture of one of my patients driving down the aisle of a toy store who learned to use one with time and training despite CP, moderate MR, and moderate to severe cortical vision problems. The dents in the walls and dinged up baseboards can usually be fixed. It truly requires an *individual* assessment of abilites, environment, and personal goals to decide - there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to mobility aids.
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You can get a gizmo that attaches to the rear of your auto - I saw someone drive their scooter up onto one the other day. He then got off of the platform and 'walked' around the vehicle (unaided) and got into the drivers seat and drove away. He looked to be about 65 or so - NOT 85 or frail. There is a big difference between 65 and 85 or 90.

I personally feel we should encourage our older ones to remain mobile - to move around as much as they are able - for as long as they can - for their own well being.

My MIL sees these commercials all the time and wants to think that putting around on one is her 'next step' once she can no longer walk. She has had two knee replacements - and one revision. So, that knee has had three surgeries. She has pretty well lost her balance - she cannot stand without hanging onto something. She isn't even able to walk while holding onto someone's arm anymore. She must LEAN over her walker. She can no longer lift her feet. She has to use her arms and grab her pants leg or the leg of her pj's to drag her legs in/out of bed and I have to lift her legs in/out of the car. How could someone this 'weak' manage a scooter safely on their own? Especially if she gets so weak that she can no longer walk.

I do think the companies who sell these things 'prey' on older ones - I mean really elderly - and give them false hopes. I agree 100% with JaneB - 'use it or LOSE it.' I don't want to have to hover over my MIL to make sure she isn't running into things and how in the world would she be able to get on/off to go to the bathroom or get into bed without help? I have to help her now to use the Wal Mart scooter and they are HUGE compared to the ones for home use. I have also heard that the smaller ones can tip over - so, personally, I feel they are not a safe or reasonable option for the truly old and frail.

Most of the people I see riding them are not truly OLD - they may have knee issues or heart problems, etc. but are still in relatively good health and have a reasonable amount of strength.

If anyone has had a POSITIVE experience of having a truly old, frail, weak family member safely using one of these scooters, I would like to hear from you. But, so far, it looks like there aren't many out there.
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