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OT: Padded walker skirts

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Nov 01, 2013, 01:16 PM
OT: Padded walker skirts
Looking for some suggestions ...

I want to create a padded cover for my father’s walker; the goal is to lessen the impact of any spontaneous falls and prevent further fractures as a result of blackouts. This is for current and possible future use in the event the blackout causes can’t be determined.

The protective covers would be primarily for walker use inside the home, for a walker of this style:

Walker with straight crossbar & angular closures The upper crossbar is straight and not curved; the closure mechanisms on the interior of the crossbar are angled with tabs at the inner ends to release the walker legs for closing.

It’s for when my father is alone and wouldn’t have anyone to support him or intervene if he blacked out. The concern is that impact with the metal could cause another fracture if he falls. I am considering something similar for outdoor use during the winter though, to break the strong winter winds and keep him a bit warmer.

I’ve thought of wrapping blankets around the walker; this might work for a temporary solution but the blankets don’t have enough depth to pad against the metal rungs of the walker in a collision or fall.

We’ve looked at various thicknesses of foam at Jo-Ann Fabrics, and think this type of foam would be our choice.

Heavy-duty craft foam. The thickness is apparently wrong; this foam is more like 5/8" thick than 5".

We would probably use 1 or 2 thicknesses of this foam for the curved areas such as handlebars and thicker foam for the straight areas, such as the highest crossbar and the legs.

My initial thought is to create something like the tie-on pads for kitchen backs and chairs, but I do need to have all the metal areas of the walker covered, so I’m unsure how I’ll handle the joints and intersections without ending up with gaps and without creating tunnels for the various ties to intertwine. The cross bar “sliders” are a special concern since they need to be open (causing them to angle inward) while the walker is in use.

If I do use some kind of tie-on, one of the issues is what to use to tie the foam to the walker rungs, and again, how to treat the intersections without creating so much bulk that the plan becomes unworkable. I was thinking of paracord or even just shoelaces; the ties don’t have to be anything fancy. I was also trying to think of what could be used in the thicker foam to prevent the ties from abrading against the foam (if that even would be a logical concern). Perhaps something like a narrow metal sleeve could be inserted and the cord or laces could be channeled through them? It actually may not even be an issue but I want to address it now.

The joinery is more problematic. I want every bit of metal covered, especially the horizontal bar that’s about at waist level. Maybe just a lot of cutting and fitting is the answer? If so, I would want to ensure that the foam doesn’t slide around and leave an unprotected piece of metal that could be dangerous during any fall.

There’s a good likelihood I’d also make an “exterior” skirt to wrap around the outside of the walker for extra protection. I've thought of using one long piece, folding/doubling it over the walker and somehow securing it, but that's very unwieldy.

Ideally, both the inner and outer “skirt” could be removable for cleaning, as eventually I plan to have fabric covers to keep the foam from getting dirty.

I'm also checking out football padding as an easier ready-made alternative.

I realize the plans are kind of vague, but we’re still trying to conceptualize them. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: GardenSprite,
Nov 01, 2013, 01:43 PM
Have you looked at the pipe insulation foam from hardware or home centers? It is often in 3 ft lengths split on one side, so it can go over different diameter plumbing pipes, very inexpensive, easily cut with V's to go around curves. Then wrap with the stretchy fun colored wrap they use for wound bandaging to hold in place?
Nov 01, 2013, 02:10 PM
We've discussed the pipe insulation for some of the bars but were unsure if it would be thick enough, although we could use 2 layers. I like the idea of V-cuts for the joints. I think this would be very workable.

It might be that the pipe insulation could be used in double thicknesses at the joints and the heavier foam elsewhere.

We're gathering ideas now with the goal of shopping tomorrow.

And I have LOTS of medical tape, but some bright colors would make the design especially fun for Dad.

I've also just searched for football clothing and found some girdles which I think would be helpful, but unfortunately the local stores have shipped back their equipment so we can't even look at something and Dad can't try it on.

And whoever thought men would be wearing girdles decades after women finally escaped from them?? Big Grin

Thanks for the suggestions; they're really helpful. Sometimes I have trouble conceptualizing when I don't have the equipment right in front of me. Frown
Nov 01, 2013, 06:48 PM
The first thing I thought of was the same pipe insulation tubes that Conrad mentioned. They come in two sizes - to fit 1/2" and 3/4" pipe. You can probably find even larger sizes at a plumbing supply shop.

There is also a similar product designed to insulate air conditioning tubing. This is usually black in color and is much more dense than the brown pipe insulation. This too comes in several sizes so they could be double layered if needed.

You could also use foam used for foundation seals. It's about 6" wide and 1/4" thick but could be wrapped around and around to get the thickness you need.

Whatever you use, it can be securly attached with zip ties and or tape.

The biggest problem will be if you still want to fold the walker back up. Out of necessity, there may have to be some gaps near any joints to allow for folding.

Nov 01, 2013, 07:51 PM
you might also think of a swimming aid called "noodle ". It's about 3 ft long with a more rigid foam, but still soft. I's also thicker than the pipe insulation. The only bad side is that you will have to split it unless you can disassemble the walker and thread the noodle on it then reassemble
Nov 01, 2013, 10:34 PM
We're going shopping tomorrow so now we have several options to explore.


Could the A/C tubing and the foundation seal foam be found at HD or Lowe’s, or would we need to go to a special A/C or more specific building supply store? I googled the latter but almost all the hits were for spray foam or some narrow strip foam.

I do want to test the lighter and denser foams to see which fit better and would appear to provide more protection during a fall.

I’m checking for local plumbing shops before our shopping trip in the event we don’t find what we want at the man cave stores.

I do recall getting some sheet foam that we used for repairs on my sister’s house. I think it was a bit thinner, but we’ll check it out.

Zip ties I have in abundance; I’ll be looking for some brightly colored medical tape to add some pizazz if possible.

We’ve already decided that the padded walker will just be for indoor use. Since Dad has 4, we can afford to dedicate one to indoor and another to outdoor use.


I’ve seen those noodles but never thought of them. I’m checking pool shops tomorrow to see if I can find some; it might be that since the swimming season is over here they’re no longer available, but they would certainly provide a good sized padding. And Dad would love the bright colors!

If I do find some, what’s the best method of splitting them? Do I need a saw or could I just use a good sharp knife? I’ve found that the upholstery and craft foams we looked at a few days ago can be tough to cut. Some of them can be a bit "spongy".

Thanks to both of you for the very helpful suggestions; we have quite a range of possibilities to explore now, so I’m sure we’ll find something that works.

I've also thought of a few alternatives in case we can't find or locate what we want tomorrow. We'll get some tool or apron belts and stuff the pockets with foam, although I think in the long run the tool belts will be rather costly.

Still, that would at least provide some temporary protection for the more vulnerable fracture areas.

I'm also thinking about stuffing foam in the pockets of cargo pants, although that's a much more limited protection and only short term. And I might have to move the lower leg pockets.

Hopefully this issue will soon be one less thing about which to worry.

I appreciate the time that all three of you took to help me with this issue.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: GardenSprite,
Nov 02, 2013, 04:02 AM

insulation comes in many different thicknesses.


i suggest, after you pick the type you want, get a small can of contact cement
cut to fit the insulation, brush on the contact cement on both sides of the insul. wait till it gets tacky. press togather, secure with a bit of string till it sets up

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Frodo,
Nov 02, 2013, 08:23 AM
An electric knife (kitchen one, that you can carve turkey) is the best thing to cut foam. Good luck with your project.
Nov 02, 2013, 10:03 AM
It's possible that you may find the A/C foam wrap at places like HD or Lowe's - if they have it - it would be in the aisle with ductwork and other H/A things.

I like Nona's idea of using the pool noodles. They cut easily with a razor blade and a straight edge - but due to their thickness you may need one of the 'break-off" style of razors. These can have a 2" long blade if you extend it far enough. You're right, it may be harder to find them this time of year but they are so common there must be some still around. Walmart or any such store will sell them.

Nov 02, 2013, 02:03 PM
try a insulation company, one that covers hvac piping is your best bet, or a plumbing supply
they will have the thicker stuff 1 1/2" thick
another trick, use 2 pc of insulation,double over each other

a 3/4 x 1" pc of insulation cover with a 1 1/2" x 1
Nov 03, 2013, 06:45 PM
Frodo, thanks for the links. I was especially interested in the T-fitting insulation which would make the joinery at the cross bars easier. We did find them at Lowe’s and fitted one on to see how well it worked.

JaysMom, I think you may have posted the tip on using an electric knife before; I was certain that someone did, sometime ago, but didn’t recall the post. Thanks for that tip! I’m going to need it in the future for some cushions that I need to make.

Jaybee, thanks to you as well for the suggestions on locating the insulation and on using the noodles. I really like the noodle idea, because they’re multi-colored and could actually be somewhat attractive, if not unique, in a funky sort of way.

We had some good suggestions with a lot of options. We found something that Dad liked right at Lowe’s. It’s basically this:

self-sealing tube insulation

With a veteran's discount, it was a very reasonable price. I don’t recall the thickness but I believe it was 1" thick.

As we were fitting different sizes, one of the Lowes’ employees came up to us and said he knew what our purpose was. He had worked in home care and said they used that kind of pipe insulation for their clients’ walkers, and thought it was very appropriate.

Dad wanted the largest diameter pieces, which actually would allow it to cover the right angle joints on the walker without using T insulation pieces. We’ll try this for awhile and see how it works, then perhaps add another layer if it appears helpful. I'm partial to as much thickness as we can get on the walker.

All in all, lots of good and helpful suggestions, and a very short trip to find what Dad wanted. We could have checked a lot of other places, but it was a cold, windy day and not that congenial for shopping for an elderly guy.

Thanks again to everyone for your suggestions.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: GardenSprite,
Nov 03, 2013, 09:00 PM
Glad it is working out. The self-sealing tube insulation you linked to is exactly the H/A tube wrap I was talking about.

Time to test that walker out and head out for some ribs!

Nov 03, 2013, 09:01 PM
after you found the proper foam covers get your sewing machine out and get some Velcro and fleece fabric. cut into strips the length of the handrail and to go around the padding add a few inches to overlap for the Velcro on one side and you have a very comfortable feel for the hands. you can use double layer of fabric different colors with a layer of padding in the middle.. just make sure that the padding at the handrail is not to large so he can get a firm grip around with his hands when needed make more than 1 pair so when you wash or misplaced them you always have a pair available.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: beers1,
Nov 03, 2013, 10:54 PM
Jaybee, guess I'm improving in my "product selection" if I can choose the same insulation you recommended without even knowing I was doing it. Big Grin

And yes, it's rib time again; I have more 1/2 off coupons from Ruby Tuesday to use up!

Beers, seems like we think alike as well. I initially planned to cover all the exposed framing (including the handlebars) except for the adjustable section of the lower legs. I also intended to use flat sheet foam to make protective skirts for the interior of the walker and possibly on the exterior of the frame as well, to double the protection if a fall occurred.

Dad's now decided he doesn't want all that and decided to not even cover all the exposed framing.

Seems I still have some "negotiating" to do before this project is finished. Roll Eyes

He did spot some faux fur he liked, if he does decide to add more padding. I hadn't thought about fleece but it would be nice and soft, and keep his hands warm, which would be a real advantage I hadn't considered. I could also attach pockets. Good suggestion!

What I planned to do but haven't told him yet is to use photo printing of a B-17 (in which he flew) to quilt onto the front skirt as a conversation piece.

It would make the whole walker a lot more interesting and a more positive user experience - most people I know who use walkers aren't that happy about it, and some have decreased their outings because of embarrassment.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: GardenSprite,