I want to aide my mobility-limited father in modifying his walker, so it still provides some stabilty and support even when he momentarily removes his hands from it.
My father is 85 years old. He has had three different spinal fusions, a rotator cuff repair, and other surgeries to alleviate arthritis. Each surgery has eased pain at the expense of range of motion.
He can walk short distances un-aided, as long as it is over firm level terrain. For any longer distance, or any variation, he needs a walker. He normally has the walker around, even when moving about his house, just for safety. At the store, he generally uses a scooter, but can get by just using a shopping cart as a substitute walker. His walker looks very similar to this one, but with rubber pads in front of the wheels that engage when any downward pressure is applied.
His ability to bend over is also reduced. He pre-ties his shoes and uses a long-handled shoe horn to get them on and off. He uses a grabber like this one for other reaching tasks.
The other day in an email, my father asked my help in brainstorming ways to give his walker a bit of a "Tim Taylor Treatment" and make it possible for him to do some activities he enjoys in the outdoors a little more. One example is pruning bushes- to grab a branch with one hand, and lob it with shears with the other hand. Another example is Geocaching, where a small tube might be hanging within a tree and need to be unscrewed or un-buckled, the log within signed, then returned.
Each of these things requires taking both hands off the walker. Even though he won't be moving his feet while doing so, because he has to reach out slightly, he is concerned about maintaining balance, and wants to still have a little support from the walker.
My father has engineering background and we both have done plenty of tinkering with stuff before now. He has notions of ropes and straps tied between his belt or suspenders and the frame of the walker. I'm not sure this will work, and haven't had any ideas of my own so far.
Has anyone successfully modified a walker to do what I am describing and give my father what he desires? What suggestions do others have for doing this? Is walker modification the way to go, or should we go "outside the box" with some other solution?
Edit with some after-thoughts that may or may not be relevant:
The surgeries and consequences mentioned above did not happen all at once, but slowly over the last twenty or so years.
Mom is deceased, Dad lives alone. I am an only child, and live six hours away. I am endeavoring to increase the frequency of my visits (and plan to soon switch jobs and move closer.) There are other relatives, friends, and the county's senior action network that provide ad hoc help.