Many people find that as they grow older they need a walker, cane or other assistive device in order to help with mobility. These devices are often what allow an individual with mobility issues to remain independent. However, there are safety issues that both users and the caregivers should be aware of. When these devices are not used safely, it can pose the potential for falls and other injuries that can be devastating and even life-threatening for an older person. By knowing how to use these devices safely, the individual and the caregiver can maximize their mobility potential. Here is a guide for using walkers, canes, and assistive devices safely:
1. Know who can benefit from using a cane or walker: You should start by determining if an assistive device can benefit your loved one. There are many different conditions that can be helped when a mobility device is used. These can include, but are not limited to: Arthritis, (especially in the knees or hips), any instability that results from a neurological disease, balance problems, leg or foot injuries, and any condition that causes weakness in the hips or legs. In addition, those individuals who suffer from heart and lung problems that affect endurance can often benefit from using a cane, walker, or other assistive device.
2. Consult with your medical professional: Statistics show that a large number of seniors end up in the emergency room due to falls that are associated with walkers, canes, and other assistive devices. This can often be remedied by getting more instruction for proper use of such devices. It should never be assumed that senior simply knows how to uses these items. Medical professionals can provide detailed instruction or the resources where the senior can find the information that they need in order to use these items safely and effectively.
3. Get the right cane or walker: Any walking aid or mobility device needs to be tailored to the size and needs of the person who will be using it. These items should never be borrowed from someone else. If the mobility device is not the right size or type, it can cause a serious injury or accident. However, making the choice can be difficult. Fortunately many such assistive devices are adjustable and can be made to conform to the size requirements of the user.
4. Don’t let cost be a factor: Many seniors who have mobility issues are often on limited budgets. However, it is important to understand that walkers, canes, and other assistive devices are often covered by Medicare and other insurers. Seniors and caregivers should check with their insurance to see what is covered, and how much benefit they may be eligible for. It is better to get the right product and pay a little more for it, than get the wrong one just because it costs less.
5. Understand what each type of mobility device can and can’t do: Canes are often good for individuals who need minimal stability. Be sure that you bend your elbow to at least 25 degrees and measure the distance between the wrist and the floor in order to get the right size of cane. If you need more stability, then a walker may be a better choice. A walker lets the user shift their weight to their arms. Keep in mind that walkers are also sized to the height and weight of the user. Some walkers are made with either two or four wheels to make them easier to move. Grip on either a cane or a walker should also be taken into account. It should be easy to grip without forcing the user to have to exert a lot of grip strength.
About R.O.S Therapy Systems: R.O.S. Therapy Systems began as a backyard project in 2010. Scott Silknitter was searching for tools to help his mother care for his father, Roger Owen Silknitter, during a 25-year fight with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. That project became a personal mission to help all family caregivers. From family caregiver training and activity books to mobile apps to activity systems, R.O.S. has grown to become a single-source provider of informational “how to’s” and a growing provider of adaptive tools for the millions of husbands, wives, children, and family members that become caregivers.
Common sense advice and instruction based on proven principles of communication, engagement, and daily living are the heart of everything R.O.S. offers for family caregivers. Improving quality of life for caregivers is our mission, and designing everything for a family caregiver struggling with a loved one is the starting point. Whether it is dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, stroke, visual impairment, developmental disabilities, or any other issue that forces someone to care for a loved one, R.O.S. and its Caregiving 101 program are here to help.