As seniors age, their primary caregivers (frequently their children) have to initiate many difficult but necessary conversations. Whether it is deciding to limit or curtail driving or suggesting the use of a hearing aid or Senior Medical Alert System, these conversations are never easy. However, one of the toughest conversations may be to convince an elder to use a cane or walker.
To many older adults, the thought of relying on a mobility device such as a cane or walker is an unpalatable thought. Many of them may associate the use of canes with frail and elderly people.
It is important to overcome their objections by laying out the benefits of using a cane, as well as the hazards of unassisted walking. When used properly, canes and walkers can prevent falls which can have serious health consequences, ranging from cuts and bruises to broken bones and internal injuries.
When you encourage parents to use a cane or walker, it is important to understand that education and training are of paramount importance. It is not enough to simply purchase a cane and assume the matter has been adequately addressed. Used improperly, canes and walkers can actually contribute to falls. In fact, a CDC study showed that more than 47,000 seniors were treated in emergency rooms annually between 2001 and 2006 for falls resulting from improper use of canes and walkers. To avoid becoming a statistic, elders need to undergo training on correct use of their mobility device. Medical professionals must ensure that the walking aid is fitted properly. This means determining that the weight, height, grip, and wheels (if any) of the aid are suitable for the designated user.
The majority of falls involving senior citizens occur in the home. For this reason, it is important for the caregiver to make sure that the home environment is free of hazards that can contribute to falls. These hazards can be protruding chair or table legs, floor-length curtains, poor lighting, and even pets.
In order to convince parents to use a walking aid, use a four-pronged approach:
- Stress the importance of using a walking aid such as a cane to prevent falls and resulting injuries.
- Agree to work with a qualified health care provider to make sure the device is appropriate for the user.
- Work with the elder to ensure that the living space is free of obstacles and has adequate lighting and walkways.
- Educate the senior about correct usage and safe conditions so that they feel involved and empowered in their own healthcare decisions.
In the end, no adult wants to be told what to do. So it’s important to lay out the facts and follow up by taking the appropriate steps to prevent mishaps. When a caregiver approaches the subject with compassion and is armed with a plan of practical steps that will make the transition safe and easy, it will be easier for the senior to understand and accept the use of a cane or walker.