Not to long ago, I was told that the golden years are not for sissies. Subsequently, this statement was followed with there is nothing golden about growing old. WOW! I was faced with an older adult not too happy about where she was in life.
She was referring to her recent total hip replacement and was dealing with pain and limitations during her daily activities. She required help getting around from her family and was unhappy because she has always been very independent.
Fast forward 6 weeks and she was moving around better with less pain and more mobility. Her tune had now changed about the golden years. When asked about her golden years, she said that her “Calenderitis”—those aches and pains she had been having each day—were gone and she was ready to roll. She said, she was now able to go and watch her grandson play in a baseball game and walk the entire way without pain or a limp. She had her independence back and now had a new lease on life.
Her injury was a result of falling. She was not very physically active and had been on medication with side effects of dizziness. One day, while walking down the sidewalk with a slight limp due to some hip discomfort, she missed the change in elevation of the sidewalk, tripped losing her balance and fell. This is a common theme that I hear, with the usual frustration of injury, surgery and now physical therapy.
Falling is not an inevitable result of aging. There are basic high risk factors that increases the risk of falling. The risk factors range from lack of exercise, medication side effects, vision problems and home safety issues. All of these are high risk factors to falling and they are all preventable.
Consider this, according to the Center for Disease Control more than 86,000 people fall each year inside or in the immediate environment outside the home due to a pet. Each week, there are more than 30,000 adults over the age of 65 that are seriously injured by falling. Each week, nearly 250 older adults will die as a result. Also, it may come to no surprise, that most in home falls occur in the bathroom.
Another important fact, I want to share: There are also those injuries associated with improper walker and cane use. Most injuries associated with walkers and canes were at home, resulting from improper use. The risk of falling while using a walker or a cane increased with age, with the highest injury rate among those ages 85 or older.
Prevention is the key and education is the answer. Cane education takes about 10 minutes and should be addressed by your physician or physical therapist. Just like any new start, there is a right and wrong way to proceed. Here are some basic cane tips to keep you balanced and walking upright to prevent a fall.
1. Single tip canes are all that is needed for balance. They are the most common and useful. If you are looking for more support on the bottom of the cane, then there are those with four tips on the bottom.
2. When choosing a Handle, go for comfort. Some of the most commonly used cane handles are listed here:
Derby Handle is one of the most popular cane handles. The curve of the handle creates a natural grip that is easy for most people to use.
Palm Grip Handle is designed for either the right or left handed individual. This unique design fits the palm of your hand for comfort and support.
Fritz Handle has been very popular with people with arthritis. The unique style helps remove pressure from the fingers and allowing a comfortable grip.
3. An adjustable cane is best until you find your proper height. To find the proper height of the cane: stand and hold the cane next to you with a slight bend in the elbow. The height can also be checked: standing with your arm hanging next to your side and notice the top of the cane will be at the crease of your wrist. Below is a single tip cane.
4. When walking for balance, place the cane in the hand that feels the most comfortable. Move the cane in unison with the opposite leg. Use a natural arm movement and don’t reach out with the cane when walking.
5. If your leg is hurting, then use the cane in the opposite hand. This will provide support for the hurting leg when you take a step with the opposite hand leading with the hurt leg.
6. Use cane tips that are made of pliable rubber. These tips will grip the floor and prevent skidding.
A cane can provide improved posture, balance and independence when walking. Proper instruction with a cane may provide you with improved mobility and support, especially when you are out and about. And most importantly, the golden years may feel more sexy with an active lifestyle, as you are walking upright and balanced with a fashionable cane.