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.
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Deborah Kryzak says:
October 22, 2013 at 1:51 pm -
I appreciate the thoroughness of this article! What seems common sense, isn’t when it comes
to walking with a cane. Great helpful ideas here!
October 28, 2013 at 8:47 pm -
This is a very informative write up. I’m sure our aging parents and aged grannies will need to read this so that they’ll know what to do at every point in their life. Those who want to use canes will know what type to go for.
November 9, 2013 at 4:37 pm -
I agree that we need to be physically active in order to prevent injuries from falling and such. This is a well written piece about that and I think people are forgetting that avoiding a healthy life style is asking for a dependent lifestyle down the road.
November 15, 2013 at 5:13 pm -
I really liked the inclusion of imagery with the description of handles and height to the user. I was wondering if you should take into consideration the size of the person not just in height but in weight. It also made me curious about the handles. Would the weight of the user affect the style of handle that would be more comfortable?
Bill Case says:
November 15, 2013 at 6:10 pm -
Body weight and size does affect which style of cane and handle to be used. An overweight individual may benefit from a walker if the cane does not offer enough support. The cane is not used to take weight off a joint, as much as, it is needed to provide balance. The handle is to offer support and comfort per the individual. Many times arthritis affects the ability to grip the handle, therefore a variety of styles are available. Individual preferences with handle styles, along with proper instruction will maximize the cane use. If not sure seek out professional help when choosing the proper assistive device for an individual.
November 19, 2013 at 1:54 am -
Thank you so much for the advice! I interact with the elderly on a regular basis and I try to help with educated suggestions. A walker would be a perfect alternative but I would love that to be the starter and not an end point for overweight individuals. Hopefully, upon taking to more movement, there can be a way to work to the easier mobility that a cane provides.
November 25, 2013 at 8:18 am -
My sister-in-law has recently started using a cane, but after reading this article I see that she hasn’t had it properly fitted. I will send her a link to this page. Thank you!
charlee felice says:
November 25, 2013 at 7:09 pm -
I knew that canes are for people that need them, but I did not realize that there are handles to consider, size, and fit. This article has provided information, that most like me, had no idea needed to be a consideration. In addition, the fact that a cane is not just purchased, but a training has to be given to correctly use it, is a great eye opener.
December 10, 2013 at 7:48 pm -
A lot of people complain about walkers. Some people love walkers. However, if a walker is that uncomfortable it can make a person fear falling more, and cause falls. A cane is a great alternative. I suggest you chose more than one cane. Let your parent or grandparent choose the one they like, you can always return the others after that. This is what we did, and it really helped my grandmother, and now mother adjust to their cane. They are adults, give them a choice, too!
Bill Case says:
December 11, 2013 at 12:17 am -
A walker can be very beneficial in the night time. Awakening during the night to go to the bathroom can be a disorienting experience to a senior. Using a walker, with proper floor lighting and a clear path to the bathroom at night, can be a perfect compromise. I just had a patient fall last night going to the bathroom and didn’t use their cane. A cane during the day for balance and a walker in the night time for stability can be a good balance. Oh yes, don’t forget the Medi-Alert necklace.
December 21, 2013 at 8:22 am -
It never occurred to me that injuries due to using a cane or walker would be so common. It makes sense though, because a person who is relying on a cane or walker is probably already compromised, in terms of balance.
I have to add that I love the cane the model is using in the photo! The cane is so pretty, and it goes beautifully with her outfit. It is proof that you can still be stylish in your retirement years.
I do like the idea of providing a cane for daytime use and a walker for after bedtime. Trying to find a cane when it’s dark and you’re sleepy is presenting more of a challenge than is necessary.
January 15, 2014 at 3:10 am -
My grandmother has a walker and a cane. So depending on what injury she has or how well her legs are holding up is going to determine which one she actually uses. I’m glad I took a look at this. Now I can tell her how to properly use those things. I’ve heard of people being permanently injured because they used canes wrong or when they didn’t need canes at all but some other form of support.
January 16, 2014 at 7:48 pm -
Even if you have had a minor fall that didn’t cause any injury, it may affect your confidence. You should tell your doctor and ask for a health assessment. Often falls can be prevented by taking relatively minor steps, such as changing your medication dosage, altering your glasses or taking some exercise. Reducing risks in your home will help too.
January 16, 2014 at 7:49 pm -
Avoid unnecessary risks
There are steps you can take right now to reduce your risk of falling. Start by making your home as safe as possible. For more information, see Keeping safe at home.
When you are out and about, take notice of your surroundings and keep an eye out for any potential hazards that may cause you to slip, trip or fall such as uneven pavements or loose rugs.
January 16, 2014 at 7:58 pm -
I showed this link to my grandma finally. She was really impressed and informed me that she had multiple kinds of canes. She showed them to me too. She explained that the store she bought them from had a sizing system like this one and they helped her pick each of them out.
I think it’s great that certain stores actually do this and have processes like that to help people who need them.
She also has a walker as I mentioned before but she hates it with a passion. She tried tons of alterations like putting tennis balls on the bottoms of the legs. But it didn’t help that much.
Thanks for the post!
June 9, 2014 at 7:01 am -
By trying to maintain a level of fitness you will ad quality to your life and avoid injury from falling or similar accidents, which can be a direct result of old age. Incorporating these programs into your lifestyle can help you to maintain your body and mind in peak condition. Not being able to move around because of your age is very much a choice.Making the right choice and sticking with it will prolong your flexibility.
July 25, 2015 at 6:28 pm -
I’ve never seen a cane with the palm grip handle, and have seen another type while has a curved hook type top, which doesn’t seem to give as much stability as those pictured. I don’t need a cane anymore (at least usually), but I keep one at home, and one in my vehicle, just in case, because sometimes I do have rough days. I think an adjustable cane can be a good idea, especially if you wear shoes of varying heights, and with regard to tripping hazards, I have to mention shoes and shoe laces. Sometimes rubber soled shoes will cause me to stumble, because they tend to grip certain surfaces more than others, and I triple tie my shoe laces, because I have also tripped due to them coming untied.
July 29, 2015 at 12:17 pm -
In my opinion, mobility is a gift that the majority of us take for granted in our younger years. I think if more of us bothered to get out there and do a little exercise, fewer of us would suffer with mobility problems in later life, so it is a real shame that more people don’t seem to realise the issues that lie ahead. However, being able to balance when you have such issues is essential, and having a well fitting stick or walking aid is important. It is like your best friend – as it can enable you to get out and about and do whatever you like, so you should certainly take your time and try to find the one that is perfect for you.
August 9, 2015 at 9:12 am -
Gosh! Thank you. After reading this article I went to check the height of my mom’s cane and realized it was too tall. This explained her complaint about the pain and discomfort on her upper arms and shoulders. I feel so guilty for not checking sooner.
August 9, 2015 at 9:17 am -
Before starting any exercise program, check with your doctor. Take the precaution of having something to hold onto nearby when exercising… just in case your loose your balance. You can also ask someone to watch you the first few times, in case you lose your balance.
August 9, 2015 at 9:26 am -
Strengthening the side muscles of your hips and thighs is important for good balance. Always warm up before stretching exercises by doing some easy walking or arm-pumping first, or by doing stretching exercise after endurance or strength exercises.
August 9, 2015 at 9:29 am -
Mild discomfort or a mild pulling sensation is normal, but stretching should never cause pain, especially joint pain. If you feel pain, stop at once and consult your health care provider. Never bounce into a stretch — make slow, steady movements to help your muscles stretch naturally.
August 9, 2015 at 9:32 am -
Here is a helpful exercise to do. Hold one end of a towel in your right hand. Raise and bend right arm to drape towel down back. Keep your right arm in this position and continue holding onto the towel. Reach behind your lower back and grasp bottom end of towel with left hand.
Climb your left hand progressively higher up towel, which also pulls your right arm down. Continue until your hands touch, or as close as you can comfortably go.
Reverse positions. Repeat 3 to 5 times each session. Hold stretch for 10 to 30 seconds.
August 9, 2015 at 9:39 am -
If you can’t do endurance or strength exercises for any reason, and stretching exercises are the only kind you are able to do, do them at least 3 times a week, for at least 20 minutes each session.
Stretching exercises can give you more freedom of movement, which will allow you to be more active during your senior years. However stretching exercises alone will not improve your endurance or strength.
August 9, 2015 at 9:40 am -
Endurance exercises are any activity—walking, jogging, swimming, biking, even raking leaves—that increases your heart rate and breathing for an extended period of time. Build up your endurance gradually, starting with as little as 5 minutes of endurance activities at a time.
August 9, 2015 at 9:45 am -
If you’re reluctant to exercise or you think you’re too old, think about what just a few minutes of daily activity can do for you:
It helps maintain fitness – Exercise keeps you agile which can stave off problems like balance issues and lack of flexibility.
It prevents and helps you manage disease – Exercise helps with heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and depression. It can even improve your brain.
It helps you lose weight or avoid weight gain -It’s possible to lose more than 5 lbs of muscle each decade between 25-55 if we don’t exercise and lift weights. That loss of muscle leads to weight gain as well as a higher risk of falling and hurting yourself.
August 22, 2015 at 12:20 am -
Wow, I never though that choosing a cane could be this sophisticated. This article was really helpful and from the reply I have read, I can truthfully say I’ve learn a lot. My family is not the most active or at all. We do go to gym, but that is a rare occasion and so a home gym is what we decided on. My grandmother and I enjoy gardening together and I think that is really fun. I think I need to make sure all my family member are aware of his article that way we all can be healthy!