July 6th, 2012 at 11:09 am
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Mobility assistive devices can help elders remain active

by Dorian Martin

For approximately six years, Dad has used a cane to help him walk once he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis in his lower back. But I started noticing recently that Dad’s balance has periodically been a little shaky even with the cane, so I encouraged him to get a walker.

The benefits of mobility assistive devices

“By decreasing weight bearing on one or both legs, mobility aids may also help alleviate pain from injury or clinical pathology (e.g., hip fracture, arthritis) or compensate for weakness or impaired motor control of the leg (eg, from stroke),” wrote Dr. Hamid Bateni and Dr. Brian Maki in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. They added that the use of these these devices can help older adults feel more confident and safe, and also can have physical benefits, such as enhanced circulation and prevention of osteoporosis.

While these devices can be beneficial, 30-50 percent of people stop using the walking device soon after receiving it and many describe the device as being too difficult or risky to use.

Get professional help with mobility assistive devices

Bateni and Maki suggest that medical professionals need to give the proper prescription and train the elder to use the device. My guess is the last step is not happening.

For instance, Dad purchased his walker at a local pharmacy, but the person who helped him didn’t offer to adjust the walker for him. She did show us how to make the adjustments, but I feel a medical professional — such as a physical therapist — should be tasked to do this. The physical therapist also could teach Dad how to use the walker correctly. Both the adjustment and training are really important since elders who use these devices can develop physical issues in their arms, such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

There also is a skill set necessary for using one of these devices. Bateni and Maki note that elders who use a cane or walker have to be able to lift and advance the device to the appropriate location. In addition, they have to avoid hitting their legs with the device as well as hitting inanimate or animate objects in the area. Elders also have to be able to use the device appropriately if they lose their balance.

Walkers and canes, when properly used, can really help elders remain active. Just make sure that the elder gets properly fitted and trained so that he or she can use the device effectively.

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One Response to “Mobility assistive devices can help elders remain active”

  1. This is fantastic advice, so many seniors are just given a cane or walker and expected to immediately know how to use it. Additionally, even with such mobility devices, it is always a good idea to be prepared in the event of a fall. Even utilizing a cane or walker, a senior parent can fall. Falls can be prevented in a number of ways including making sure their house is free of clutter in walkways, well lit, and has grab bars and handles in slippery areas like the bathroom. A medical alert device is also helpful to provide assurance that if a loved one falls while alone in their home they have immediate access to medical attention. This is important in making a senior feel independent while knowing they are safe.

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