By Barbara Floria, Pure Matters
Each year, hospital emergency rooms treat more than 47,000 Americans ages 65 and older after they fall while using canes and walkers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
Although these walking aids often help older adults stay mobile, it's crucial to use them safely. These suggestions can help you do just that.
Canes offer you balance and support, and when used properly they may help you avoid a fall. Canes can help if you have arthritis of the knees or hips, a balance disorder, or an injury to your foot or leg.
To make sure your cane is the right length, wear normal shoes, stand, and hold your arm with a bend of about 25 degrees in your elbow. Have someone measure the distance from the floor to your wrist. Adjust your cane to match.
To safely use a cane:
- Hold it in the hand away from the injured or weak part of your body.
- Put all your weight on your "better" leg, then move the cane and your weaker leg forward by a length you find comfortable.
- With the cane and your bad leg supporting your weight, step forward with your good leg.
- Always plant your cane securely on the ground before you take a step.
Walkers provide more support than canes. They're helpful for people with hip or knee arthritis, moderate to severe balance problems, or general weakness of the hips and legs.
To fit a walker properly, wear normal shoes, stand, and hold your arm with a bend of about 25 degrees in your elbow. Have someone measure the distance from the floor to your wrist. Adjust the walker to fit this distance.
To safely use a walker:
- Roll the walker ahead of you by the length of one step if it has wheels. If it doesn't, just place it firmly on the ground.
- Lean slightly forward while holding the handles of the walker for support. Then take a step.
- Repeat the process.
- Don't take the stairs or an escalator when you're using a walker. Use an elevator instead.
Take your time when using a cane or walker. With practice you can learn to use them safely and avoid injury.