Mobility Aids ... Buy A Cane
Q. I had to have some minor surgery on my foot, and I want to get a cane. What kind should I get?
is a question that opens up the whole subject of mobility aids, the
icons of aging. We’ll discuss canes in this column and save crutches,
walkers, wheelchairs and scooters for the future.
First, get a cane that fits. Let your arm hang at your side. The top of your cane should line up with your wrist.
You can get an adjustable cane that can be expanded from about 31
inches to 40 inches in 1-inch increments. With your cane in your hand,
the bend in your elbow should be about 30 degrees.
There are many styles of canes.
The old reliable “crook cane” is still very popular. Offset canes put your weight more directly over the shaft and are usually adjustable. There are also folding canes that are easy to store. Broad-base canes with three or four legs have greater stability and are good for people with balance problems. In addition, there are canes that come with folding seats.
Decide upon a material. Wood canes are light, resilient and inexpensive. Aluminum canes are durable, adjustable and foldable. Graphite and fiberglass are very light and exceptionally strong; they’re also comparatively expensive.
Choose a handle that feels good in your hand. Try different ones. They come in many materials and shapes. You might like a foam grip or one that’s molded to fit your hand. If you experience any numbness or pain in your hand, choose a different grip.
Check the weight limit. Typical canes can hold about 250 pounds. Some slimmer canes are limited to about 175 pounds. There are also canes made that will bear up to 500 pounds.
When you walk with a cane, hold it in the hand opposite the side that needs support. The cane and your “bad” leg should hit the ground at the same time. To climb stairs, step up on your good leg first. Then step up on the injured leg with the cane supporting you opposite the injured leg. To go down stairs, put your cane on the step first, then your injured leg, and finally the good leg. The tip of your cane should have a tread that gives you traction wherever you go. You don’t want one with a tip (or tips) that is worn out. Walking with a cane that doesn’t grip the road is like driving a car with bald tires.
If you begin to use a cane, here are some tips to prevent injuries around the house:
• Keep the items you need handy and everything else out of the way.
• Remove scatter rugs and tuck away electrical cords.
• Clear floors where you walk.
• In your bathroom, put down non-slip bath mats and install grab bars.
• Wear rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes.
• Always hold the handrails on stairways.
• Put night lights and light switches close to your bed.
• Insure that every room in your home has a light switch near the entrance.
• Use bright bulbs in your home.
• Keep your telephone near your bed. During the day, keep a portable phone with you so you won’t have to walk to answer it.
• Use a shoulder bag, fanny pack or backpack to leave hands free.
• Check curb heights before stepping down.
• When entering rooms, look for differences in floor levels.
Fred Cicetti is a freelance writer who specializes in health. He has been writing professionally since 1963. Before he began freelancing, he was a reporter and columnist for three daily newspapers in New Jersey. If you would like to ask a question, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.