What’s Your Point of View? Is a cane an ‘enabler’ or a ‘disabler’?

Originally published at allaboutestates.ca

I work with many seniors who prefer not to use the assistive devices that are prescribed/recommended for their safety and well being. In particular, the use of a cane and the use of a walker seem to viewed by many as an unnecessary attachment and an ‘aging’ device. I feel it is important to recognize these mobility aids as an ‘enabler’ rather than a ‘disabler’. For someone who is unable to walk, a wheelchair provides the freedom for them to leave their home and reintegrate into the community.

A cane can make the difference between someone staying upright on their feet or losing their balance and falling. We know falls are a primary reason seniors are admitted into hospitals and they are costly- all around. While recently travelling with my mother, who reluctantly used her ‘walking stick’ as her mobility aid, it made the difference of her being able to participate and enjoy the very full days of sightseeing that was planned, rather than staying back. We saw many travellers of all ages, who used walking sticks. While some may be used for style or for nefarious purposes, (caribou at the Quebec’s Winter Carnival or cane gun in Ian Flemming’s Casino Royale) most are used as a mobility device.

I am working with an older woman who was in a car accident and sustained leg fractures( tibula and fibula). As the weather is improving, her physiotherapist is planning on setting up an outside walking program for her. Our client doesn’t want to use a rollator walker. Why? Because in her own words, she doesn’t want to look old and feeble. Her choices are staying housebound, going out on her own and risking a fall (which given that she also experiences dizzy spells is a realistic outcome) or going out with her rollator walker. Even the arm of a companion is not a replacement for a well fitted and working mobility device. Many rollators have seats that provide for a rest when needed and a basket, so that necessary items can be transported rather than carried. Did you know that the Ministry of Health’s Assistive Devices Program may cover up to 75% of the cost?

I want to share with you a new invention that was recently introduced to some select market places although it is not yet available in Canada. This device allows people with “lower limb disabilities, such as paraplegia, an experience that is as close to natural walking as possible.” ReWalk is an amazing enabler. I am hopeful we will see it in Canada shortly. Enjoy! http://youtu.be/wLJj_29CRkQ
-Audrey Miller

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