Booster Shots

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Don't borrow your friend's walker. Do learn to use yours correctly.

July 11, 2009 |  6:00 am

It pays to be thrifty, of course -- in these times especially. But if you need assistance walking, don't borrow your friend's cane or walker. And learn how to use your own. A recent study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reported that 47,000 senior citizens end up in ERs each year after falling while using an unsuitable cane or walker, or incorrectly operating one.

(This strikes close to home: I don't know what wigs out me and my siblings more, the fact that my mother's walker is so rarely used or the way she operates it when she takes it out for its monthly spin, her back leaned wayyyy over, arms outstretched, the walker just a distant blur in front of her.)

In response to these numbers, the American Physical Therapy Assn. has put out a reminder that it makes sense to consult a physical therapist so that appropriate walking aids are selected and people are taught how to use them properly. (This tip is a tad self-serving, perhaps, but also seems very sensible.)

Some tips from the association's release:

  • The walker or cane should be about the height of your wrists when your arms are at your sides.
  • When using a walker, your arms should be slightly bent when holding on, but you shouldn't have to bend forward at the waist to reach it.
  • Periodically check the rubber tips at the bottom of the cane or walker. Be sure to replace them if they are uneven or worn through.

-- Rosie Mestel