Difficulty with mobility is a reality of the aging process, but armed with a bit of knowledge, you can assist your loved ones to retain their independence for as long as possible. Each individual is different, but when your loved one is beginning to experience instability while walking, it may be time to consider choosing an appropriate mobility aid as slips and falls in older individuals can result in serious injury.

Walking aids may be divided into three broad categories: canes, walkers and rollators.

For many individuals, the first mobility aid purchased is also the simplest: the cane. However, there are a wide number of cane types, and there are a number of considerations in choosing which cane is most helpful.

A canes is most appropriate for individuals who are experiencing some minor difficulty walking. It provides some measure of stability, but is not appropriate for individuals who are already at serious risk of falling. Canes are better suited for those who experience some leg or joint weakness or pain, as weight can be redistributed to the cane instead of the less stable leg.

The choice of a cane is a highly individualized process, and if you are assisting your loved one in choosing, it is best to allow them provide his or her input. Some decisions, however, should not be left to pure aesthetics.

The typical image of a cane handle in most people’s mind is that of the “J” handle. While it is a classic design, it can be uncomfortable to hold for any length of time, and is entirely unsuited to those with arthritic hands.

Handles that are parallel to the ground, such as so-called “derby” or “offset” handles, tend to be more comfortable, as they allow the hand to remain in a more natural position. The weight of the body is more evenly placed over the base of the cane in such designs, increasing stability and control.

Individuals requiring more support than a regular cane offers – but who are not so unstable as to require a bulky and inconvenient walker – may consider a quad cane. As the name implies, the cane features a base with four feet, increasing the stability of the cane and its user dramatically.

The size of a cane is perhaps the most important consideration. Stores specializing in the sale and service of mobility aids will likely be happy to assist, but keep in mind the general rule that the length of the cane should not be shorter than the distance of your wrist to the floor – while wearing shoes. Any smaller and the user will be forced to crouch, not only decreasing stability but increasing strain on the spine and body.

While your parent or loved one may eventually require the use of a walker or rollator – or perhaps even a wheelchair – the use of a cane can prolong safe mobility and independence.

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