Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Seniors' falls from walkers and canes studied

A study showing that over 47,000 seniors are treated for falls annually from walkers and canes stated that more need to be shown how to properly use the devices safely, suggesting doctors do so prior to prescribing the mobility devices.

I have another take on this issue. I can't tell you the number of times I've been out and seen folks using canes or walkers when they clearly appear to be in need of a wheelchair. They may lack balance or the stamina, causing them to veer or stumble in a crowd. I'm not questioning the selection of the device for them some of the time, but it's clearly not working out in public in crowds.

I know many of my friends with long term disabilities use more than one type of mobility device, so when I see this, it makes me wonder if doctors are suggesting to seniors that a scooter or wheelchair might be a good idea for longer distances, although a cane or walker works at home. Such an approach might not only prevent falls, but maximizes the mobility of the person. It may conserve their energy so that when they are home alone, they are less likely to fall.

In order for this approach to work, however, we need to get beyond the stigma of using certain devices and certainly have to stop treating their use as an indication of not trying hard enough or failing at recovery. Certainly maximizing function is a good thing, but it becomes counterproductive when someone suffers multiple falls and resultant injuries, as I often see.

6 comments:

Wheelchair Dancer said...

Truly. Truly. Well said!

Wheelie Catholic said...

Thanks, WCD :) Good to hear from you, hope all is well...

Penelope said...

I suspect along with the sigma, there needs to be better funding support. Walkers and crutches are cheap compared to scooters and (most) wheelchairs. Since most insurance only covers really minimal support if you can walk at all, I suspect some people get stuck in that land where they need more support, but policy says they can't have it.

Wheelie Catholic said...

Penelope-
Good point. So many people assume that seniors and people with disabilities just get equipment with no problem , for free, that it's not even an issue. Would it were so.

Jessica said...

Thanks for bringing this IMPORTANT issue to the forefront! I'm a physical therapy student right now and we get drilled into us (and rightly so!) the importance of preventing falls in this population. With co-occuring issues like osteoporosis, COPD...etc a fall might not be a minor occurrence but a life-threatening injury. The prevalence of hip fractures and traumatic brain injury are pretty stunning. I think you hit the big points - definitely there needs to be better education on the part of clinicians but we also have to work hard to get rid of the stigma - from my short experience it really can be a huge roadblock with some people, especially older women. And funding...let's not even get going on that one :P But I do think that posts like yours and talking about this issue will help bring it to the light and get people educated about proper equipment use - thanks!

Wheelie Catholic said...

Jessica-
thanks for your input on this. And good luck with your studies - we need dedicated people like you batting for us :)