Northampton Press

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Healthy Geezer: Cane purchase, use recommendations

Wednesday, January 13, 2016 by FRED CICETTI Special to The Press in Focus

Q. I had to have some minor surgery on my foot and I want to get a cane. What kind should I get?

This is a question that opens up the subject of mobility aids, the icons of aging. We’ll discuss canes in this column and save crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and scooters for a future column.

First, get a cane that fits. Let your arm hang at your side. The top of the 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 one-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 “Crook Cane” is 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 have folding seats.

Decide upon the 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 numbness or pain in your hand, choose a different grip.

Check the weight limit. Typical canes can hold about 250 lbs. Some slimmer canes are limited to about 175 lbs. There are canes that bear up to 500 lbs. 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 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.

Ensure 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.

Have a question? Email: Order “How To Be A Healthy Geezer,” 218-page compilation of columns:

All Rights Reserved © 2016 Fred Cicetti