Tripping Sticks

Many people benefit from products known as assistive devices in the medical equipment world.  These are products that help people continue to be independent in their activities of daily living.  They allow people with physical limitations to feed, bathe and dress themselves as well as move from place to place.  All kinds of activities can be maintained through the accommodations made with assistive devices.

We are all familiar with the most obvious ones like canes, walkers, wheelchairs and scooters.  And many of you may also have seen raised toilet seats and grab bars.  But there are also all kinds of reachers, grabbers, extenders and grippers that can modify activities such as pulling on your socks, reaching your lower legs and feet in the shower, grasping your toothbrush and holding onto your utensils.  These devices not only create a way to complete a task but also, often, a safer way to do them.

Simple things like grab bars, raised toilet seats and shower chairs can make bathroom activities safer and easier to do.  Many items you can find on your own and purchase from a medical supply store.  You’ll even find a basic selection of these types of items in drug stores and the other stores you frequent.

However, if you know that your loved one needs some assistance but are unsure of what would really help the most, you might want to consider asking the physician for an order for a Physical Therapy and/or Occupational Therapy assessment.  The therapist can work with you and your loved one to identify the deficits, maximize their ability and make recommendations about the products that might be helpful as well as work with them on how to use the device!

Also remember that many medical/assistive devices may be covered by Medicare or your insurance (with a script from your physician).  It would be worth asking and investigating the possibilities before making a purchase (look for the Durable Medical Equipment benefit information in your policy).

There are also many little things that you can try based on your own observations!  While my father was still living at home I noticed that he was having a difficult time with the heavy glassware that my mother was using and actually dropped his glass at dinner one evening.  I suggested to my mother that she try using lighter glasses at meals and this really helped!  With the increased number of falls that Dad was having I also encouraged Mom to pull up all the little scatter rugs (tripping hazards along with clutter, electrical cords, poor lighting, and raised doorway thresholds).  Just be observant and try minor adjustments.

For a time, my father was using walking sticks to aid with his balance (something one of his friends suggested to him) and it did seem to work well for him until his dementia advanced and weakness became more prominent.  Then, I came to refer to them as his tripping sticks as he was no longer able to use them in a beneficial way and more often than not they were getting tangled up in his feet rather than aiding him in his balance.  He resisted the change to a walker but when he was placed in a facility at the end of last year, the therapist was able to prevail and he now uses the walker (though the dementia still affects his safety awareness and judgment when using it).

For optimal mental health and wellbeing, the goal is to stay independent for as long as possible in the safest way!  Seek the help of a physician and/or therapist in helping you to find the devices that might best help you help your loved one remain active!

On the journey with you…….Kathy


4 responses to “Tripping Sticks

  1. Kathy, another really useful post. I would add that it is a great help if new equipment is introduced in a very sensitive way. This is so important in terms of maximizing the possibility that the person will use it, Also, I found in our case that having a ‘nice’ commode, for example, was very significant. It was basically a chair that we all sat on whiile chatting to Mother for whom it was needed. Rather than being an alien piece of equipment, it fitted in to ‘normal’ life in the house. I think the more that this kind of thing can be done the better. Also, while it may be obvious to everyone that a parent needs, say a walking frame, it seems to be important not to jump the gun and foist it into the situation. There is no doubt that some people see potential aids to indepndence as just that and embrace them. Others can perceive a wheelchair as a very significant marker in a downward spiral and resist it on those grounds. Listening and being aware of how aids are perceived is fundamental,

    Thanks again for very practical advice.


    • Jean, some excellent suggestions and ideas! Thanks for adding to the discussion. Sudden change is never easy (even for us younger folks). If dementia is involved, this becomes even more of an issue! I love the suggestion of letting something become a normal part of the surroundings. I would also caution against providing accommodations too early as this can lead to a loss of ability and cause further decline (such as somebody who has been given a wheelchair giving up on trying to walk…..). That is why I would suggest that you have the assistance of a physical/occupational therapist in making the determination about what items might be best suited. Obviously lots more can be said on this topic! I hope this post gets people thinking about what the possibilities might be! Anybody else have some thoughts??

      • Kathy, Glad you found it useful! I gree wholeheartedly about change being an issue at any age and especially where dementia is concerned. However, I think there can be times when forgetting can soften some of life’s blows. Clearly, it depends on the unique experience of each person with dementia.

      • I’ve been thinking about doing a post about the blessings of forgetting… much to say, so little time….Thanks Jean

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