As we get older and we all do quicker than we realize, it seems we lose our independence a little piece at a time. For the elderly, being told they need to use a walker when walking around just doesn’t sit too well with them. Excuse the pun. We all remember either it was us or a classmate that had to wear glasses. The nickname four eyes quickly became attached to them or us. That was a stigma. I remember a couple of years ago when I had cervical spinal surgery, when it was time to go home, the nurse explained the medical supply company would probably arrive at my house before me with my walker. She asked if someone would be home to accept it. I was livid! No one told me I was going to have to use a walker. Not the doctor, not the nurse practitioner or anyone else. I felt crushed. I already felt like I had lost my independence with a neck brace on. I could walk about as fast as a snail. We won’t even talk about the other areas. What about the person that is a little on the heavy side? The person that is on the skinny side? How about the person driving a very old wrecked vehicle with the paint peeling off? How about the person with a mental illness? The stigma’s that we as a society feel are very real.
To an elderly person, being handed a walker and telling them they need to use this now to walk has a stigma to it. They feel they have lost their independence, they may feel they have lost more control of their life. They picture themselves walking into a grocery store, a casino, a restaurant with a walker. Images in their heads see people all around them staring and smiling with that pitiful look.
Now we know that this isn’t true and is over exaggerated. To that elderly person in the beginning it isn’t exaggeration. To try and ease this transition there are several things that may help. Gently remind them to use their walker at all times when moving around. Try to make that walker their own. I have seen walkers decorated in Mardi Gras themes, Easter themes, a pretty decorated small bag clipped to the front or side bar that they may put a book in, Kleenex ,their house shoes or even their favorite snacks. One lady kept her dog’s treats in the bag. Perhaps set up a rewards type system that every time they remember to use the walker they get ……
Of course, you will use your discretion according to the situation or if you are dealing with a dementia patient. Just remember to be patient and don’t discount it as it isn’t a big deal because it may be a very big deal to the elderly person.
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