Friday, April 20, 2018

Canes and Walkers

The feeling of freedom to walk safely to your kitchen, make yourself a cup of coffee and independently manage around the house is priceless. When your cane or walker is fitted properly, you’ll feel safer and more stable. The correct cane length is the key to safe use and better mobility. Many models of canes are adjustable, but it is still helpful to know what the proper length should be. 1. Obtain measurements while wearing regular walking shoes. 2. Standing upright, allow arms to relax (with normal bend at the elbow) at your sides. 3. Have a second person measure the distance from your wrist joint down to the floor. This number is the right length of cane for you. An estimate of the proper cane length can be made by dividing an individual’s height by two. For most persons, the right sized cane is within one inch of half their height. This guideline can be applied if the user is not available for an actual measurement. To walk safely with a cane on level surfaces: 1. Hold the cane in the hand on your “good” side so that it provides support to the opposite lower limb 2. Take a step with the “bad” leg and bring the cane forward at the same time. Move the cane and affected leg forward together. 3. Lean your weight through the arm holding the cane as needed 4. Always have the bad leg assume the first full weight-bearing step on level surfaces 5. The cane should be moved the distance of one average step forward with each move. You should not feel that you are stretching to catch up to the cane or stepping ahead of it. If you are using the cane for general mobility rather than an injury, hold the cane using your dominant hand and bear weight on this side of your body. If you are working with a physical therapist due to an injury, he or she may have a specific cane-walking plan different from this one. To properly ascend stairs, it is “up with the good.” While holding onto the rail with one hand, advance the stronger leg first placing it on the step above where you are standing. After this good leg is appropriately placed on the step, advance the weaker leg up to the same step that the stronger leg is on. If there is no rail to hold on to, the cane is placed on the upper step at the same time or after placement of the weaker leg. To properly descend stairs, it is “down with the bad.” While holding onto the rail with one hand, advance the weaker leg first placing it on the step below where you are standing. After this affected leg is appropriately placed on the step, advance the stronger leg down to the same step that the weaker leg is on. If there is no rail to hold on to, the cane is placed on the lower step at the same time or after placement of the stronger leg.

Caregiving Good

This week I am sharing the results of a survey that is the first one I’ve seen that contradicts previous survey results about the detrimental side of caregiving, for some people. Previously, several reports have stated that the stress of caring for a loved one can be bad for your health, if you are a caregiver. The latest findings indicate that caregivers may actually benefit from providing care under some circumstances. This latest report from the University of Michigan shows a positive outcome of helping someone you love – and I’m glad to share it with you. According to the study from the University of Michigan, older adults who care for an ill spouse for at least 14 hours each week have a longer lifespan. Researchers used data from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement study. They analyzed seven years worth of information on 1,688 Americans over the age of 70, who live independently. "Previous studies have documented negative effects of caregiving," said an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and faculty associate at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. "But the current results show that it is time to disentangle the presumed stress of providing help from the stress of witnessing a loved one suffer," she said. In the study, which began in 1993, the participants were asked how much help they were given by their spouses in activities of daily living. Eighty-one percent of the participants reported that they did not receive any help from their spouse, 9 percent received less than 14 hours of care, and 10 percent received more than that, according to the study. By the end of the study, 27 percent of the population had died and the researchers found that the spouses who provided at least 14 hours of care were less likely to have died during the study than those who did not spend time caring for their spouses. It is believed that the findings correspond with the theory that evolutionary forces guide humans to altruism in these cases. "We don’t know yet exactly how caregiving motivation and behavior might influence health, but it could be that helping another person — especially someone you love — relieves some of the harmful stress effects of seeing that person suffer," according the researchers. Research continues on this subject. I hope you find joy in helping somebody you love and beat the (previous) statistics. If you are a caregiver, be sure to attend an upcoming Caregiver Resource Fair on May 22nd at The Dale Association from 12:30 – 3:30 pm, 33 Ontario St., Lockport, NY 14094