Yesterday I was talking with a colleague who has a bad knee as she hobbled along one of the hospital corridors. I suggested she use a walking stick. She didn’t think this a great idea and limped off.
I also have a family member with a bad knee. She won’t entertain using a stick either.
Knees can be tricky things, especially when they go wrong.
My mum had a bad knee also. She didn’t seem to have a problem using a walking stick. I bought her a carbon-fibre one which is now in my garden shed. She never wanted to consider a wheelchair however.
It is odd that different people have varying perceptions of what is OK to use as a support or prop.
It might be OK to hold-on to your friend or partner’s shoulder as you navigate some tricky steps; it might even be considered acceptable to display your pain for all to see. But, a stick. No.
I haven’t seen many walking sticks on the ward recently.
Indeed, the last walking stick I saw came to a bad end when it wasn’t used as a walking stick.
I was talking with medical students last week about ageing and what I do. We discussed falls – an ever-present theme in the life of a Geriatrician. The reality being that as people age, they are more likely to fall-over, at some point, than not. We – that is humans didn’t evolve to be 95 years old with arthritis. Our balance, proprioception and coordination mechanisms haven’t had a chance to adapt to advanced age. And so, falling is a big thing.
I was talking with a patient yesterday who was navigating the ward using a Zimmer Frame (I see far more of these than sticks); she was quite steady and although I wouldn’t go as far as calling her ‘nimble’, she could get where she wanted to go.
Many of my patients who should be using Zimmer’s to support their walking forget to use them.
You need to have the capacity to remember that you are unsteady when you walk, that you might fall and that you need to get hold of a four-legged aluminium prop. If you forget this and you are off and your balance is bad or your knee or hip weak, over you go.
Fall or worse, fracture.
I wrote before Christmas about Cognitive Dissonance – I think this is an example. People who dissociate the reality of their unsteadiness with the belief that using a walking aid would perhaps reveal an infirmity that they don’t want to accept.
I can sort of get this.
But it is a shame.
We, that is everyone, who struggles through life needs as much help and support as possible.
Independence is fantastic, but you can only achieve independence through the support of others.
We did not gain world domination on our own. We live in societies, within networks of families, friends and colleagues, nation states, unions and organisations. Going it alone isn’t an option.
So, if anyone wants to borrow my mum’s old stick, give me a shout.