Sometimes we know when we will be introducing a walking aid into our lives. We schedule hip surgery, knee replacement or some other procedure for our hips, legs, knees or feet. Other times, accidents occur that unexpectedly affect our mobility like a fall. Either situation may result in a newfound need for a set of crutches, a cane, walker, rollator, scooter or wheel chair.
Using a walking aid safely in our homes requires a variety of modifications. Many of these modifications are simply ones which we have recommended for senior safety in general. Therefore, changing your home for walking aids is often a good plan to improve your safety.
Medline Plus’ “Getting your home ready - knee or hip surgery” provides the following list of ideas to get you and your home ready to safely perform daily living activities. We have highlighted products from the article that you can buy at Safety In Place.
Ask your doctor, nurse, or physical therapist about getting your home ready.
Make It Easy for Yourself
Make sure everything you need is easy to get to and on the same floor where you will spend most of your time. If you will need to use the stairs, you should limit using them to once a day.
You may need help bathing, using the toilet, cooking, running errands, shopping, going to the doctor, and exercising. If you do not have someone to help you at home for the first 1 or 2 weeks after surgery, ask your doctor or nurse about having a trained caregiver come to your home to help you. This person can also check the safety of your home and help you with your daily activities.
Other items that may help:
Raising the toilet seat height will keep you from flexing your knee too much. You can do this by adding a seat cover or elevated toilet seat or a toilet safety frame. You can also use a commode chair instead of a toilet.
You may need to have safety bars in your bathroom. Grab bars should be secured vertically or horizontally to the wall, not diagonally.
Do not use towel racks as grab bars. They cannot support your weight.
You will need two grab bars. One helps you get in and out of the tub. The other helps you stand from a sitting position.
You can make several changes to protect yourself when you take a bath or shower:
Sit on a bath or shower chair when taking a shower:
Keep tripping hazards out of your home.
Pets that are small or move around may cause you to trip. For the first few weeks you are home, consider having your pet stay elsewhere (such as with a friend, in a kennel, or in the yard).
Do not carry anything when you are walking around. You may need your hands to help you balance.
Practice using a cane, walker, crutches, or a wheelchair. It is especially important to practice the correct ways to:
Authors: Updated on 11/26/2014 by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
As always, consult your physician or health care provider on the best ways to safely use your walking aid. And consider buying a personal alert device to immediately notify emergency response personnel in case of a fall or other medical problem. To widen doorways, consider adding new door hinges – especially in the bathroom.