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Using walker when needed better choice than alternative

Carol Bradley Bursack, Minding Our Elders columnist

Dear Carol: My mother has severe spine and knee issues and should be using a walker, but she refuses. She's only in her 60s and she says a walker makes her look old. She also complains that a walker keeps her from getting close enough to the cupboards and sink to cook, which is something that she loves.

I admit that walkers are bulky and get in the way. They also keep a person from carrying dishes. I understand that. Still, she's taking a terrible chance. When she's having a lot of trouble she will use a cane, but that doesn't help enough. Her mind is fine. The problem is her ego.

I know that she fights pain, but the worst problems seem to be her bitterness over her disability being seen by others as well as the inconvenience of using a walker. How do I convince her that safety is more important than putting up with some inconvenience or presenting a youthful appearance? CD

Dear CD: I understand your frustration because I've encountered this attitude in quite a few people. I also sympathize with your mom because we live in a youth-obsessed culture that celebrates physical perfection.

Not only is your mom forced to recognize that she's aging, but she's poised on the edge of needing to use an assistive device that signifies that age is upon her. This is emotionally hard for many to accept.

My response to anyone balking at using a walker when one is needed has been to state that a walker is much less confining than a wheelchair and a bad fall could easily force such a transition.

When this fact sinks in, people often start considering that their reality could be worse. Maybe if you take this approach with your mom you will be able to direct her toward gradually accepting her physical limitations. I'm already assuming that you have said, "Do it for us, Mom!" If not, that may help, as well.

Perhaps presenting a chance to be a leader in her age group would appeal to her. The first new walker design in a long time is now available. It's called the Motivo Tour and is available locally and online at www.motivolife.com/motivo-tour. (I'm mentioning this product simply because it's such an impressive step forward. I don't benefit in any way.) The Tour is still a walker, so it's not going to fool anyone into thinking that your mom is riding a Harley.

However, the product is beautifully designed to let people carry food, get close to counters and other spaces, store their basics on the go, sit down comfortably when they wish, and it can be even be customized for fun.

The Tour also has a tight turning radius to make getting around in small areas easier. It folds up into a reasonably narrow space and it is supposed to be quite light.

The first thing that I'd suggest is that you continue to work with your mom on accepting that she needs a walker — any walker. The alternative could be living the rest of her life using a wheelchair, or worse.

Because she's so strongly set against the real inconveniences of having to use a walker, perhaps convincing her to look at the Tour and other mobility devices online may move her enough that she might try out some devices at your local health accessories store. She may like one or she may resist it for now, but it's worth a try.

Your mom is putting herself at risk when she could have many productive years ahead by becoming more accepting of her limitations. I'm hoping that you can convince her to do what is needed.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carolbursack@msn.com.

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