Updated June 23, 2022 – You probably don’t get around as well as you used to. This makes sense given your age, but as you find yourself slowly crossing from room to room, you may be wondering if it’s finally time to look into some type of mobility device.
Here are signs that it’s time for a walking cane:
- Walking makes you more tired than it should
- Navigating uneven terrain or stairs is a nightmare
- You feel like you could fall when walking
- After walking, you have joint pain
- You need additional support to walk, such as handrails
Admitting it’s time for a walking cane can be difficult to come to grips with, but for a senior’s own safety, it’s vitally important.
In this article, we’ll talk about when it is the right time to buy a walking aid and how to buy a good walking cane. We’ll also include the recommended length for a cane so it’s the right height for you. Keep reading!
Table of Contents
Do I Really Need A Cane?
Seniors can be quite stubborn sometimes, especially those who don’t want to concede that they’re getting older and can no longer manage daily activities the way they used to. As we mentioned in the intro, if you’re experiencing the following signs, it’s time to buy a cane or other assistive device.
Walking Is Exhausting
Sure, if you walk 10 miles, then you should expect to be tired, but if it’s just a short walk around the block, that kind of exhaustion is not warranted. The more physical effort it takes for you to walk around the house, the harder it will be to maintain your routine. In your fatigue, you’re also at a higher risk of tripping or slipping and falling.
Climbing Stairs Is Too Hard. So Is Walking On Uneven Ground
Most seniors struggle with stairs, but what if it’s not only staircases that you can’t navigate anymore? If you’re walking on an uneven sidewalk, hills, or on other tough terrain, and you have to take baby step after baby step to stay upright, it’s time to get a mobility aid.
No Steadiness When Walking
It could be that, even on level ground, you sometimes start swaying because you feel like you’re about to fall. More and more your adult child jumps up and moves to your side so they can guide you for the rest of the walk. Without tripping hazards though, you wonder why you are having trouble walking.
Walking Can Be Painful
After even a short walk, you start to complain of a painful joint or two, or you have significant pain. You didn’t think the walk went on was that physically strenuous, so you’re not sure why you’re hurting.
Support Is A Must When Walking
When navigating your own home, you grip onto anything you can for support – from tables to the wall to the couch. It’s not just when getting up that you need extra support, but when walking, too. This too is a common sign that walking with a cane is imminent.
What Should I Look For When Buying A Walking Cane?
So, you’ve had a conversation with your adult child and you’ve finally agreed that it’s time you start using a walking cane. This will be the first time you buy a cane, so you admittedly don’t know what you’re looking for.
Here are some shopping tips.
Know The Different Cane Types
If you thought all regular canes were the same, they’re most certainly not! You can choose from a variety of canes to fit different needs. It is a good idea to ask your doctor or physical therapist which type of cane will be best for you particular situation.
Let’s start by talking about the different cane types and the range of handle styles for each..
- Folding Cane
We’ll discuss more on folding canes later, but for now, what you should know is that these canes can be compacted for convenience. You can then stash the folding cane in a bag or even tote it around on your wrist via an included strap.
- Hemi Walker
For the seniors with greater mobility challenges, hemi walkers are like a cross between a cane and a walker. With a wider base of support, these canes are very stable and supportive. However, getting a hemi walker up and down a set of stairs can be challenging.
- Quad Cane
A quad cane features four bottom supports, hence the name. The supports make a rectangle shape. Leaning into one of these canes is fine since it bears a greater amount of the user’s body weight. You can’t fold a quad cane though, and they can be a touch bulky.
- Offset Handle Cane
Another good weight-bearing cane is an offset handle cane. They have a slight bend in the handle. This centralizes a senior’s weight distribution so the cane is more stable than traditional single-point canes.
- Functional Grip Cane
What many people think of when they imagine canes is a functional grip cane. It has one tip and a handle that’s straight for a good grip. Some functional grip canes are adjustable and others are foldable.
- C Cane
The last type of walking cane for seniors is known as a C cane due to the shape of the handle of the cane, which is curved. This is a single point cane with just one tip at the end. If you need to put a lot of weight on your cane, this isn’t a good option, although you can get moderate support out of one of these canes.
Pick A Material
Once you decide which is the best type of cane, you need to decide on the cane’s material. A standard cane comes in steel, aluminum, or wood varieties, and each has its own advantages.
Wood walking canes have a rustic charm and are quite sturdy, but you can’t get them wet or they can rot. Treating the wood with a varnish might make the cane more waterproof, however.
Metal walking canes (steel or aluminum) weigh less than wooden canes, so for seniors who can’t carry a heavy cane, they’re a good choice. They are also waterproof and may be adjustable to the proper height.
Choose A Grip
Depending on the type of cane you selected, it will come with one of many kinds of grips. Some grips are foam-covered, and others are smooth plastic. Grips can be straight, rounded, or slightly curved.
Test The Cane Before Buying
You shouldn’t buy a walking cane online, as you will need to try it out before deciding if the cane is right for you. Otherwise, how will you know if the cane fits?
Instead, visit your local medical supply stores so you can “test walk” each of the cane styles.
*NOTE: never purchase a cane that doesn’t come with a rubber tip! This tip helps stabilize the cane for better stability, which is safer and gives your better mobility.
Standing with normal posture, have a friend or family member check where your wrist and elbow are during cane usage.
If your arm is straight down at your side, then the cane’s top should be as tall as your wrist crease. If it’s shorter or taller, then the cane isn’t appropriately sized.
When using the cane, your elbow should be able to bend naturally at an angle of 15 degrees, maybe slightly more. A greater bend angle indicates that the cane is probably not going to be that comfortable to use.
Decide Whether You Want Extra Features
Today’s walking canes come with more features than ever before.
For instance, some are seat canes that have retractable seats you can pull out and take a break on. Others include extra handles for the times when a user needs more support.
These features drive up the price, but for some seniors, their inclusion is necessary.
Walking canes and rolling walkers, etc. have been basically the same design for many decades. But with the advancement of smart technology, that’s all about to change.
Introducing the future of canes and walkers – Stride Senze! Created by NOK. It’s still in design mode and is not yet available but honestly, I can’t wait to see it on the market!
Do You Need A Prescription To Use A Cane?
Before you buy a walking cane, you might have wondered whether you need to get a prescription from your doctor for the use of a cane.
Not always, but you should certainly see your doctor or a physical therapist first to be sure. After a checkup, they will recommend the most appropriate cane.
Will your insurance pay for the cost of the cane? If it’s Medicare Part B, then yes, says the Medicare website. Canes are considered durable medical equipment under this insurance plan. You’d pay 20 percent of the amount for the cane, then your Part B deductible would activate.
However, the cane supplier and your doctor must be Medicare-enrolled if you want Medicare to pay for the cane. If either one is not a part of Medicare especially, then you’ll have to pay for the walking device yourself.
How Long Should A Cane Be For Walking?
Besides the wealth of materials and grips available, canes also come in a variety of different lengths. You want to buy one that’s not too large nor too small or using the cane will be uncomfortable, as we talked about before. What’s worse, the cane might not be stable.
How do you measure the right cane length for a senior? Here’s how it’s done.
You probably have a selection of footwear, but when getting measured for a walking cane, you should choose the pair of shoes you wear the most often.
Then stand right up. Let your arms fall to either side of your body naturally but bend your elbows up a 20-degree angle. Then, using a measuring tape, your adult child should calculate the amount of space between your wrist joint and the floor.
From the handle to the bottom of the cane, the length they measured is how long the walking cane should be.
Are Folding Canes Safe?
As we said we would, let’s get back to folding canes. You’ll recall from earlier how folding canes are compactible and sometimes collapsible as well. The convenience of being able to bring a cane anywhere is the top benefit of these canes, but are they safe?
Folding canes can be safe, but a senior must know exactly how to use one of these canes.
Even with correct use though, compared to other types of walking canes, folding canes are among the least stable. This increases a senior’s risk of tripping and falling, making the cane pointless.
Rather than buy a folding cane, try an offset handle cane, which has great support and weight distribution for safe use.
Although it’s never easy for a senior to accept that they need walking assistance, it’s important to face the music before suffering a potentially serious slip and fall injury that could affect your quality of life. Using a cane is nothing to be ashamed of, so walk freely and with pride!