Mom Is a Furniture Walker
"My mother is what I call a “furniture walker.” She moves about her house by holding on to furniture. She goes from one piece to another until she reaches her destination.
I’m wondering how safe it is to do this. I think she should use a cane or walker (she owns both), but she insists that holding on to furniture is just fine, and therefore rarely uses them. What’s a daughter to do?" - READER
Your mother is doing what we all do naturally—we hold onto something sturdy and nearby when we’re unsure of our balance. She clearly has a mobility issue, due to a bad hip or knee, poor vision, weakness, or some other physical ailment that forces her to grab what is close.
Grabbing furniture or walls isn’t too concerning as they are even more stable than a cane or walker. The only risk she faces is someone moving the furniture, or running out of wall when she has to cross a large open space. In smaller homes and apartments where walkers or canes might be nuisances, this is not usually a problem.
When leaving the house, the story changes completely. Many places will not have stable furniture strategically placed for her to grab, let alone walls. She needs to become proficient with a device and learn how to safely navigate outside of the home. Staying home to avoid a device is a poor choice because isolation would not be good for her at all.
Your mom the “furniture walker” should have a therapy visit or two, ideally taking place in her environment, but maybe in an outpatient clinic. A physical therapist can assess her and make recommendations on the most appropriate device, which you can pick up at the pharmacy. I wouldn’t recommend using any old one that someone gives her, though. I often see reused devices that are poorly adapted for the current user’s needs. Frankly, that can be a safety hazard in itself.
I like how thoughtful you are concerning your mother’s wellbeing and safety. I’m certain that she appreciates your assistance in keeping her safely in her home. I wish you success on this journey together.
Family Caregiving Advice Column
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