How To Use A Cane

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how to use a cane


Medical disclaimer: Readers must always seek proper medical advice and not make medical decisions without the guidance of their own doctor or medical professional. This article was written for the purpose to stimulate readers to ask the right questions of their doctor who should always have the final say.


How to use a cane? Seems simple enough. Which hand should you hold the cane in? How to choose a walking cane? Can you use a cane while on stairs? If you need direction on any of these questions we will be discussing it here. We hope that you enjoy this article. (Even the part about the coming zombie apocalypse!)

When Do You Know It Is Time For a Walking Cane

There is no quick or simple answer to this all-important question. There are many different conditions and requirements to consider before deciding on whether to carry a cane. (*NOTE: If you have not done so, please read the medical disclaimer at the top of this article.) The older population across the world faces the same mobility challenges as they grow older. For many, with aging also comes different bone disorders, lower metabolism along with possible weight gain and a decrease of muscle tone. This increases the likelihood of a loss of balance and a propensity to sudden falls in the elderly. That is why the cane is required in assisting the mobility of many elderly people. This is a generalized rule. But there are other multiple factors and conditions which require the use of a cane. 

Reasons To Use A Cane – Infographic

 reasons to use a cane infographic

reasons to use a cane or walking stick

  • To increase stability while recovering from an accident or injury
  • If you experience pain in your joints or limbs while walking
  • If you find walking difficult at times or are afraid of losing your balance
  • If you find yourself looking for nearby supportive fixtures to help with balance
  • For people recovering from a stroke, hip replacement or other debilitating disease may be advised by a doctor or discussed during physical therapy to start using an assistive cane or other device for walking
  • If you have difficulty walking up or down stairs

Why Do Some Seniors Refuse to Use a Walking Aid

Your life is full of memories. You may remember the day that you graduated from high school. Or the day that you became a parent or grandparent. The day before that event you were not but the day after that event you were. Growing old is NOT LIKE THAT! Growing old is like a blur. As you approach old age you still have a measure of youthfulness. Thoughts of your own aging are mixed with denial as you cling to your fading sense of youth. You remember as if it was yesterday that you caught the winning touchdown to win that important game or the day that you kissed your high school sweetheart. Maybe it is pride getting in the way or maybe fear but a denial of fully accepting one’s passage into “seniorhood” is very common. If a senior is advised to use a cane or other walking aid, they may refuse it because of a mild case of pride or denial of their true state. They feel that if they walk with a cane it would make them look “old”.

More reasons some seniors refuse to use an assistive device

  • Seniors don’t want to be perceived as being disabled or weak. 
  • A feeling that these mobility devices take away their liberties and freedom. 
  • A denial of coming to terms with one’s true age
  • A mental health decline can be keeping them from making the right choice of using the needed help

Such seniors may feel that their doctor or loved ones are simply being overly protective and therefore reject their caring advice. 

“Don’t regret getting older.

                        It is a privilege denied to many.”

(An Irish Proverb)

How to encourage a senior to use a cane or mobility device?

If the person or loved one that is in your care refuses to use a needed cane or mobility device, what can you do or say to help them come to terms with this big behavioral change? 

First and foremost encourage them to discuss this matter with their healthcare provider. If they refuse to, then take the initiative and discuss your concern with them yourself. Their physician will assess the senior’s gate and after possibly considering any recent falls, may refer them to a physical therapist for a full evaluation. The senior may accept their advice more quickly than yours. Do not take this personally. The end result here is what matters. 

The senior may feel that the use of a cane or mobility device somehow takes away some of their freedom. Let them know that in reality it will increase their independence and may even extend their ability to live independently. 

Discuss the full range of possibilities with the senior to get things in proper perspective. Let them know that if they continue to fall they will require the assistance of a home care provider or they may need to move to an assisted living community. This may make the use of a cane much more attractive.

Do some testing first before purchasing to make sure that the choice is comfortable and pleasing to the user. Some items may be able to be borrowed from someone or rented to try out first to make sure the choice is sound. This may be especially necessary if the item is on the expensive side such as a higher end rollator or mobility scooter.

5 Reasons Why I Carry a Cane

by Keith Melton

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Video Summary:

1) Mobility

  • walking any distance
  • have to stand in one place for any period of time
  • it helps immeasurably when getting into and out of an automobile

2) The Zombie Apocalypse

  • Civil unrest that is currently in the news

3) A versatile Tool

  • It is better in some cases than even a gun because it is already in your hand and does not have to be drawn

4) Health and Exercise

5) You have the lawful right to carry a cane

How to Choose a Walking Cane

There are multiple factors to be considered while choosing a walking cane. 

Here are a few:

  • It is best if a senior is evaluated by a physical therapist for cane/mobility aid type and measurement as stated in the medical disclaimer at the top of this page.
  • The disability being faced by the patient 
  • Evaluation of walking pain level, limb and joint weakness, the users age, weight, mental condition and current physical strength 
  • Least of all is the economical differences between the cane being prescribed which vary widely

Some different types of canes

  • wooden cane
  • offset cane
  • adjustable cane
  • folding cane
  • fritz cane

(to name a few)

It may be helpful to read our full article about the different types of canes. There may be canes there that you never knew existed!


How To Use a Cane Video

Please watch this video to see:

Why do you use a cane on the opposite side of the injury.

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Video summary:

Walking with a cane

  • Some say that a cane should be carried on the injured (or weaker) side but here the recommendation is to use it on the opposite side of the more injured or weak leg
  • There are different bottoms to prevent sliding and most canes can be adjusted for the best fit
  • Your arm should be at a 15 to 30 degree bend when gripping the cane handle
  • Go forward with your weaker or injured leg and as you do that, advance the cane on the opposite side of your body at the same time together. Then you will step through the injured/weaker leg and the cane  with the good leg.

How to walk up stairs with a cane

  • The optimal situation is that you have a railing to hold on to
  • Go up first with the stronger leg and then up with the bad
  • Hold on to the railing (if there is one) and use the cane for balance
  • Go up with your good leg
  • Then step up with your “bad” (injured or weaker leg)

How to walk down stairs with a cane

  • Go down the stair with your “bad” leg, following it at the same time with the cane, while holding onto the railing
  • Then join it with the good leg

You are highly encouraged to seek help from your orthopedic surgeon or physiotherapist for clarification of this process. Ask them for an initial supervised walk. Once you get stabilized and trained you may try this by yourself. 

How to prevent some falls during cane use 

Special care is needed when using a cane on slippery floors. Waxed or wet floor surfaces (and in cooler climates be careful of ice as well) can make the cane slip away causing a sudden fall. This can sometimes be prevented by adding a rubbery tip to the cane. 

How to use a quad cane

Getting comfortable using a quad cane could be a little tricky and some find it a bit cumbersome to use. Learning how to master it will bring much added support for users needing a higher level of stability beyond what a regular cane provides. The reason it can be tricky is that all four tips must touch the floor uniformly to gain maximum support. So it will definitely take a little practice to get the hang of it.

  1. First, hold the quad cane in the hand opposite your weakest leg.
  2. Lift the cane up and move it forward about twelve to eighteen inches as is comfortable to the user. So that the cane does not tip, make sure that all four legs of the quad cane land firmly on the floor.
  3. Then with the weaker leg step forward.
  4. While gripping the handle of the quad cane for stability, move your other leg forward slightly past the first foot.
  5. Then continue to move forward in this manner.

In Conclusion 

As we go through life we move on from one stage to the next. Some transitions may be harder than others but move on we must. We hope that one point that was made in this article is that it is not easy for some to transition from unassisted mobility to assisted mobility. There is no doubt that mobility devices can increase the freedom of seniors and prevent scrapes and broken bones. They may even extend the time for seniors to live independently in the place they feel most at home. We hope that this article has helped in some small way to those ends.

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