How to choose and use a walking stick
(Part 2 in a special Home Instead series on Mobility Aids)
Once you get your head around the idea of a walking stick – and how it will make you look “old and frail” – it might just be what you need to give you a little bit of help and improve your confidence.
There are lots to choose from, from wood and metal right up to state-of-the-art carbon fibre. They can be traditional or come in a range of modern colours and patterns. There are some sticks that fold right up to fit in a carrying case or handbag and some are adjustable to make it easier to get the right length stick.
The first thing to look at is the handle.
Once again there are lots of handle types to choose from, so make sure it is comfortable to hold. Use the following as a guide…
Type of Stick + Benefit
T Handle……Good grip and control.
Crook Handle……Useful for hanging up the stick
Swan Neck Handle……Makes the stick feel more balanced
Ergonomic Handle……Fits your hand closely. Good if you have very stiff or painful hands. Left and right-hand handles are different.
3 or 4-footed Handle……Feet helps keep them steady, but can be quite tricky to use safely, especially on uneven surfaces or stairs. Seek advice before buying.
Six tricks to using sticks.
Make sure it’s the right size.
It is important your stick is the right length or it could actually make walking even more difficult and painful. If it’s not adjustable stick, it may have to be cut to size. The handle should be level with your wrist bone when you are standing in your natural upright position with your arms straight down.
Put your best foot forward.
If you are using one stick, it goes on the same side as the stronger leg and moves when the weaker leg does. If you are using two sticks, you either move them both together with the weaker leg or move them in turn together with the opposite leg. It sounds simple enough but you may have to practice to get it right.
Watch your feet.
The rubber foot at the end of your stick is called a ferrule. It’s there to stop your stick from slipping out from under you, so check it often and replace it if it’s worn. The easily pull off and slide on.
The ups and downs of stairs.
Rule # 1: If there is a handrail, hold on to it and use your stick in the other hand. If there is no handrail, the stick goes on the same side as the weaker leg. Lead with your stronger leg when going up and your weaker leg when going down. If you use two sticks, you should talk to your physiotherapist about managing stairs.
Check for wear and tear
Adjustable sticks can become worn around the joins, and this can be dangerous if you don’t notice in time. If a folding stick or adjustable stick clicks and rattles, it could be time to get a new one.
Stick your name on your stick.
After umbrellas, walking sticks are the second most common things that elderly people misplace. They are usually left on counters on under tables. So the first think you should do is attach your name and phone number to it, so it can be returned to you if found.
For assistance and advice on walking sticks or any mobility aid, chat to the team at Home Instead. If we don’t have the answer on hand, we’ll find out and get straight back to you. Call 1300 008 018 or contact us to find out the number of your nearest Home Instead local office.