Aging Parents: Does Fear of Falling Undermine Confidence to Walk?

Two Suggestions Can Help Aging Parents Walk With Confidence

“If you don’t use it, you lose it.” Sound familiar? When fear of falling undermines parents’ confidence to walk…. what happens?  Less exercise. Muscles weaken. Potential weight gain. Basically nothing good–as we know.  And the problem is compounded when vanity prevents an aging parent from using a recommended cane or walker.

We can, however, provide opportunities for aging parents get out and walk with confidence.

1.  Find stores where shoppers use shopping carts. The weight of the cart adds enormous stability, which promotes confidence to walk around like everyone else, minus the pervasive fear of falling that accompanies so many older people when they walk.

Shopper (with cane in shopping cart)

I noticed a shopper with her cane in the shopping cart at the grocery store the other day.

I thought about my mother whose tia’s and falls made her walk with uncertainty, except when she went grocery shopping and could push a shopping cart like everybody else. When adult children can take parents grocery shopping, it’s a win-win. Everyone gets needed groceries and children can rest assured that parents have ample, healthy food.

While the grocery store is the most obvious place shopping carts are used, check out–to name a few– Target, Costco, Home Depot, TJ Max, Marshalls, many major pet supply stores, some toy stores… Once accustomed to looking, we notice more opportunities; and taking parents can make for a fun outing.

2. Think twice before using aging parents’ handicapped parking permits when going out with them. When parents can walk and need exercise, it might not be in their best interest to use the handicapped parking space.

Why? Because there are ways to have them walk with you that instill confidence, while giving them opportunities to walk further and feel “normal.”

  • Walk arm-in-arm: Marie, a sturdy-on-her-feet octogenarian, was heard offering her less-sturdy-on-her-feet friend her arm, saying “Do you like chicken? Grab a wing.” Walking arm-in-arm shouldn’t be a big deal.  It happens naturally with men and women all the time.
  • For extra support: with your parent’s arm in yours, move your elbow in towards your hipbone so your arm hugs your parent’s arm against your body and your hipbone provides additional support. Done correctly the extra bracing adds to your strength should your parent begin to lose balance, and gives your parent an added feeling of stability.

This latter suggestion has the stamp of approval from a highly respected nurse-author-geriatric care manager to whom I demonstrated this method.  She likes it because she says you aren’t pulling or leading your parent (which is usually the case). As we look for ways to help parents age well, check it out.  Go for a walk with your parent.

For additional information go to the National Institutes of Health link, found above on the “Sites and Blogs I Like” tab, and click “F” for “Falls and Older Adults .” And to http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/16/everything-you-need-to-know-about-preventing-falls/.

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.

2 thoughts on “Aging Parents: Does Fear of Falling Undermine Confidence to Walk?

  1. Stopped in for a visit and liked what I found! Thanks for taking the time to write about these important issues. I posted this blog to my page on Facebook. I’d love to have you join our conversation if you are interested and I’ll be back!

    • Thank you, sanderdoe. Yes, these issues are so important. After going through them with my parents, helped greatly by my counseling experience, I have the need to share with others. Will you email me on my gmail (see “contact” tab above) about Facebook. Susan

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