Walking Assistance or Injury Waiting to Happen?

walking assistance: To Use or Not to Use? That is the Question

I sometimes feel surprised by how often I encounter a senior who doesn’t want to be seen in public with a cane or a walker.  Some associate the need for walking assistance with disability and frailty.  Others see canes and walkers as representing weakness or vulnerability.  Still others think these devices are just too clumsy to lug around.  Or too ugly.  Or both.

Let’s face it.  They are kind of clumsy.  And kind of ugly.  Maybe they are also kind of necessary.  Or maybe not.  The truth is, the jury is still out.  Some research supports the use of walking assistance equipment like canes and walkers, advocating stability and fall prevention.  Other research points to  how these tools can contribute to trips, falls, and serious injuries, especially when used incorrectly.

whether injury or age related, walking assistance equipment can be used safely and effectively

Sometimes complete recovery from an accident, injury, or surgery is not possible. You may have a health condition permanently affecting your legs, balance, or coordination. It may be a good idea to consider walking assistance in these instances.

Consider asking your physician for a physical therapist consult to determine what will be appropriate for your needs, lifestyle, and home environment.  It isn’t enough to buy a cane or walker at a local drugstore or shopping center.  A proper assessment will help you identify which device is best for you and how to fit it properly. Most importantly, learning how to use the equipment correctly will prevent it becoming the cause of a potentially serious injury.  It’s not as easy as you might think.

Walking equipment supports the following functions:

Greater stability and balance because of the wider support base.

Aid your walking pattern in terms of speed and stride.

May help maintain an upright body posture and weight distribution, which in turn increases confidence in walking ability.

Could help reduce pain in back and joints caused by over-compensation when walking without assistance.

Increases confidence in ability to move around safely.

This Medline article outlines the safe use of a walker.  Be certain to consult your physician or physical therapist prior to making a purchase.  You’ll want to feel assured in selecting which is best suited to your needs.

VA Medical System – Togus

I’m saddened when I hear veterans and/or their families talk about how they cannot get services from the VA, or when I learn that other healthcare providers do not believe services are available for veterans.

I’ll admit the VA medical system can seem confusing to the uninitiated – but the services are readily available, and here in Maine they are wonderful.  The folks at Togus work very hard to ensure people get what they need, when they need it, and that the veterans they care for feel heard.

It’s the VA.  It’s too confusing

When trying to obtain services, having some basic knowledge will help you navigate the system more readily:

First, veteran healthcare services are not the same as veteran benefit services.  Healthcare comes through the medical center branch of the VA, and veteran benefits happens on the ‘other side’ of the system.  The two parts work together, but one doesn’t necessarily depend on the other.

This handy reference explains what is available through VA Maine Healthcare at Togus:

Togus Healthcare System

Note at the bottom of it there is a short reference to the benefit services side of the VA.

In order to receive healthcare through the VA, one needs to be enrolled in the medical system.  That’s easy enough to do and it doesn’t keep you from using other healthcare providers if you already have that.  If you qualify, what it does do is make it easier for you to obtain needed services you may later choose to access.

The ins-and-outs of receiving services, co-pays, and other insurances is too complicated for this post and varies person-to-person.  If you find yourself in circumstances like that, stick it out. There are folks up at Togus who specialize in sorting through that.

Once registered/enrolled, the VA can help with pretty much everything you saw using the link above.

How it works: the nutshell version

One2One Home Care interfaces with the folks who coordinate extended care services for veterans.  It basically works like this:

~ You or your loved one is a veteran enrolled at Togus for healthcare.

~ The veteran’s health situation suggests home services or home healthcare is needed.

~ Tell the VA  physician that it would be helpful, or the physician suggests it based upon health condition/screening.

~ The VA physician writes an order for services, which is received by the extended services team.

~ They send a referral out to all the agencies in Maine providing services under contract with the VA.

~ An agency picks up the referral and contacts you to begin services.

The agency submits service claims to the VA, who then pays the agency.

I’m not that bad off.  There are vets who need this more than me.

I’ve encountered a number of veterans who refuse services thinking they don’t need the help or that another veteran will go without if they have services.  These services are available to all veterans who need them so long as there is an agency available.  Do NOT forego services if you need them – you will not be short-changing another veteran if you receive services.

And those veterans who have insisted they didn’t need help?  They did.  Most often in the case of veterans who refuse services, we hear back in a few months that things have gotten worse and the services are now desperately needed.

Trust me: get started early.  Accept the help.  At least let your physician do the referral for services, including a social worker visit. Those folks are really great at helping families figure things out so you access services in your area.  You served your country.  When your country wants to serve you, don’t refuse that.


Valerie Lovelace, One2one Home Care manager, is a twenty-year Navy veteran. One2One interfaces with the VA to provide home services for veterans in Lincoln and surrounding counties.