Jun 3, 2013

The Cane: It's Not Just an Aid for Walking

My cane is a lifeline. Yet, it’s humbling at times. I still often think of my cane as a third leg—cane, right leg, left leg, cane, right leg, left leg. I would rather be safe than sorry with a fall. But my thinking has changed in my four years post-stroke. I’ll tell you what I do with my cane if you promise not to guffaw!

First, a little background which you probably know already. Among the many types of canes, there is the straight cane with little support, an adjustable cane with two shaft segments, and a quad cane with four tips, or ferrules, offering the most stability. The most important thing with canes is that they be set at the right height for the users. But all canes can do something besides helping you walk. That’s where the guffawing might come into play.

I’ve gotten shorter now, as all people do when they age. At about age 40, folks are prone to lose almost a half inch every decade. I used to be 5 feet, 5 inches tall. Now, I’m 5 feet, 4 inches in measurement. The height changes, not only as part of the aging process. Gravity plays a role, too. The vertebrae of the spine might thin and dry out, making the vertebrae more compressed. And the arches of the feet are more likely to flatten out, and diseases such as osteoporosis don’t help the height situation either.

All on these physical realities may mean you’re having trouble with getting things on the top shelves of the cabinets as I do. That’s where the cane comes in. You can move boxes (glass containers break and cans dent) to the very edge of the cabinet. But wait a minute! If only one hand is working, how do you hold the cane and catch the box at the same time? You may have to let them just fall to the ground. Then if you’re able to bend at the waist or from your knees, the box is yours to pick up. If you can’t bend, bring a chair which is nearby (preparation comes first on my list) to where the item has fallen, sit down, and pick it up.

Everybody, friends and family alike, walks ahead of me because at some point, they feel like they’re walking too slowly. I’m left in tow. But I feel confident in using my cane as a weapon if need be. 

And one time, there was a need. My friend was walking ahead, as was customary for her. A thin, middle-aged man rounded the corner we were approaching, bumped into me, like the mugger that he turned out to be, and my instinct took over. When he tried to grab my pocketbook, I hit him square in the “balls” and he took off, albeit injured. Mission accomplished!

Additionally, you can use the cane to close a drawer or door that you can’t reach. I tend to leave the door wide open in the bathroom if nobody’s home and I’m doing “my business.” But my friend left the door unlocked and his workman entered. My trusty cane helped me shut the door so fast it looked like a blur. Come to think of it, I haven’t moved that fast ever!

A cane can also be useful for pushing things along the floor in order to get them to their destination. For example, the toilet tissue is stored in the back hallway. I get three or four rolls on the floor and push them to the bathroom like a herder navigating sheep. Then I sit on the toilet and get them lined up.  Easy, breezy!

And you thought the cane was only for walking. Balderdash!

Note: Write to me at hcwriter@gmail.com and tell me what YOU use your cane for besides walking. I might mention it in an article later on.