A public service announcement concerning walkers

No, not the walkers babies use, but the ones the elderly or disabled use.

1. Do not pull or jerk on the walker, even if trying to help the person over a bump. There are several reasons for this:

  • It throws them off balance.
  • The walker is an extension of themselves and it is an invasion of their personal space as much as if you pulled on their arm.
  • It can make them feel helpless and embarrassed.

Sometimes, however, the person may appreciate a little assistance if they are having trouble maneuvering. If you see someone trying to get their walker up a step or over a hump, be patient and observe for a moment and see if they are doing all right or seem frustrated. If you think they might like help, offer first. “Mrs. Jones, can I help you get your walker over this step here?” Don’t just jump in and jerk it. Gently lift it, especially being careful if they are leaning on it for balance: you may need to let them take your arm as well, depending on whether they can balance on their own for a moment or need help with a step.

2. The person with a walker usually understands that he or she is a little slow and you may want to get around them, and that’s fine, but please don’t cut in too closely — the sudden movement and closeness can also cause balance to waver.

3. Some people can’t stand long even with a walker. They would love to talk with you, but may need to sit down first.

4. If you see someone coming with a walker, please move out of their way. Often they feel conspicuous and cumbersome and are embarrassed to ask. Some are not, though, and will just call out a cheery, “Beep, beep!” or something similar — please don’t be offended.

5. Similarly, please don’t be offended if they accidentally bump into you. Sometimes, especially with older people, their depth perception is affected as well. Some might not even be aware that they bumped you, but most would be horrified.

I am writing both from the perspective of having used a walker for several months after TM, but also from my elderly mother-in-law’s perspective now. I think most people mean well, but have just never thought about or experienced some of these things from the point of view of one using a walker. A little patience and thoughtfulness are much appreciated.

Please feel free to share anything I may have forgotten or not thought about, but please keep it positive. I don’t want people to think we’re ranting or griping at them, but rather just informing and educating.