With my background in Occupational Therapy, I should have realized using a traditional cane to aid in my balance was a poor choice. I think I just chose to ignore this fact. It seemed the least obvious, to others, of my choices. As compared to walking sticks, a walker, a wheelchair, or a scooter. I would gladly use a scooter these days if they weren’t so cumbersome to load and unload. Some of you may be able to use a cane with great success, not me though. I was recently forced into using my cane while visiting my dad in the hospital, but while attempting to stop a spinning spell by leaning on the cane, I almost fell! When I put most of my weight on it, it failed me, or maybe I just failed. The cane didn’t support me as I anticipated. Instead, I began a wobbly stagger in a circle…That red-hot flush of embarrassment hit my cheeks as I managed a feeble smile at whoever happened to see me. I thought I was over caring what people thought, obviously, I’m not. I had to re-evaluate how I was going to tackle this…
There are so many options, but I was ill prepared. It was up to me, myself, and I. With each visit (2x daily most days for two weeks), I discovered some coping mechanisms that helped me and I wanted to share. Maybe someone can learn from my errors, I hope so!
- Use a backpack instead of a purse. The first day, I left the house with my mug of coffee, my usual large tote, 2 newspapers still in their wrappers, and my cane. Not until exiting the car, did I realize I had more stuff than hands! The tote is cumbersome anyway (my life is in there!) and when worn on one shoulder, it throws off my balance. Then, I grabbed my coffee and cane. Oh, and the two newspapers. Off I go, quickly having to readjust myself, over and over and over again…Using a backpack frees up your hands and shifts your balance upright. It also held my tote, coffee, and anything else he requested! I ‘graduated’ to using a small crossbody purse after a number of days, which is a great option also.
- Wear sunglasses. I’ve always had sensitive eyes and they not only protect our eyes from the sun, I find them helpful when maneuvering the sometimes overly bright, white hallways. White floor and walls are very disorienting to me. I used the colored lines on the floors (meant for patients) to help me.
- Fluorescent lighting is an irritating stimulus for most of us. Wearing sunglasses indoors can cause stares from people wondering, “Who do you think you are? A movie star”? I just tell them, “Why, yes I am and I’m incognito. Please don’t tell anyone”… Bad Margaret!
- I found out (at the end of the stay), they offered wheelchair loans while visiting. No, I didn’t utilize them. Darn false pride! When the next time comes around, I will call the hospital and inquire what they offer, before going.
- I did have a few people (mostly elderly) ask me why I needed a cane (as I’m such a youngster at 61 years!). I took the opportunity to briefly explain my Vestibular Disorder. All of them could identify with dizziness and one had Tinnitus. Never miss an opportunity to educate, you never know!
- Ask for help if needed! It is a hospital after all.
- Take care of yourself! Caregivers need care, too. I tend to put on the bravest face possible, so it’s difficult for others to understand when I’m crashing because I ‘look just fine’…Don’t we ALL since it’s invisible? I did crash a few days…Maybe I need to take my own advice!