For months, “I’ve been grappling with the realization that I need a walker,” writes Ron Grossman. I have a neurological problem called festinating gait, which is often associated with Parkinson’s disease. One’s posture is tilted forward, foot steps are shuffling, one tires easily, one’s sense of balance is off. But it causes him to fall down. An older couple offered Ron a tip on how to put the problem into perspective, noting that “aging isn’t the worst of fates- consider the alternative. “
Ron had for several years used a cane, to which he easily adjusted to using. Eventually the cane was not sufficient, and it was suggested that he use a walker.
There was no denying that the four legs of a walker provide better support, though “wrapping my mind around that face was something else again”. His first walker was a hand-me- down, with wheels attached to the front legs, and with tennis balls stuck onto the back legs. Fluorescent green tennis balls, that maybe acted as its brakes? The walker was deposited in the car trunk and forgotten.
Upon vacationing in Canada, he and his wife saw a rollator, a walker with a seat and hand brakes, and when folded it easily fit into the car trunk, unlike those walkers he’d seen in the US. They went to a medical supply store, where they found many rollators that folded up to fit into the trunk. Though ultimately they waited to return to the US to buy it through Medicare. He couldn’t find a medical supply store here that stocks walkers, so turned to the internet where he ordered and returned several.
Ron likens this whole process as a Sisyphean chore. In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was condemned to roll a rock up a mountain, it falls and he has to start all over again. He is wondering why buying a walker has become so difficult.
He is back at the computer looking for the right walker — as he does not wish to give up visiting Chicago neighborhoods, traveling, nor becoming housebound.
My thoughts when I read this: that while he’s fighting the stigma about using devices in public and even at home he has come to accept the need for a walker.
He does not wish to become housebound. He knows what he needs. Can the design of these devices/durable medical equipment be improved to better fit in the trunks of our cars?
And can we ultimately lift the stigma of using canes, walkers and rollators that enable our accessibility to our environment?
Buying a walker turns out to be a Sisyphean Chore by Ron Grossman
Chicago Tribune, November 27, 2016