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Yesterday I went to visit with my in-laws and FIL was waddling with his feet spread wider apart than I've ever seen. Last month my husband saw his dad waddling and asked him to start using a cane but FIL said he didn't need one. MIL is in a wheelchair and FIL pushes it so he has something on which to steady himself but that only works when they're together.


For the last 6 months he has lost his balance frequently. For the last couple of months he underwent another round of MRIs, heart monitors, full checkups by a neurologist, cardiologist, and internist, and once again all tests came back normal. He's doing PT and balance exercises but it's not really helping.


For a man as vain as he is, I would have thought FIL would rather use a cane than look ridiculous waddling around like a duck. I found a Royal Canes black and maple model that is ergonomic, folding, and adjustable. It's not cheap. With the holidays coming up I could give it to him as a present but he is notorious for opening gifts and throwing them in the closet.


I just don't know what I should do. I don't want him to fall and hurt himself. That would ruin everything we've accomplished by moving them into independent living.
With the holidays coming I feel like this the only big window of opportunity to help him accept that his waddling is worse and noticeable, and that it's not a matter of 'if' he falls but 'when.'


My husband tells me this isn't our problem but I can't stop feeling sorry for my FIL and worried about him because he has been nothing but good to me.

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Why wait? Get the cane now I have inner ear issue and sometimes it gets bad. I KNOW that the cane will keep me from falling while I am going through an attack. I don't want to risk falling and breaking a hip. So, I take precautions. Sit down with him and tell him how much he means to you and would he do this for you?
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Sunnygirl's comment about mental capacity also was my A-HA moment.
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I don't have a yes or no answer. What happened to freqflyer's mom happened to my mother as well. She used a cane for a couple of years, but she never used it right, and it sometimes tripped her up. She used to go up and down the stairs in IL and we all shuddered worrying she would trip over it.
When we moved her to AL, they wanted her to use a walker - she refused. She is as stubborn as they come and felt it would make her look old (she's almost 101) She was in AL for 8 months and fell, three times we know about - many more we have figured she didn't tell anyone about.
She finally put herself in a NH with her last fall. She has fallen there once and in the hospital - she lives a charmed life - never broke a bone. God is watching out for her for sure. But, so many falls, she is now not even strong enough to use the walker any more and is in a wheelchair. I think if she had been willing to use it in the first place, she would still be in AL and in a lot better health emotionally and figuratively. If your father would use a walker, I'd go with that. Once mom had the cane, she wouldn't give it up for the walker.
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Buy him the cane and encourage him to use it. Maybe he will...maybe he won't. But at least you'll know you did the right thing.
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Sunnygirl1, your post had a light bulb moment with me when you posted "I can't fathom that a person with full mental capacity would be that much in denial." Ah ha now that I look back, I really believe my Mom wasn't thinking very clearly and here I thought she was still sharp as a tack.... anyway she acted that way in front of me and on the phone.

Now I understand why Mom was still having Dad do fix it chores around the house. She probably thought he was still in his 40's instead of in his 90's. My gosh, she had him changing a light bulb on a ceiling fixture up on a cathedral ceiling. My Dad is a major fall risk, and there he was up on a ladder.

Ah, that explains why Dad called me asking if I could change that light bulb, but I told him at my age I stopped doing ladders out of fear of falling. If only I had known what was going on.
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FIL hasn't walked down the hallway since I posted but tomorrow - yes, Thanksgiving - I will be ready with the camera set on video! The big news is that I wrote to FIL's physician and told him everything that's been going on. Midkid58 - yes, our posture is another use-it-or-lose-it thing too often taken for granted until it's gone. I will get him the cane for Christmas because I discovered that MIL still has a rollator hanging around from when she could still sort of walk and two rollators would clutter their apartment. Thanks again for all the answers. I so appreciate them. - NYDIL
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As intrusive and "unkind" as showing your FIL a video of himself walking (waddling) it might be effective. Mother walks bent over in half, she can stand up of she is doing her exercises, but has chosen not to, so she is hunched over and can barely lift her head. She was pointing out to me somebody she knew in the store who had "aged so badly"..woman was walking with a walker, but walking upright, ,tho slowly. I didn't have to take a pic to show mother how she looks, somebody dropped off some photos from a family party from a year ago and she noticed herself that she is totally bent in half when she sits or walks. It's too late for her, she is very ashamed of being like this, as her own mother walked with impeccable posture to the week she died..and mother looks 100 yo really just due to the terrible posture. She is so far gone in the muscle weakness dept she CAN'T stand up straight. Get the cane, don't wait for the inevitable fall...mother LOVED the attention of the cane, when she could get by with one.
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Thank you for all your answers. A video of him waddling is a good idea, Garden Artist, and I'm going to take one at my next opportunity, which will probably be Thanksgiving. FIL has seen MIL fall many times, freqflyer, so I agree, Sunnygirl, that there is cognitive decline happening. My husband agrees that his dad shouldn't be walking unassisted so I will try to get the family behind getting FIL one as an early Christmas present because who knows what he will have done to himself without one by then. Thanks again! - NYDIL
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I agree that many seniors think that the "bad fall" just isn't going to happen to them, but I also suspect that there is some mental decline that prevents them from fully appreciating the consequences of taking such obvious risks.

When you point things out in a simple way, they just don't seem to grasp it. I can't fathom that a person with full mental capacity would be that much in denial. That's just my take on it. To me, it's a signal of cognitive decline, so there are likely other things of concern going on.
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I'm wondering if some personal stories, such as those in the AAA publication Access, might help as well. FF's situation reminded me that when falls happen to someone we know, it can "hit home" more quickly and personally that cold statistics - not that that's a criticism of your approach, which I think is a good one. But I think a lot of people (sometimes myself included) think of various drastic and tragic events and think "that's not going to happen to ME."
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NYDaughterInLaw, feel free to use the following story regarding my Mom. We could not get her to use a rolling walker, she just couldn't figure out how to use the hand brakes.... so she would use her cane.... once in awhile... but rarely inside the house. Wham, she fell, 911 was called, she was hospitalized then sent home with instructions to hire caregivers.

After 3 days the caregivers were history, she thought she could manage with my Dad there in the house [who was a major fall risk himself].... a week later wham, down Mom went again but this time she hit her head on the kitchen counter.... called 911...

Mom is now bedridden and living in a nursing home. In a couple of weeks she went from being pretty sharp for someone 97, to accelerated dementia due to the brain trauma. The same thing could happen to Dad-in-law, and that would leave Mom-in-law by herself. Hopefully it will give him something to think about.
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Just thought..you mentioned he's vain Do you think a video of him "waddling" might help him realize how unstable he is?
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After one of my father's falls and fractured femur, we arranged for PT at a good facility close to him. He received conflicting advice from so-called experts - a sports rehab specialist told him to use a cane, as did a PCP. Another advised using a walker. If I recall specifically, one physical therapist recommended a cane and another a walker. There was no consensus of agreement. This is not an area in which the experts agree.

I don't recall the reason we explored use of a rollator, but Dad found it to be so much more effective when he tested in at a DME store. Medicare paid for it.

As FF says, it's a different method of support, height adjusted to the user, with handlebars and locking mechanism for the wheels. What makes it easier to use is that it's far more stable and protective than a walker. The user can also stop, sit down and rest on the seat, which can't be done with a walker. So it's more versatile as well.

It's a 4 wheeled device, whereas a walker may have 2 wheels and 2 "stubs", or all 4 legs end in the rubber stubs/caps.

Walkers do NOT move as easily as rollators, but walkers do provide more support than canes, to which I'm really opposed because they can cause someone to lean to one side and limp, and they provide no support whatsoever if someone begins to go down.

A few years ago I had a mysterious literally spontaneous knee injury which make it almost impossible to walk w/o support. I used a dowel I had planned to use for a clothing rod, and learned to limp through the house. But I didn't really feel safe and held onto furniture or whatever I could to steady myself. When I get old, I shall not use a cane.

We now use the rollator basket for the portable oxygen concentrator, which makes walking so much easier. With just a walker, Dad would have to have someone walk with him and haul the concentrator. That in effect would discourage walking.

Dad is able to get the portable concentrator plus the rollator out of his house, down the steps, and out for a stroll.

And BTW, he's 97 and has had 2 fractured femurs.
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Good luck with getting him to use a cane or walker, I'm not sure why there is so much resistance to these things. Most just refuse to use them and then they fall and fracture hip and it's down hill after that.

In fact one of our family friends who is in his 80's fell yesterday and fractured his hip. He was walking in the street alone when he fell yesterday. This man should never have been out of his house alone. Anyway, they aren't sure he's strong enough to undergo surgery.

If your FIL is open to information and clear thinking, perhaps a couple of stories like mine might make a difference. You can try. Good luck.
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Thanks, freqflyer. You make an excellent point about posture that I hadn't considered.
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There will come a time when a cane won't work. I got my Dad a rolling walker and he ditched that cane quickly as he really like the walker... gives him much better balance plus it makes him stand up correctly.... with the cane I noticed he was leaning to one side and hunching over which wasn't good for his back.

The rolling walker has hand brakes, plus a seat to sit whenever one get tired walking. Under the seat which opens up there is a wire basket which comes in handy. It's almost like walking with the wheelchair, similar concept. The walkers come in a vary of colors so maybe he would enjoy a bright red one or cobalt blue. Hope he would accept that.

I know how vain some elders can be. My Mom didn't want Dad to take his rolling walker outside as she didn't want the neighbors to think Dad was elderly.... HELLO he is in his mid-90's. Dad eventually won and takes the walker out when getting the mail.... I bet the neighbors are thinking "well, it's about time he got one of those".

Oh, I had to wait until my Dad fell backwards on his driveway, a trip to the ER and physical therapy to tell him to get that walker.
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