Mom has mild to moderate dementia and is very unsteady on her feet. Can't seem to get her to use her walker in the house. She is convinced she won't fall. For now I am following her around on the ready. Any tips for getting her to use it?

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There goes my heart rate soaring, just reading your post. Oh my word this is one of the huuuuuuuuge frustrations!

Don't do what I did for far too long and try to reason, explain, cajole, plead or turn purple in the face. The remembering and thought process that goes into rising from chair, taking hold of walker and using it correctly is no long happening in your mother's head. So no matter what you say or how you communicate the walker's importance, she is not going to do this for herself.

I found placing the thing so that to leave her chair mother had to either move it or use it sometimes worked. But quite often she would just move it out of the way, then totter off perilously grabbing at chair backs and table tops to steady herself.

Have you already installed a pressure pad so that at least you get some warning when she's off on her travels?

By the way, when it goes...

You - Mother, please remember your walker! It's so important that you don't fall.
Mother - I'm fine, I always hold on to things, I don't need it etc.

... her excuses and reasoning aren't actually relevant. She doesn't use it not because she believes she doesn't need it, but because she can't - literally can't - initiate and carry out the action.
Helpful Answer (11)

Make it pretty and lovely so she's proud to be seen with it. I wrote sometime ago about a woman I met online who was an artist and painted lovely flowers on walker legs. These assistive device works of art were apparently quite a hit at local nursing homes.

I've always planned to decorate my father's walker but never got around to it. You could just decorate it, w/o telling her what your motives are. Or just casually mention that as long as she doesn't need it, you thought you'd decorate it and make it a pretty addition to the room.

Add some silk autumn leaves in areas such as the crossbar, where they won't interfere with walking. In December, change to holly and ivy and some small poinsettias. Hearts are for February, Irish decorations for March, pastels for Spring, red, white and blue ribbons or flags for Memorial Day, etc.

You can also try to find a decorative bag to attach to the crossbar. Some are nice, others are typically "assistive device unattractive".

But unfortunately, the attitude that "I won't fall" isn't unusual. I think some of it is positive self reinforcement, so I've backed off and try not to be negative and just say "okay". "I hope you don't fall because that means another trip to the ER, hospital stay, rehab stay, long waits for toileting assistance..." That's usually enough to discourage bypassing the walker.

That's why I suggest making it a work of art, so she's drawn to the lovely flowers or leaves, and people compliment her on it when she goes out.

I think as along as someone tries to get someone else to use a walker, they'll often resist. But sometimes they legitimately forget; older brains (including mine) often do that.

You can also ask one of her doctors to script for home PT to strengthen her legs. Or buy one of those little bike pedals that can use used on the floor or table to strengthen legs and arms. Search for "bike pedal exerciser". Some are just the pedals and can be found in catalogues for about $15 (last time I checked). Others are more heavy duty and more expensive, and harder for an older person to drag out to use.
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I had the walker in her walkway. My grandma when she first started using it, refused to use it all the time finding it too cumbersome. She refused one time and was yelling at me as she fell with her back against the cabinets causing a compression fracture in her back. That kind of made it so that she was afraid to fall so much so she started using the walker more. Which kind of walker are you trying to have her use? The grey one with no wheels just had grandma lifting it and she found it hard to use. The grey one with two wheels was confusing to her as well and she would forget to lift it and almost lose her balance but the one with a seat was perfect. It took lots of practice. I kept reminding her following behind her with the walker. A few times when she was waiting I'd encourage her to sit in it and she began to realize the convenience of having a walker to sit on. I even had the grand children put pictures on it saying that they loved her. That way when I brought it to her, she would see their faces and see the pictures they drew for her. We added a cup holder for her drink so she could push it while having a drink with her. We added a tray underneath the seat so she could put her book and pencil in as well as a jacket or anything else she was carrying to make it more inviting.

I also at night time and during the day, have the walker right in her way. She either has to walk around it awkwardly or push it. She seems to have no problem pushing it now and won't walk without it as it's in her long term memory or somewhere that she thinks she needs it. 

Don't give up! It's a work in progress.
Helpful Answer (9)

I have little different take on this. Walkers can be extremely helpful if they are used correctly. Used incorrectly they can actually increase the risk of falling.

People with dementia have a hard time learning to use these devices safely. (As well, of course, of remembering to use them at all.) I'm of the opinion that when they are in their own homes, if paths have been cleared and obstacles removed, they may be better off "furniture walking." Watch how they do this and perhaps move some items a little closer together so there is always something to hang on to.

Outside of the house a wheel chair may be the safest bet. Many public places have them available. A transport chair is not hard to carry in most cars and can be used getting into and about in a building, whether is is a clinic or a children's museum.

There are something like 47,000 elderly Americans treated in emergency rooms each year from falls WHILE USING walkers and canes.

I think walkers can give us a false sense of security. For seniors with no cognitive problems, it is important to make sure they are trained in using the devices and they use them correctly consistently. For seniors with dementia, I'm not sure it is worth the anguish caregivers go through trying to enforce the use of these devices.
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Mouse my mom is the same way,, those things are for Old people and she wont fall, as she wobbles all around.. and uses me and my Aunt as her personal devises, I have even pointed out that my younger friend uses a cane. I have a bad back,, she knows this.. but no matter. Good luck !
Helpful Answer (4)

This is so common with old folks. I have the same issue with my mom. It drives me nuts. She knows she has no balance, must always have one hand something to steady herself but is falling more and more.

She doesn't have dementia but the reasoning is just not there anymore. She'll use her walker when she remembers but will try to make the short trip ( like 6 ft) to the bathroom with out the walker and have a terrible fall. I WAS JUST GOING TO THE BATHROOM!

Sadly, I think falls are just a fact of life for the elderly. We can only do so much prevention. I do like GAs suggestions however. I might try and tart up my moms walker and see if that makes it more noticeable and appealing.
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Kitty reminded me that my father is actually more comfortable, and safer, with a rollator, than with a walker. The only shortcoming would be if someone doesn't know how to use the brakes.

But it's better for short walks b/c of the seat; 4 wheels instead of 2 provide a more even stride.

Windy, um...."tart up"? Thanks for the chuckle! Just don't make Mom wear sexy clothes or you'll have another problem on your hands. The wolf whistles might encourage her to walk all around the neighborhood!
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My mom fell using the rollator. After rehab, etc., she started using the gray one with no wheels. She used two tennis balls to slide it along. It worked well for her but she was given lessons while in rehab because she would look off to the side while continuing to go forward. That's how she fell, looking at one thing to the side while continuing to go forward. She used it for about five years.

My aunt uses a cane. I asked her therapist if she should stop using the cane and start using the walker. He said no, that it would be more dangerous for her to use the walker. She seldom moves without the cane. She has worn through the rubber tip on the bottom once. That was a lot of steps. She got used to using it when she was going through a period of being dizzy. It helped her maintain her balance. She fell once before she started using it and has fallen once recently. She normally takes it slow and easy and even though she uses the cane, she will still hold onto furniture or people if available. I encouraged her to use a cane in the beginning because I felt it made her be more visible and helped others see that she might fall if bumped into. It made her feel more secure.

I've noticed that my aunt can't talk and use her cane at the same time. If someone asks her a question, she will stop walking in order to answer. 

My mother had OT for years. My aunt alternates between PT and OT. It really helps them not only be able to safely use the walker or cane but also they have more strength in their arms and legs and should they fall they will recover sooner. It also helps with balance. The therapy also helps cognitively. 

The cane is easier to carry in the car etc.
My mom used the walker only in the house. She used a wheel chair if she was out of doors or going to the doctor. She could walk without the walker, she just felt safer using it. 

Another thing that I think helps elders not fall is for them to wear pads and/or disposable underwear to keep from thinking they have to rush to the bathroom. 

So, I would say, get your mom a cane and ask her doctor to order her PT. Just tell them she is dizzy and needs help with her balance. They will come out and evaluate her and see what she needs, PT or OT. Then the therapist can walk her around her home with the walker and/or cane and show her how it can help her. If you get OT they can give you some advice on hand holds etc. that will make her more comfortable and safer in the home.
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My dad fell and broke his pelvis getting up from the toilet. why?....because he forgot to set the brakes on the rollator and out it went and he lost balance and fell. Off to hospital, rehab for 5 weeks and then was barely back in his AL apartment when he’s walking down the hall to breakfast with a 2 wheel walker and he lost balance fell and broke the femur around his him replacement. This was 6 days ago. He ended up with a major surgery to repair it (at 96!) and we just got him back in rehab and skilled nursing yesterday. He can’t put weight on it for 4 weeks. This may be the end of him. Goes to show that walkers while valuable are not the total answer.
All I can say is all of us need to be keeping our own core muscles toned as well as our leg muscles. I do weights and go to yoga now and I can tell which ones who do not work on their legs and core. They nearly fall over in yoga. And mind you this is a gentle yoga. So please bear in mind as you yourself age. Sitting is our worst enemy.
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Good point, Harpcat - I wish they would come up with a rollator that works on the same principle as airport baggage trolleys, so you have to squeeze the handle to go rather than to brake, and then the worst that can happen is you don't go anywhere instead of its running away with you and landing you flat on your face.

I saw a wheelchair with exactly that mechanism last week - hoping it's just a matter of time, then.
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