How can I convince my mom to start using a cane?

4 answers | Last updated: Oct 27, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mom who is 78 years young, has a lot of difficulty walking and maintaining her balance. I am very afraid that she is going to fall one of these days. The doctor has told her to use a cane and her family has said to do the same. However, she gets emotionally upset over the subject and says " the day that I have to use a cane is the day that I will lie down and die". I don't know how I can get her to use one without upsetting her. Any ideas?

Expert Answers

Bonita Lynn Beattie is the vice president for injury prevention for the Center for Healthy Aging, part of the National Council on Aging (NCOA). She directs the NCOA's Falls Free Initiative, which is developing and implementing a national action plan to prevent falls and fall-related injuries in older adults.

You pose an interesting and far too common question that pointed out individual perceptions of what it means to be old. Or perhaps she is just afraid of using a cane, which is also not uncommon. Let me share a few thoughts about the use of a cane and falls: the [CDC] ( released a report in June that noted a large number of falls are related to the misuse of canes and walkers, leading to the recommendation that such devices need to be properly fit to the individual with instruction in the use of that ambulation aid.

The health care provider who can best provide safe instruction in the use of a cane is a physical therapist. For more information go to [] ( A physical therapist can also assess your mom for balance and walking issues that might be improved through appropriate interventions such as exercise, which can be prescribed and monitored as either a clinic or home-based program. Finally, the therapist should be able to help ease your mom's concerns by helping to convince her of the benefits of using a cane. For those reasons, I would suggest you ask the doctor for a referral to a physical therapist.

You might have noticed that cane fashion design is coming of age with hundreds of styles, colors and patterns to choose among. As just one example of the many styles available go to [Walking-Canes] ( Canes are becoming more fashionable even in people who do not really need them. You or your mom might already be seeing more people using canes, or know of a persuasive friend who could share the positive aspects of the cane to assist in balance.

When you and your mom are ready to purchase a cane I would recommend you check out your community medical supply outlets or drug stores, most of them now carry an array of adjustable height styles to choose from-ask the therapist for a recommendation. But remember the appropriate fit and safe-use instruction are keys to reducing falls.

Community Answers

Galowa answered...


We don't need a cane for my 82 years young mother yet, but since she has Alzheimer's Disease, I anticipated the need and purchased myself a "walking stick." I also went to a sporting goods store and bought "hiking poles," which are similar in design to ski poles, yet designed to assist able-bodied hikers on rough terrain. I carry one or the other of these devices almost everywhere my mother and I go together - sometimes using it, sometimes not.

I've explained to my mother "I just never know" when I'm going to need my walking stick... Plus, I remind her what EXCELLENT PROTECTION it is! My "walking stick" (a hand-carved cane with a silver handle and black rubber foot) also draws LOTS of ATTENTION... which my mother just LUSTS after! So now, as my mother has shown interest in my use of these aids, I am working on developing a bit of "accessory envy." Time will tell.

When the time does come that my mother really NEEDS to use an aid, my approach will be similar to the classic tactic parents use when a child doesn't want to do something he/she must do - DIVERT and REDIRECT.

When my mother becomes unstable on her feet, I will discuss with her the need for making "choices." We will discuss (I will talk and she will listen) her SAFETY, her MOBILITY, her INDEPENDENCE, AND the limited options available for maintaining her freedom.

In other words, our talk will NOT be about CANES, or her need for - a CANE. Our talk WILL outline for her some of the worst possible "worst case scenarios" any of which could arise from her walking "unsupported..." (see last paragraph.)

I will follow up by asking her whether she would be MORE comfortable using a walker with wheels or a walker without wheels... I won't even BROACH the "CANE issue" (but with this approach, she MIGHT...)

Another tactic you might try is taking your mother back to the doctor (you'll need to enlist his/her help beforehand,) and having THE DOCTOR tell her she needs a WALKER...

If my mother didn't go for the bait, I would tell her that we will be going to the mobility store the very next day - to test drive wheelchairs... ; )

I have used this approach with any number of issues, and (at least with MY mother,) it has worked like a charm... every single time.

Your worst case scenario?

Your mother 1) doesn't go for this approach, 2) falls down a flight of stairs, 3) BREAKS HER NECK, and 4) spends the rest of her life paralyzed, 5) living in an "iron lung," 6) "just like all those poor polio victims..."

PLEASE feel free to tell her that I, Galowa, said so!

Good luck,



Darwew60 answered...

if ANYONE no matter what age feels wobbley or has bad legs or whatever they ought to use a 4 legged cane or better yet a walker i am 67 and i have been on canes,walkers and my scooter since 2002 i got my leg hurt somehow and was in severe pain for 6 weeks they kept saying its bursitis what i am getting at here is once you hurt your tendons in your leg[which i think thats what happened to me] you are never the same so tell her to walk with something to steady herself please so she dont wind up like me my left knee buckles and i fall sometimes so i have to use help better than breaking a hip good luck

Alumette answered...

If your mother gets so irritated about using a cane, leave her alone. She deserves the right to make her own decisions. You may want to suggest safe high heels or slippery soles.