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When do you know it is time to start using assistive devices

Hi. I was diagnosed with RA 18 years ago and then 3 years later I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia as well. This year I got diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy as I,ve been having issues regarding my balance. I fall over and seem to look drunk as I will just lose balance and fall over or grab onto anything I can. I’m 52 years old and I’m blind in my left eye.
I’m at a point at where I’m looking to use a cane on my bad days but people are warning me that i will be discriminated against especially because I’m only 52. I don’t know what to do as the joints most affected are my feet, knees, elbows and now my lower back.
I would really appreciate any guidance that can be given. Thank you. Karen

  1. Safety is ALWAYS first. If you think you'll be discriminated against then start documenting every little thing. [My experience has NOT included discrimination.]

    1. It is time to start when you feel safer with the device than without. Or, if you are starting to avoid going out because you feel too unstable. I encourage you to do anything that helps keep you mobile!

      I had a hip replacement in my 50’s and used a walker then a cane for weeks after. Not once did I feel discriminated against using my walker or cane.

      I suggest having a PT help fit you with the best device for you. It’s easy to put strain on your arms, wrists or hands if you aren’t fit well.

      If you haven’t already, I would also speak with your doctor about an ADA parking pass. I was concerned when I first started using mine, especially because it is not always outwardly obvious when I am in pain or very fatigued. But, again, I have never been treated rudely when using it.

      I Hope you receive the same kind treatment, Jo

      1. Hi, ! I think Jo and Drea pretty much covered everything I would have said. I want to ask, though, are the people telling you you'll face discrimination disabled individuals? Or is it able-bodied people assuming you will be treated differently if you go out in public with a cane? I only ask because while you may face the occasional uncomfortable situation, most of our members would not say they have been discriminated against for having a cane or walker.

        That said, I know some of our members using wheelchairs have often found themselves in places and situations that are not adapted to their needs. And sometimes, folks have dealt with strangers thinking they are abusing the handicapped parking spaces, but again, this is not the norm. It happens and it's frustrating, but again, it's not the norm in many places.

        I just would hate for that fear to be the main reason you would consider not using a cane. Many individuals find their walking aids to be great tools in helping them maintain their independence and sense of security.

        Best, Erin, RheumatoidArthritis.net Team Member.

        1. Thank you very much for the positive support. I forgot to mention that live in South Africa and people can be discriminatory because you don't look sick and I'm constantly told that I will limit my work advantages. My other worry about a cane is the fact that my hands are not strong anymore and putting pressure on it I end up with more pain on my hands and elbows.

          1. Hi . I have to admit I was going to post some links to information on workplace rights, but don't know how applicable they would be for your country. That said, I did find this South African educational booklet on Human Rights and Persons with Disabilities: https://www.sahrc.org.za/home/21/files/FINAL%20Human%20Rights%20and%20Persons%20with%20Disabilities%20Educational%20Booklet.pdf.

            Also, on top of all of the other excellent information provided, I want to tell you that my wife, Kelly Mack (a contributor here), was diagnosed at age two, 45 years ago - before modern treatments, with the damage to show for it. She has used a wheelchair since her teens. She certainly has experienced discrimination, ableism and inaccessibility, but these experience pale in comparison to the way her chair and other assistive devices have opened up the world for her. They made her college education and much of her employment experience possible (she now telecommutes for work, but that did not used to be a thing and is still not always possible for some). They have also made traveling the world possible, which she loves to do. Many of the issues you describe, besides being major safety concerns are also serving to limit your mobility and make your world smaller. Assistive devices can help with that (as you can see, this is a topic I'm pretty passionate about).

            I noticed that Jo mentioned the idea of a walking stick. I'm tagging another of our patient leaders because I know he has used a walking stick and may be able to offer some guidance.

            Finally, Kelly just mentioned that you might be interested in looking up/reading about Eddie Ndopu, who is a South African disability rights advocate (she liked his book "Sipping Dom Pérignon Through a Straw" ) Hoping this information helps and please feel free, if you like, to keep us posted on how you are doing. Best, Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

          2. , oh! Thank you for clarifying! Well, I won't claim to be an expert on how things are in South Africa and discrimination may be something you have to consider. I think some of our other mods offer some great suggestions and please know we're rooting for you!

            Best, Erin, RheumatoidArthritis.net Team Member.

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