Sunday, October 2, 2011

Disabled Necessity: Walker Pouches, Preferably Cute Ones

People who use walkers need pouches. Not just for convenience, but for safety and security.
While I’ve blogged about disabled people needing better (and more fashionable) walkers, the same goes for pouches. Or organizers. Whatever you call the item that hangs on the side or front of your walker so you can put things in it.
I’ve been using a walker for about six years now.  Some of that time I was bedridden and had to use a wheelchair. But I’ve been through multiple walkers (or mobility aids as they are called in medical supply stores or drugstores).
Each has features I like and dislike. As I was making my way around the house or hospital or rehabilitation facility, I would often comment that I needed something to hold my stuff or maybe a cup holder since moving from one spot in the room to another holding a drink was difficult.
What I didn’t know was there are plenty of walker accessories to make my life easier. But when you are suddenly disabled, you aren’t really thinking about the disabled accessory shopping scene. I’ve found out what’s out there by asking folks who have cool-looking accessories, by keeping my eyes open when I go to the disabled supplies area of my drugstore and by searching the internet.
Over the years, I’ve gotten stronger and more balanced. I can carry a drink and can (slowly) set the table for dinner.  But I’ve learned that having a walker pouch should be mandatory for everyone who is disabled. And there is always room for improvement in convenience and design.
I first spotted an attached walker pouch in my  senior exercise chair class at the senior center. Gloria has a nice blue one on her metal walker. She said her son bought it for her and she didn't know where he got it.
So I went online and found a similar one, in blue and green, that has lots of pockets and stays on when you fold the walker.
First, I put in a water bottle and tissues for when I’m walking around the house. I also used it to transport things from one room to another. But it was a few days after I got it that I learned it serves a greater purpose: a portable emergency kit. 
It was a Sunday night and I was headed to the restroom to get ready for bed. My husband was upstairs for the night and my sons were on their way back from a birthday road trip to the wine country. Because I didn’t want to miss a call from them, I put my house phone in the pouch before I headed to the bathroom.
I parked my walker in the open doorway, leaned against the sink as I washed my face and brushed my teeth. I took a gulp of mouthwash and started swishing, then lost my balance. I do this often, but I just grab onto my walker or a counter and it’s not detectable. I am unable to lift a leg quickly and put it down like other people can when they misstep.
Because my walker was behind me, I grabbed on to a towel bar, which promptly broke. As if in slow motion, I fell directly onto my right hip. 
A million things went through my mind. I had fallen three times before and had sustained multiple spinal compression fractures. Because I have steroid-caused osteoporosis and had kyphoplasty surgery on three vertebrae, I was extra susceptible to hip and spinal fractures.
Oh, (insert curse word), I thought.
Despite the tremendous pain,  I knew I hadn’t broken anything (because the times when I did break stuff, I knew it).  Yay, osteoporosis medicine.
There was a problem. I couldn’t get up. Now that much-mocked “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” TV commercial didn’t seem so funny to me.
I hoisted myself up to the toilet and spit out my mouthwash. My teeth: minty-fresh. Check.
Now to tackle the next thing: being rescued. I remembered my phone in my walker pouch (it was the first time I had brought the phone into the bathroom), so I dragged myself over and pulled it down.
Because I can’t see without my reading glasses, I had to try a few times but managed to page my husband, who came downstairs and  helped me up.
If he had not been home and I had not had my phone in the pouch, I would have remained on the bathroom floor for two hours, when my boys finally arrived home.
There are many times when I’m alone in my house. And there are numerous times when someone’s home but they wouldn’t hear me if I screamed.
Eunice with her pouch
I learned a big lesson that day: always carry essential items in my walker pouch. Whether I’m inside or outside, these items are in the pouch: my home phone handset, my cell phone, a spare pair of reading glasses, a bottle of water and light-up eyeglasses (my favorite new old lady accessory). 
If I’m in the living room or on the driveway, I know I can call for help if I fall. And the light-up reading glasses mean I can do it even if the power goes out.
So you walker users, make sure you have a pouch. Or have someone buy you one. There are many types out there: some fit on the front, some the sides of a walker. Some are baskets, which I don’t think would work for folding up. They do make cup holders to affix to your walker.
And a few of these accessories are attractive. In addition to the standard black and navy offerings, I found one online that has a cute Hawaiian theme.

Back at the senior center, another exercise buddy Eunice sports a lovely fabric walker pouch which suits her personality. She always looks fabulous and has an accessory to match. Her caregiver bought the pink paisley pouch at an out-of-town senior craft boutique. She said she knew Eunice would love it. Disabled folks aren’t at the top of the fashion curve, but we love some attractive options. 
Hear that, accessory designers? Sure, make navy and black, but other colors and patterns are fun. And crafters? Ditch the knitted covers for tissue boxes and toilet paper rolls and start sewing some slammin’ walker pouches.

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