Sunday, 19 October 2014

Ageism and disability: The Zimmer Frame

Recently my house has been looking more and more like a care home. I'm lucky to have been referred to an occupational therapist who works for the reablement team. Together we've been addressing areas where I struggle around the home and on getting me the right equipment to help me and my family (who are my carers). We already had a commode for use downstairs (as we don't have a downstairs loo) and during bed bound times. We also had a bath board to help me get into the bath, as I can't stand up for long enough to have showers (sigh). However I was finding getting in and out increasingly difficult and was putting too much strain on my wrists as well as on my Mum's back. So cue a request to my gp for a referral to the occupational therapy team and I am now kitted out for disabled life.
There is one item inparticular though that conjures up all those misconceptions and misunderstandings about disability. And that is of course THE ZIMMER FRAME. Zimmer frames in todays society are associated with old age. It's almost a symbol for old age. So as a young person to be using a zimmer frame of course goes against all stereotype. At the moment I won't be using it too much outside of the house because I need my wheelchair but when I can use it outside I think I will be more appreciative of the fact that I can use the zimmer rather than my chair. Liberating almost. But in doing so I will be putting myself in the vulnerable position of not being someone others would expect to be using one and perhaps facing strange looks or comments about it. Luckily I have learned to develop a tough skin when it comes to challenging peoples perceptions of disability. I used to get paranoid just getting out of the car and walking into my chair. Or if I needed to stand up in a shop to look at something that was too high up for me to see in my chair. I felt like I was being judged. But now I have learned to shrug off that feeling. I know how bad my condition is and having accepted that I need these aids to help me. But it will be interesting to see how I fare when using the zimmer in public.
Therefore I would say that the zimmer frame is more a symbol of disability rather than old age. Or those whom old age is disabling them in some way. Because let's face it not all elderly people need a zimmer frame or even a walking stick. In the same way that not all disabled people are in wheelchairs. My Nanna is 88 and is still doing the garden and walking up and down the highstreet unaided. One day she was sat next to me on the sofa doing leg excercises while I needed help to stand up. Talk about rubbing it in. And also Granny and Grandads in a lot of cases nowadays you wouldn't even class as elderly. Remember when people in their 60s seemed really old?
I was in a cafe the other day and two women were talking about getting old and the how it can disable some of us. Needing walking aids (zimmers included of course), stair lifts and sometimes different equipmenr to help them in the home. They were saying how because of it getting old is a horrible thought. As a disabled person listening to this and actually being in the process of getting more aids it made me feel a bit melancholy. It just struck home those perceptions of young and old and as some would say being old before my time.
But by having all these aids it'd actually helping me have more independance and able to live life more when I can. It's a way of keeping in touch with my 'youth.'  I'm thankful for my wheelchair for physically letting me get out of the house. And one day I'll be exctatic about using my zimmer rather than my chair.
If you are struggling to do simple things about your home or are not able to do things at all due to disability then I advice you to speak to your gp. Tell them how you're struggling and ask to be seen by an occupational therapist. What they can provide varies from council to council but it is covered by the NHS so won't cost you a penny. Plus you will be taught how to use the equipment and your carer (non professional) can be assessed too, to ensure they are helping you in a way that's safe fod them. You can buy things privately and may need to do so for items the council doesn't provide but I would say do make use of this service. I only wish I'd have known a bit sooner. Now off to buy my Mum a tabbard.
Sian x


  1. Hehe. I'd be lethal with one of those. They issued my Dad with one when we were really little, he never got on with it but it used to make a fantastic play tent frame. ;)