This is one question I have really struggled with and have researched extensively, but have been unable to come up with very many clear answers. For some people, the answer to that question is easy, so why is it so difficult for me? There's no doubt that how you were raised plays a part in making that decision, as well as how slowly or how quickly your health has changed. Sometimes it's clear cut, like when you are diagnosed with a disease that takes away your muscle functions, but at other times, you can go for weeks, months, or years until your health has declined tremendously but never make the decisions you need to make to improve your life. That is the key, though. If you can't function the way you once could, and you are unable to enjoy life or enjoy time with people, it is seriously time to start considering the possibilities. That still can be a very vague time frame, though.Then what?
Thankfully, I am surrounded by family and friends that are very supportive, as well as a team of doctors that continue to do everything they can for me. Despite all of that, it's impossible to escape a period where you feel like everything is being taken from you and that is completely normal. It was during that time for me when I happened to be going to occupational therapy, as well as cognitive therapy for people with chronic health issues. Without them, I would have kept looking at assistive devices as only being used by the sickest of individuals, or those who have lost limbs, and have continued to struggle and make things worse for me. You see, at some point, not only is it about you, it is about those you spend the most time with, too. Being stuck in the house because you can't walk very far doesn't do anyone any good. Not using tools that are readily available to help you get around the house so that you don't fall is not only putting you at risk, but it makes things harder for your family when they have to stop and take care of you or get you to the doctor or worse, in for surgery because you hurt yourself.
Assistive devices....whether they are canes, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, scooters, etc....are available for a reason. They are tools in your arsenal to help you live your life. They are not a sign of weakness, they are a sign of strength....a sign that you want to live your life to the fullest and not let anything hold you back. They are a sign that your family and friends are important to you and you want to enjoy your time with them as well as allow them to enjoy their time with you. These tools allow you to accomplish the things you want to accomplish in life and not become a victim of whatever is ailing you. So, when do you know when it's time to start considering using some of these tools? When a doctor tells you to? Not necessarily. When your health has decreased so much that no amount of struggling is letting you live your life the way you use to? Definitely not! Would you be surprised to know that by using the tools you need to use, to accomplish the tasks you want to accomplish, BEFORE your health gets too bad would be the best time? For me, I waited a long time to decide that using a cane was finally a necessity. I suffered for weeks and months, my arthritic hips getting worse and worse, before I finally broke down and bought my cane. When I started using it, it took some of the pressure off of my worst hip and I was finally able to do a little more than I had been able to do before I bought it. By not using the tools when you need them, you could actually be causing more harm than good, especially if not using them means you could actually hurt yourself more.
If you are in the beginning stages of health issues that are taking your everyday abilities and functions away, the first thing to do is acknowledge that you are dealing with something that might very well seem unfair, and it's ok to feel that way.....just don't live there. Don't stop living the life you have or want to have. If you start having too much pain to walk, get a cane or walking device to help you. If you are too weak to walk, look into a wheelchair or scooter. No matter what you may be going through, there are many different tools to help you live the best life possible despite any difficulties you may be having. Hopefully, you will have a good support system surrounding you that will encourage you, but if not, only you know what you are going through and only you can decide that you are not capable of what you were once capable of and need a little help. Don't let anyone take that decision away from you.
The best advice I can give is this....when you get to a point where you have been dealing with your health issues for a while and you see that it might be going in a direction where you will need assistive devices down the road start doing some research. The best time to research is before the need is urgent so that you can get a feel for everything that is available and you can make the best choices for you and your situation. Next, really think about what kind of life you have and what you want to accomplish down the road. I love to travel and we go on a cruise every year for our anniversary. Any tools I look into I want them to assist me to keep living the life I have, including traveling and photography. You'd be surprised to know that an inflexible wrist splint is the only thing I really need to help me hold my camera for long hours. Some devices are a little more costly and need to be weighed more thoughtfully so having the time to research will help keep you from making a costly mistake.
Life is to be lived, and you can make the choice to let your health stop you from living or you can fight back and use whatever tools you need to keep living. What will you choose?