Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis, mobility, driving and transport

Whilst some people experienced no mobility problems or difficulty with driving or when using public transport, many others said that they had some degree of mobility problem (see also Osteoporosis and exercise and Pain and other physical problems).
 
Those more affected by osteoporosis had difficulties with walking even short distances. Cressida said that since she started on morphine patches she is able to walk a little bit but when she is shopping she cannot carry anything, so she has used an electric buggy for several years now. Similarly, David walks a little bit but just inside the house and whenever he goes out he uses his wheelchair.
Mobility aids such as wheelchairs or buggies had enabled several of the people we talked to be more independent. People who had used them said that they were useful when going shopping, sightseeing, visiting friends or going to concerts. For a few people, like Joan, it enabled them to be outdoors rather than staying at home all the time. But using a wheelchair made Pat feel ‘awful’ because people tended to ignore her and treated as though she was disabled mentally. Dennis thought that people were insensitive to those in wheelchairs because in his experience rather than talking to him, people often directed questions to the person pushing the wheelchair.
Fear of falling had made several people much more wary of going out in bad weather conditions that may exacerbate the possibility of having a fracture and therefore putting at risk their mobility and independence. Some people said that they made sure they walked on level surfaces and avoided slippery ones. Others were more aware of road obstacles, wore sensible footwear and used a walking stick when outdoors.
Public transport
Some people managed to use public transport. Sydney went twice a week by bus to the city centre to shop for groceries. His main concern was to avoid big crowds because he felt unsafe, so he goes early on a Saturday morning and during weekdays he avoids the rush hour. Others pointed out that their restricted mobility, inability to stand up for long periods or back pain was exacerbated when using public transport. Emma didn’t use trains because she needed help to climb up and down the trains and also assistance when going up and down the stairs at the station. However, Victoria Iris regularly travels on long train journeys but she books in advance and only travels first class because the seats are more comfortable. Several people, like Sarah, found the seats in trains and buses uncomfortable and painful to her back. A few people said it was also a problem when seats weren’t available or offered to them and they had to stand for the journey. Another physical problem that may affect using public transport is the inability to carry weight. (see also Pain and other physical problems in osteoporosis). Susannah gets help with carrying her luggage on and off the train.
Another mobility problem that prevented several people from using public transport was difficulty with climbing stairs. Several people said that they no longer felt confident to go up and down the stairs in public places, such as railway or metro stations, without assistance. When visiting her family, Sarah’s grandchildren always take her back to the metro station and help her to climb down the stairs. Emma no longer uses the train to go to work and Betty had to change hospitals because her mobility has deteriorated to such an extent that it is not longer feasible for her to travel by public transport.
People had dealt with their transport difficulties in several ways including relying on family and friends for lifts, using taxis or deciding to drive everywhere instead of taking public transport.
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Some people had used air travel and those who required assistance said that they received preferential treatment, such as airline staff providing wheelchairs to help transport them around the airport. But the carrying of suitcases from their home to the airport is one problem that has put several people off travelling by plane (see also Osteoporosis, social life, leisure and holidays).
Driving
The people we talked to had different attitudes towards driving a car. In general, the newly diagnosed and people less affected by osteoporosis said that they preferred to walk rather than drive. Walking had become part of their exercise routine and they only used their car for long journeys or for shopping. For other people however, driving a car was a vital necessity and gave them independence, because their limited mobility would make using public transport impossible. Emma can no longer go to work by train and uses the car instead.
People valued the independence that driving a car gave them, and said that it was cheaper than using a taxi and more practical than relying on hospital transport to attend hospital appointments.
Several people said that they do less driving than before because it can get uncomfortable or painful to be in one position for a long time. Joan continues to drive to Switzerland but now she tends to stop every couple of hours or so.
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A few people changed their cars for one with automatic transmission, power steering and more comfortable seats which made driving much easier. Joan felt safer and more confident when driving a car than when walking. Robert’s new car with purpose built seats meant he could now drive for 2-3 hours in comfort. A few people stressed the difficulty of getting in and out of cars. Ann finds that going into a bigger car is easier than getting into a small one because she doesn’t have to bend. After climbing in to the back of a two door car, Betty hurt her back so much that afterwards she spent the following week at home in pain.
People living in large cities said that they enjoyed subsidised transport schemes provided for elderly and disabled people. Christine was able to continue working thanks to a local government’s scheme called “Journey to Work,” which enabled her to go to work by taxi at a reduced price. Betty used the “Dial a Ride” scheme for her hospital appointments, when going shopping or to the theatre but she needed to book it a week in advance.
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Last reviewed July 2013

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