I have an elderly parent turning 86 this year. She’s still in her own home with the help of a family member who assists with grocery shopping, bill paying, doctor’s appointments and a medication regimen.
After a couple of recent emergency room visits because of extreme dizziness, sudden bouts of disorientation and a rise in blood pressure, the doctor recommended the intervention of a social worker, weekly visits by a physical therapist, and a registered nurse who would check vitals.
At the same doctor’s appointment, it was also discovered that a severe urinary tract infection might have been the culprit responsible for the sudden dementia-like symptoms. After long-term antibiotic treatment for that condition, at-home appointments with a physical therapist who worked on exercises to increase strength and balance, and discussions with the RN and social worker to install bathroom grab bars and purchase a medical alert system, things improved slightly.
Problem is, my mother is having resistance issues with just about all of it. Not an uncommon reaction for an elderly person who is faced with the harsh reality they are no longer young, losing mobility, control, and independence.
The very things that have helped her condition improve, are the very things she denounces with comments after the last physical therapy appointment, such as, “I’m not going to feel 50 again no matter how much I exercise.” The family member who is assisting with all this pointed out that her balance seems to have improved a bit and her back and shoulders don’t seem to be hurting as much, but to no avail.
Caregivers or family members can point out a few additional, concrete reasons for convincing their senior that even a mild exercise program CAN and WILL help them in their everyday life.
Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicates, "About 28% to 34% of adults aged 65-74 and 35% to 44% of adults ages 75 or older are inactive, meaning they engage in no leisure-time physical activity."
Benefits of Exercise for the Elderly
Better quality of sleep. Those who perform regular exercise sleep more easily and deeply, poor sleep patterns, being a common complaint from most elderly people.
Greater social interaction. Joining a fitness class at a senior center is a great way of meeting new people. A 10-minute walk with a friend helps with stress and boredom.
Release of natural endorphins. Exercise helps release endorphins which make people feel more contented and happier.
Prevention of Alzheimer disease and dementia. Exercise improves brain functionality and helps combat diseases. It also assists with fighting forms of depression.
Weight loss. Regular activity for the elderly helps reduce excess weight, especially if done in conjunction with a healthy diet. Lack of exercise being a frequent contributor to high blood pressure and heart disease.
Assists joints. Building the muscles around certain joints is an important senior exercise. For example, building the muscles around the knee through leg extensions helps prevent joints being worn out, helps with walking, strength, and can help prevent falls.
Immunity to viruses and infections. The body is better equipped to fight off sickness so recovery time is reduced. Urinary tract infections being a common condition in the elderly that can cause confusion and disorientation.
The CDC Report also stated that "Only 13% of individuals between ages 65 and 74 reported engaging in physical activity for 20 minutes, 3 or more days per week, and only 6 percent of those 75 and older reported such exercise."
If we can convince our seniors that exercising regularly, either with in-home visits from a physical therapist, on their own, or as part of a regular program in an assisted living environment, may not make them feel 50 again, but will help with activities of daily life, we’ve won the battle.<a href="http://www.tlchomehospice.com">Thousand Oak Hospice</a>