Exercise is planned and repeated physical activity. It’s used to condition any part of the body. It improves health, maintains fitness and promotes good health and physical wellbeing. It can also be useful in preventing or treating a variety of diseases.
Sedentary Lifestyle and Lack of Exercise
A sedentary lifestyle——a.k.a. the couch disease——is a big factor in the onset of chronic degenerative diseases and though people of all age groups can become couch potatoes, the elderly are easy prey for this condition. Numerous studies have shown a calculated risk for cardiovascular disease due to inactivity. The benefits of exercising regularly are countless, but unfortunately, our elder population fails to enjoy their lives due to poor health and lack of energy.
Immune System Suffers from Lack of Exercise
It’s a proven fact that with age, there is a decrease in the immune system. The health of a parent or elderly loved one may often take a back seat to our own desire to remain fit. The risk of developing chronic disease and increased mortality rates increase with age and body functions are slowing down due to the loss of organ reserve. Exercising regularly can boost your immune system and help fight off any form of illness.
Why is Exercise Important to the Elderly?
Exercise significant reduces the physical signs of again, but is important for other benefits as well.
Exercise is great for reducing stress and improving the emotional well being of the elderly.
Because exercise can be considered a social activity, seeing old friends and making new acquaintances can give this population a great emotional boost, thus aiding the release of stress and depression.
By exercising regularly, our loved ones body functions improve, reducing the risk of diabetes and other diseases.
Regular exercise during late adulthood, has shown to have profound effects on the body. The National Institutes of Health has claimed exercising on a regular basis greatly decreases the risk of suffering the disabilities resulting from chronic illnesses.
Exercise improves mobility, endurance and flexibility as well as balance, which in the long run helps reduce the frequency of falling and lessening the symptoms of arthritis.
Exercising can provide our seniors with longer lasting and more refreshing sleep which in turn improves their overall health. It also helps them fall asleep faster.
Types of Exercises That Best Suit Seniors
There are four main types of exercise, according to the National Institute on Aging:
Strengthening Exercise is necessary for muscle strengthening and helps reduce muscle loss.
Endurance Exercise helps maintain joint function. Included in this group are swimming and walking which help improve heart health as well.
Balance Exercise helps with the normally occurring of loss of balance, so practicing them can help reduce the frequency of falls.
Stretching Exercise is necessary to keep the lumbar region healthy and flexible…and easy stretches feel good.
Tips To Get the Elderly Moving
Most commercials for exercise programs or machines caution you to “Consult your doctor before taking on any new exercise routine.” This warning is especially important when it comes to seniors. Get their physical examination done and let the doctor know you’d like your loved one to get permission from him/her in this regard. Regularly practice only the exercises the doctor has approved. Because exercise has a lot to do with ensuring a senior’s good health, use the following tips to get them to work out regularly.
Start slowly. Trying out long edurance or heavy exercises as they begin is not a good idea. It’s always advisable to build up gradually.
Set short-term goals. This is one of the best strategies to keep your loved one motivated. By setting these goals, seniors are motivated to continue their exercise. Make sure you do not include weight loss in these short-term goals. More important goals could be stress reduction, and energy and mood improvement.
Take special notice of their symptoms. In many cases, the body may not be able to cope with certain types of exercise. Shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, pain and cold sweats may make it necessary to stop the exercise at once and consult a doctor.
Rest During Exercise
It’s always important to rest between workouts, and especially so with seniors. The body needs time to rest and heal itself. Without proper rest, you risk causing injuries. Don’t push too hard…remember…take it slow.
A good, general exercise routine can be achieved in as little as thirty minutes a day. If that’s too hard for your loved one, start with even less time and build up a little each day. Daily exercise can help prolong life and improve and improve your loved one’s quality of life.
With advancing age, our parents—or loved one—may be reluctant to shower or bathe. Though disease and illness are often to blame, there are many other reasons we may never understand.
Unfolding the Mystery Behind the “Bathing Battle”
Here’s a list of some reasons the elderly may have for not bathing:
They may experience pain while standing, bending or sitting.
They may have a fear of water and/or its sound—this is especially true for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
They may fear falling on hard bathroom due to poor balance.
If the water temperature is too warm or cool, they may hesitate because of a fear of discomfort.
Both standing for a shower or getting in and out of a bathtub can be very difficult for the elderly and they may be fearful of it.
The simple task of bathing or showering can be an exhausting task for the elderly.
Solve the “Bathing Battle” with these tips
Bathing regularly and maintaining personal hygiene is key to staying healthy and refreshed. Not showering or bathing for several days can lead to infections, which become increasingly difficult to treat in the elderly. Understanding the problem and helping our loved one bathe should be the goal.
Tips to Help Get Your Loved One to Bathe or Shower
Try talking about it
Communication is key to understanding the actual reasons behind not bathing. You need to determine if it’s a function of fear, pain, discomfort or simple forgetfulness. In many cases, it may just be they simply don’t want to.
Ask their healthcare provider
When a conversation doesn’t help, contacting a healthcare provider may help you determine the actual reason someone refuses to bathe. He/she can help you understand the ins and outs of their medical condition and may provide you with alternatives to bathing…such as a sponge bath.
Set reminders for the patient
If dementia is the reason for not bathing, you can prepare notes to post around the house. Stick them on bathroom doors or walls to remind them to shower or bathe.
Ask family and friends to help
If your loved one continues to enjoy the company of family and friends, try getting them involved too. For example—if your parent is in no mood to shower or bathe, have a friend call inviting them to go out. Your parent may be so excited about spending time out of the house, they may just want to quickly shower or bathe to get ready to leave for a day out.
Purchase shower equipment
Bathing or showering can become an exhausting experience for the elderly and getting in and out of the bathtub can be difficult. To make it a comfortable and enjoyable experience, consider purchasing a shower chair or bath lift chair. Having a grab bar installed can instill a sense of security. And, of course, a rubber mat helps prevent accidental falls in the bathroom.
Be patient and go slow
Most people don’t like being rushed, and as people age, they are more likely to want to do everything at their own pace. So, be advised—go slow and allow them to do things in their own time.
If your loved one is reluctant to bathe, no kind of reasoning with him/her will work, so we need to get creative and come up with ways to encourage them to bathe. It doesn’t help at all to push them because they might become rebellious and refuse to listen to you at all.
Some More Tips & Tools for Getting Your Loved One to Bathe
Give them choices
Rather than instructions, begin a conversation by asking whether they’d like to bathe or shower? Try giving them the option of bathing right away or after having their breakfast or watching their favorite TV program.
Study their reaction
When you take your loved one to the bathroom, fill the tub with 2-3 inches of water—or turn on the shower—and wait for their reaction. If they become agitated, drop the idea of bathing them that day. If, however, they seem comfortable, fill in more water after they’ve gotten in.
A soothing distraction
Patients suffering from Alzheimer’s can find bathing threatening. Sometimes, planning a distraction ahead of time—something as simple as soothing music—can calm them down.
Respect their privacy
While helping our loved ones bathe, respect their privacy and keep them covered with a towel or robe. Be flexible and understanding. If a parent wants to get into the tub with their clothes on, let them. The goal is to get them involved in the experience. When they’re engaged, they will enjoy bath time.
Refusal to bathe is just one concern facing family caregivers, but we need to understand that as they age, it is harder and harder to satisfy our loved ones. Therefore, to get the job done, we need to stay patient and go slow. Remember, communication is key to determining the exact reason for the refusal to shower or bathe. Getting to the root of the problem will lead us to the steps we need to take to make bath time comfortable and even enjoyable for them.
All things considered, aging is a natural process that affects our daily living and self-care. We recognize that with old age, many problems and disease condition set in, making it difficult for loved ones to carry out their basic activities of daily living, also referred to as ADL.
Some of ADL that become challenging with aging and illness are:
Moving in and out of bed or chair
Maintaining a safe environment
Instrumental Activities of Daily Living
Health experts have categorized another group called IADL—these complex activities require some expertise and decision-making skills:
Using public transportation
Handling medical emergencies
Taking and preparing medications
Knowing When We Need Help
Regrettably, as our loved ones are affected by various illnesses, they often find it difficult to carry out their daily routine tasks.
Seeking some form of help from family caregivers or a professional in-home service, can provide much needed relief and support. Let your loved ones manage their lives as long as they can.
The idea is for your loved one to live an active, productive, healthy lifestyle as long as possible. There are tools and exercises to maintain and increase their independence and support both ADL and IADL:
Ergonomic equipment and devices
In occupational therapy, our loved ones learn to exercise on a regular basis in order to maintain their functional independence. This refers to one’s capacity and capability to carry out their daily activities with minimum help from caregivers. Furthermore, the lifelong benefits of exercise, strength training and balance exercises on a regular basis can ensure our loved ones enjoy lifelong benefits, and continue to independently handle their daily activities with ease.
4 Basic Necessities
Our loved ones should develop the habit of exercising regularly and continue with the practice. As well as helping them carry out their ADL, it will enable them to stay active. Exercise and occupational therapy are more of a necessity if our loved ones are frail. OT can significantly reduce their dependence on help from others.
Prospective memory is a form of memory that involved remembering to perform a planned action or recall a planned intention at a future point in time and successfully carry our these instrumental activities. I’ve found, in my practice, that brain games significantly improve prospective memory and IADL.
Some Brain Games to Try
Memory Card Games
In general, the more enjoyable the activity, the easier it will be to get your loved one to try it. Sensorial stimulation can increase their ability to remain mentally independent. Each activity should be tailored to their abilities and interests. Keep their hands exercised, strong and limber. It will make it easier for them to do so many of the activities listed above.
Equipment and Devices
Canes and Walkers
Raised Toilet Seats
Special Eating Utensils
Ergonomic Writing Pens
In conclusion, figuring out your loved ones difficulties before there is a problem can make independence a lot easier for them and for their loved ones.
Practice ambulation. Use a cane of walker to maintain their balance when needed.
Install grab bars throughout the house—in hallways, the kitchen and bath for stability.
Purchase special eating utensils for proper control
For loved ones with arthritis, there’s a special pen that will ease difficulty writing.
Purchase a magnifying glass to help them see more clearly.