Last week, my co-worker told me that she had one of the greatest compliments from a senior. The compliment was, “Thank you for the exercises; I can finally hold my pencil and write again!” We were both touched by this. I told her we could strategize some useful tips on meeting seniors where they are in their physical journey, to make the greatest impact. This blog focuses on looking for the greatest physical need, addressing it on a level that works for the seniors in your lives, and how to encourage activity.
Home health companies utilize occupational therapists (OT’s) and physical therapists (PT’s) to assist at-home patients in their surroundings. As seniors face physical decline, the home environment plays an important role in quality of life. We acclimate to our surroundings. You may see furniture become leaning posts, interesting locations of things they need to use routinely and general unsafe practices which are just fall opportunities waiting to happen. A short visit to your loved-one’s home can be very telling as to what may or may not be bothering them routinely even if they say how great they are doing over the phone. Even from afar, family can call a home health company for an assessment and they will work with the primary care to assist in the home. It’s worth noting that a primary care physician usually has a very limited view as to what the home life is like or daily struggles; we are prideful beings and do not like to alert others to our needs.
As stated above, we have some remarkable feedback on our exercises with residents. Due to the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, we have changed some of our normal exercise classes to very small spaced groups and are able to encourage seniors to take part outside their doors. More people are participating so they can do something different. We have been working on small motor exercises, even hand and arm stretches and seeing a huge impact on the seniors that normally do not participate. Hands are so important for the basic necessities in life; from eating and getting dressed to paying bills and using a phone. One can observe the biggest struggles in daily routines to find some basic exercises that can help with those activities. They can start slow and work up gradually but there almost always exercises that can fit any fitness level, even in inactive seniors. To hear someone can hold a pencil and write or hold a fork again is amazing! Just making the daily routine a touch easier can bring much needed comfort for both the senior and the family.
Meeting the senior in their journey may take patience, a second set of eyes, and getting creative with exercises. The old adage, “if you don’t use it, you lose it” is so true… getting strength back after losing it is an uphill struggle. This struggle can be emotional too because, at some point, our loved-one’s need to come to grips with their declining strength and be in a place to accept some help. This is a process, so in the meantime know that we are all aging and trying to do our best to refrain from burdening someone else. Mom and dad are no different. Maybe the answer is a new exercise every week, chair exercises, a TV program, or even an agency. Any movement forward is progress and worth the effort. Please feel free to call Heatherwood with questions or ideas at 208-345-2150.