If it were up to Leslie’s 85-year-old dad, he would be happy to sit at the computer and play games or watch TV most days.
She saw that first-hand after her dad took a tumble last spring and broke a bone in his hip. The spill sent him first to the hospital and then to a rehabilitation center before he could go back to his summer home in Florida, with a care plan to continue his exercises.
“The problem is, he didn’t do them,” says Tennyson. So, she hired a physical therapist to come to his home twice a week to work on exercises to keep him active. “It was helpful,’’ said Tennyson, who is now using this experience to guide her in selecting future , where her dad lives the rest of year.
“Once he got the push, he could drive himself to the grocery store and get back to cooking -- a hobby he enjoys,” she said. “He needed some motivation.”
Staying Sedentary is Unhealthy
Staying active is key to maintaining physical, emotional, and psychological health. While older adults may worry that becoming more active could result in injury, the National Institute of Health (NIH) says staying sedentary is what is harmful.
“Studies show that ‘taking it easy is risky,’’ the NIH says. “For the most part, when older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it doesn’t happen just because they’ve aged. It’s usually because they have lived a sedentary lifestyle.”
According to a , inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who are active. Moreover, a lack of physical movement can lead to a higher number of visits to the doctor, hospitalizations, and added use of medications for a variety of illnesses.
Leslie said her dad’s surgery and subsequent therapy was the “wake up call I needed” to start looking for . The experience helped her recognize that a home health care provider will motivate her dad to continue an active lifestyle as well as incorporate his hobbies.
The benefits of physical activity, according to that U.S. Surgeon General report, are numerous. Physical activity has been shown to:
- Maintain the ability to live independently while reducing the risk of falling
- Lower the risk of dying from coronary heart disease and of developing high blood pressure, colon cancer, and
- Improve stamina and muscle strength in people with chronic, disabling conditions
- Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, while fostering well-being
- Maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints, and controls joint swelling and pain linked to arthritis
Moreover, if that isn’t enough, consider the benefits of maintaining social activities. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) points to research and studies that show aging adults who continue hobbies and social interactions are:
- Less likely to develop certain diseases and may be at a lower risk for developing health problems, including
- More likely to live longer
- Happier and less depressed
- Better prepared to cope with loss
Professional Caregiver Improves Senior’s Health and Outlook
Like many family caregivers who struggle with bouts of caregiver guilt, Leslie is aware that she likely doesn’t push her dad enough or recognize how to get him to pursue his hobbies. However, it is now at the top of her list of questions to ask a because she saw first-hand how her dad's health and his outlook improved.
She said she wants to hear a potential provider ask her dad what his hobbies are, what he enjoys doing around the house, and she will then ask for a care plan to continue those activities.
Leslie is looking for professionals to empower her dad, not enable him.
“I want him to be as independent as possible," says Leslie. “I don’t want him to give up physically or emotionally. The home health care company that appeals to me will not just do the function of following the care plan, but will produce a positive attitude and atmosphere.”
How to Stay Active
There are four areas to concentrate on for your parent to remain or to become active. You can help Mom or Dad work on these a little each day. None of the exercises below require a gym membership, and many activities can be done at home with the help of a . Remember to have your parent talk with a doctor before beginning any exercise program.
Endurance exercises get the heart pumping and increase breathing. Focusing on endurance helps with everyday activities like walking up stairs and shopping. Encourage your parent to:
- Rake leaves or sweep the floor
- Take a brisk walk or bike ride
Muscle conditioning exercises help your parent build strength and can help him or her with activities like keeping up with grandchildren and carrying groceries. Encourage your parent to:
- Grab a tennis ball and grip and release for several times in each hand.
- Use a can of vegetables as a small weight and lift, do arm curls and push it toward the ceiling.
- Stand behind a chair, with his or her hands on the back for balance and come up on the toes and come back down, then repeat several times.
Falling is a significant concern among aging adults, and for a good reason, one in four Americans, aged 65-plus falls each year. Focusing on balance exercises can help your parent become more stable and reduce falls. Encourage your parent to:
- Stand behind a chair and using it for stability, raise a leg and hold it up for a few seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
- Walk heel-to-toe in a straight line across the room.
- Check out a YouTube video on fundamental Tai Chi and follow along with the exercises.
Flexibility exercises are stretches that will help your parent remain limber. Staying agile will help your parent get dressed, put on shoes, and take down or put away items on shelves. Encourage your loved one to:
- Sit on a bench or the floor and extend one leg and bend their upper body slowly forward toward the leg. Switch sides and repeat.
- Throw a towel over the left shoulder, holding with the left hand and grabbing the towel’s other end with the right (behind the back). Use the left hand to pull the right hand up toward the spine. The right arm should be relaxed as the towel is pulled with the left. Pull only to the point of resistance and hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Starting slowly and with small steps towards being physically active is always better than doing nothing.
You or your professional caregiver can also help Mom or Dad map their progress by keeping a daily log. The National Institute of Health’s Go4life has a downloadable one here.
For more information on and how a professional caregiver can keep your parent active, contact us by filling out the form below.
- National Institute on Aging: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/participating-activities-you-enjoy
- National Institute of Health: https://go4life.nia.nih.gov/tip-sheets/real-life-benefits-exercise-and-physical-activity
- National Institute of Health: https://go4life.nia.nih.gov/sites/default/files/RealLifeBenefitsOfExerciseAndPhysicalActivity.pdf
- NIH: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/cognitive-health-and-older-adults
About Visiting Angels Newton/Canton:
Visiting Angels Newton/Canton MA is an award-winning local home care agency providing high caliber in-home care services to the elderly and people with disabilities. Countless families have benefited from our Alzheimer's care, dementia care, companion care, senior care, respite support, transitional aid, and elder home care services in Needham, Dedham, Brookline, Watertown, Canton, Stoughton, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Chestnut Hill, Roslindale, Westwood, Norwood and nearby towns . While non-medical in nature, the care provided by Visiting Angels Newton/Canton can make a significant impact on your loved one's happiness and quality of life. Call us at 617-795-2727 for information or fill out the form below!