Getting old and mobility problems
While we are getting old usually mobility problems appear in our life. We are talking about performance deficits assessed using an objective mobility test or perceived difficulties in mobility, and it is a fact that those problems increase with advancing age and are often the first signs of further functional decline.
Suddenly, we realize that activities that barely require conscious thought now aren’t that easy. Walking around home, go upstairs, getting in and out of a chair or taken a shower/bath started to need more attention because mobility limitations hinder the ability to manage tasks of daily life and may lead to the need for help and an increased risk for disability.
Muscle weakness, joint problems, pain, disease, and neurological (brain and nervous system) difficulties-common conditions in older people-can all contribute to mobility problems. Sometimes several mild problems occur at one time and combine to seriously affect mobility. And things can get worst, because loss of mobility has profound social, psychological, and physical consequences. We become unable to get out then we can’t go out alone and become dependent on other people to get you places. So we start to expend almost all our time at home, feel a recluse there and in high risk of getting depressed.
With the increase of mobility problems, immobilization is a fact and use to come together with incontinence, because you can’t get to the bathroom, you can develop urinary infections, skin infections. The list goes on.
In addition, obviously getting old isn’t the only factor that can cause loss of mobility. There are other common factors that lead to mobility problems, such as low physical activity, obesity, impaired strength and balance, and chronic diseases such as diabetes and arthritis.
How we can help the aged
The first we can do is prevention. This prevention is important in four ways:
- Keep them physically active trying to find the exercises or activities that better fit in our case and environment. There are many different types of physical activity programs, ranging from simple home exercise programs to intensive highly supervised hospital or center-based programs. With increased strength of their muscles, flexibility improvement and higher balance, an older person is better able to maneuver and avoid a potential fall.
- Correct potential hazards at home. Those hazards can be different depending on the environment where we live, some examples are loose carpets, unsafe stairs, unnecessary steps, glass furniture,… In future posts we will go trough more preventive measures that we can apply at home, but the main idea is remove obstacles and make things easy.
- Interact with the elder. Talk about the changes and don’t try to help “too much” or they can feel uncomfortable because their lost of independence.
- Finally, it’s important to check regularly vision and hearing. Seeing poorly or not hearing well can be a cause of mobility problems and can lead to falls.
Some mobility aids
In addition to the prevention, there are a lot of mobility tools and measures that can help.
- Use proper footwear
- Walking aids such as canes and walkers
- Add lights at the top and bottom of stairs
- Add “grab bars” near the toilet and bath tub, and no slip decals or a rubber mat in the tub or shower
- Use nightlights in bedrooms, halls and bathrooms
- Put hand rails on both sides of any steps or stairs
Those are a few examples of tools that can aid to ease mobility problems. We already know that every person and every house are a totally different case and the measures and aids can vary significantly. The best thing we can do when a mobility problem appears in our family is start talking with a doctor or nurse.