Is your senior loved one having trouble sitting down, standing up, or getting around day-to-day? For older adults, physical and lifestyle changes can lead to a loss of mobility over time, making it harder to walk, move about, and complete routine activities of daily living. Losing a little bit of mobility is quite common for seniors – but it can also be frustrating and scary, for older adults and for the family caregivers who support them.
Beyond changing their ability to move around the house and get out into their community, mobility changes can impact a senior’s quality of life in many different ways, leading to significant social, emotional, mental, and physical effects in time.
For seniors, losing some of their mobility can:
- Impact their ability to go out and get things done
- Affect their capacity to be social and connect with others
- Cause them to become more dependent on family
- Lead to isolation and seclusion, which can exacerbate depression, anxiety, other mental health conditions
- Contribute to physical changes and health problems, including incontinence and infections
What can family caregivers do to help their loved ones keep up their health, improve their quality of life, and maintain their independence in the face of major mobility changes? Here are five ways to help a senior loved one who is having trouble moving and getting around on their own:
1.) Know the Warning Signs to Look For
Whether out of embarrassment, denial, or a strong desire to protect their independence, your senior loved one may not be forthcoming about needing help – even if they’re experiencing pain or a lower quality of life due to mobility changes. As a family caregiver, it may fall to you to ask the right questions, look out for “yellow flags,” and reach out for help.
The Harvard Health Blog recommends taking your senior loved one to a doctor, who may be able to perform common mobility assessments, such as the “Get Up and Go” test, in a safe environment. At home, you may want to regularly ask questions to gauge your senior loved one’s comfort and ability level, and keep an eye out for changes or signs of trouble. As a family caregiver, observe your senior loved one, watching out for:
- Physical changes. Does your loved one seem to be in pain when sitting, standing, or moving? Are they walking differently, such as shuffling, or leaning on objects for support? Do they seem to be having difficulty with routine tasks?
- Mental changes. Does your senior loved one seem fearful about moving or having an accident? Do they seem angry, frustrated, or resentful when asked to move around? Are they avoiding questions about their ability to move and do things on their own?
- Lifestyle and living environment changes. Changes to your loved one’s lifestyle and home environment may be the result of mobility loss. Is your senior loved one avoiding going out? Do they seem to be putting off doing chores, exercising, taking care of their pet, or cooking? Has their home fallen into disrepair? Are they avoiding social calls or activities?
- Common causes of mobility loss. If your senior loved one is recovering from surgery or a slip and fall accident, managing a chronic physical condition (such as arthritis or diabetes), or has maintained a low physical activity level for some time, they may be at risk of experiencing more significant mobility loss. It may be helpful to be proactive and seek out help early on, if your loved one falls into one of these common categories.
2.) Reach Out to Your Loved One’s Healthcare Team
As a loving and supportive family caregiver, it’s important to know your limits – and remember that there are people out there who can help make things easier for your senior loved one, and for you. In particular, it may help to reach out to your loved one’s primary care physician, or a specialist in your area. Healthcare providers can help by:
- Evaluating your loved one, performing thorough inspections and tests in a safe environment
- Recommending effective courses of action, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, surgery, lifestyle changes, or a pain medication regimen, depending on your loved one’s needs
- Recommending the use of mobility aids, including a cane, walker, wheelchair, or transfer board
- Suggesting lifestyle changes and providing help managing other negative effects of mobility loss, such as social withdrawal, anxiety, or depression
3.) Make Changes to Their Home Environment
As an older adult starts to find it more difficult to move and perform everyday tasks on their own, they may start to find some elements of their living environment more challenging. As a family caregiver, one of the most effective ways to help your senior loved one adapt is to help them update and improve their home. Focus on making your loved one’s home as safe, accessible, and accommodating as possible by:
- Assisting with general cleaning and maintenance
- Removing clutter and helping get rid of potential hazards
- Rearranging furniture, making sure passageways are open and clear
- Relocating bedroom to first floor to avoid stairs
- Fastening down (or removing) rugs
- Improving the lighting around home
- Adding ramps at entrances or steps
- Adding grab bars and supports around the home
- Updating the bathroom with raised toilets, grab bars, non-slip mats, and other safety features
- Including banisters and rails on all steps and staircases
4.) Be Understanding and Empathetic
For many of us, getting around on our own is as natural as breathing. For your senior loved one, having trouble with the mobility they’ve always taken for granted can be stressful and emotionally taxing – not to mention physically exhausting and painful. Having to make this transition can be tough, and it’s natural for seniors to react to physical changes with some combination of anger, sadness, frustration, or fear. Some older adults may feel embarrassed to need help with routine mobility, while others may feel angry that they’re losing their independence, or fearful of having an accident.
As a family caregiver, it’s important to be there for your loved one, to provide the emotional support and stability they need in this difficult time. These changes can be daunting for family caregivers, just as they are for older adults. Still, it’s important to make yourself available, and be prepared to offer sympathy, support, and an open ear. As a family caregiver, you may be able to help by:
- Leading open discussions among family
- Helping your senior loved one connect with local support groups
- Listening to your loved one’s needs, and working to be receptive and accommodating
- Talking with healthcare providers to discuss strategies that may help your senior loved one, including talk therapy or counseling
- Having an open mind
- Being ready to reach out for help, when necessary
5.) Bring On an Extra Set of Hands
Having trouble with mobility can dramatically impact a senior’s ability to perform routine activities of daily living, or ADLs, including everything from getting up and moving around, to bathing properly, to taking care of their home. As a result, an older adult who is having trouble getting around on their own may need more day-to-day assistance, attention, and support than you can realistically provide as a family caregiver.
In situations like this, a senior companion can be a vital resource. An in-home care plan, led by an experienced senior companion, can help your senior get around more easily and empower them to live more independently – while also helping to manage many of the negative effects of mobility loss. A companion can be an aide to assist your senior loved one with getting around, as well as a supportive and accommodating friend, who can step in to enrich their life and offer support in many different ways. An experienced professional caregiver or companion can:
- Assist with ADLs, such as sitting, standing, lying down, or moving from room to room
- Help with everyday tasks such as bathing and personal grooming
- Provide transportation services for errands, doctor’s appointments, social gatherings, and more
- Offer medication and physical therapy reminders
- Provide social support by playing games, going on outings, watching movies, sharing meals, and so on
- Assist with laundry, meal prep, and basic housekeeping duties
Companions for Seniors Is Here to Help
If you have a loved one that you believe could benefit from the assistance or companionship of a professional caregiver, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the experts at Companions for Seniors to get the conversation started.
We’re locally owned in the Chicago area, with clients in the city and suburbs, and we’re here to answer any questions you may have about any aspect of caring for your aging loved one.
Our companions are trained, bonded, and insured, and can help you and your family shoulder some of the responsibility of caring for the senior in your life. We help provide older adults with a higher quality of life physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, while also offering respite and peace of mind for family caregivers who might need some support.
We offer personalized care plans for each of our clients, all available on a flexible schedule that works for you.
Have any questions? Want to get in touch? Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 866-910-9020, or fill out our contact form, available here.