Exercise: They’ve Got To Move It, Move It!
The National Institute of Health says, “Like most people, you’ve probably heard that physical activity and exercise are good for you. In fact, being physically active on a regular basis is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Studies have shown that exercise provides many health benefits and that older adults can gain a lot by staying physically active. Even moderate exercise and physical activity can improve the health of people who are frail or who have diseases that accompany aging.”
My mom and dad, now 91 and 93 (in two weeks), were 85 and 84 respectively when we moved in together for the great caregiving experience. My mom spent every day sitting before a gas fireplace in their old house, swathed in blankets with her face turned to the fire. The skin on her face had dried so much, it was like leather. It peeled off as we began caring for her. Due to poor circulation and not moving she was always cold. She only moved from her bed to the chair with help and her walker, stopping at the bathroom on the way. My dad was still active.
Our first year together, my mom had a significant TIA (transient ischemic attack). We were in another state to attend a family funeral. The next morning, I heard pounding on my hotel room door. Across the hall, in my parents room, my dad was helping Mom dress. She asked him who he was. Alarmed that she didn’t know the man trying to fasten her bra, he came to get me. As soon as I saw her I realized she was having some sort of neurological event. Her speech was slurred. Her movements sluggish. She was disoriented and inappropriate. I called the front desk and asked for emergency services
In the ER tests showed a TIA, no signs of a full-blown stroke yet, but they told us to stay in town another night before driving home. By the next day she had recovered but was weaker than she had been. We followed up with her doctor. He prescribed physical therapy to help her regain strength. (FYI, to have Medicare pay for therapy you must have a qualifying event, e.g. a stroke, hospital stay, fall or in my mom’s case a TIA. )
Physical therapy turned out to be the best thing ever for her. The local therapist is a great guy, a small town guy, who gets to know his patients and really cares about them. He follows their recovery. Mom began working on balance, strength and endurance. About the same time we hired a caregiver to help part-time. She (the caregiver) took Mom to her therapy visits. After the Medicare allowed (covered) visits finished (they limit the number of visits after a “qualifying event”) the therapist told us Mom could come, use the equipment, and follow her exercise routine. He would not be directly supervising her, though I noticed he did keep an eye on her activities. Mom’s caregiver took her faithfully, twice a week for several months. The improvement in her mobility, flexibility and endurance was amazing. She hadn’t been that strong in years. Eventually the therapist’s insurance refused to allow patients finished with paid visits, access to the equipment. It was a shame. I believe that time exercising probably extended her life by years. It certainly improved her quality of life.
The moral, keep your elders moving. Walking, swimming (easy on arthritic joints) or whatever form of exercise they can do and enjoy will help them stay healthier and make your job easier.
The full article from the NIH is here: https://nihseniorhealth.gov/exerciseforolderadults/healthbenefits/01.html
A special thanks to Robert, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mountain-Physical-Therapy-Sports-Rehab/147867918591271
I am totally in awe of these people. I want to be these people when I grow up! I have to admit, except for swimming, I struggle with being active myself.