This article is not meant to be an in-depth handbook for treating immobility, but rather a starting point for considering the circumstances of your clients, and finding new ways to encourage them to be active.
As a home care provider, you don’t need to be told how important it is for your clients’ health that they be active. If you happen to be unfamiliar with the benefits, you can find a slew of helpful stats and information with a simple Google search. But even after you understand the benefits, your clients may not cooperate and will insist on spending the day sitting or lying down.
Though you should respect your clients’ wishes, it’s also important to provide them with the care they need. Encouraging activity starts with understanding why your clients’ don’t want to be active. While there are many reasons your clients may not want to be active, a few of the more likely reasons might be:
While your non-medical caregivers are limited on what they can do to address each of these, they can make a lot of progress in encouraging your clients to be active, and improve their health. Each of these reasons takes a different approach, and you’ll want to consider the cases of your clients individually. But here are a few tips in handling the above listed causes of inactivity.
Note: Your non-medical caregivers should never encourage those they care for to adjust or eliminate prescribed medications. This applies to all medications, including anti-depressants.
Despite its commonality, depression is widely misunderstood. While treating depression should be left to trained medical professionals, being active goes a long way in lessening depressive symptoms and reducing the client’s dependency on medication. The difficulty is that depressed seniors often feel it’s futile to put forth effort, and are therefore less likely to cooperate when encouraged to do something for their own good.
That said, you don’t always need to announce when you’re going to do an activity and why it should be done. One thing many who suffer with depression need is a listening ear. Encourage conversation, and while the client is talking, simply help them stand and begin walking out the door with them. Even though the actual activity is the same, taking a stroll while having a good conversation sounds less like a chore than walking around the block to improve blood flow.
There are many types of pain your clients will face as they age, each with their own list of causes. One of the more common is arthritis, and its treatment includes stretching and exercise. But even when your clients know the importance of exercise in managing symptoms, it doesn’t make it easy to push through the pain. Train your caregivers to be encouraging, and to do the exercises along with those they care for. That way they don’t feel like they’re doing the exercises on their own. Keep up conversation through the process, and remain positive.
It’s important to note that, when exercise is part of a treatment plan, your caregivers need to be careful not to allow the client to skip it. Your caregivers may feel guilty for forcing the client to do something that seems to cause them pain, but if prescribed by a doctor, these exercises are exactly what they need in order to feel better.
Healing after an injury can be a difficult process for seniors. For this reason, many seniors become cautious after sustaining an injury, sometimes to the point of inactivity. The fear of additional injury becomes a barrier, and the less active they become, the weaker their muscles and greater their chance for serious injury in the future.
If you have a client suffering from fear of injury, try doing activities in familiar places. Instead of going outdoors or walking up and down stairs, stay in the home and keep it simple to start. Practice standing up and sitting down, try standing at a counter and folding towels together, or walk from room to room. When they feel more confident, link arms and walk outside with them, staying by their side and offering encouragement along the way.
Many disabilities legitimately limit activity. Instead of worrying about what they can’t do, help your clients focus on what they can do. If they’re confined to sitting, there are lots of activities you can do using only your hands. You could toss a ball back and forth, crochet or even learn the alphabet in sign language. While they may not be able to do everything, they can usually still do something. And that’s what matters.
While your non-medical caregivers may not be able to provide medical assistance to those they care for, by helping them stay active and providing great care in the ways they can, they can still make a big impact on the overall wellness and quality of life of your clients.