While many seniors are able to receive care at home as a way to comfortably age in place, it doesn't mean that they are always able to get around their homes as easily as they want to. For many seniors, mobility issues are an unfortunate side effect of aging and one that can make daily life very difficult for many elderly adults. Mobility issues can also impact many senior's level of independence and make daily responsibilities very challenging.
Mobility issues can range from problems with walking, issues reaching for everyday items, or difficulty using the bathroom or challenges getting in and out of chairs. While these may seem like relatively small issues on their own, over time, they can drastically impact any senior's ability to live independently and can drastically inhibit their quality of life. Mobility issues that impact a person's steadiness while walking can also present a major safety issue and increase a senior's already high chances of falling in the home.
It is important that seniors have every resource possible to prevent falls as falls can lead to broken bones, hospitalization and serious pain and injury. Many seniors may have worsened mobility issues following their falls and need the assistance of a cane, walker or wheelchair. Some serious falls can even lead to death. Whether falls result in mobility issues or mobility issues result in falls, it is important to be aware of mobility issues in seniors and take the extra steps necessary to prevent these issues from impacting the senior's overall quality of life.
When to Contact a Doctor About Mobility Issues
Many senior mobility issues can be remedied with walking aides or by making small changes in the home to better accommodate the senior's needs. However, there are certain situations, where senior caregivers may need to call their doctor about mobility issues. The following signs and symptoms are indicators that a senior may be struggling with mobility and that they may need professional assistance. The following mobility issues may require that seniors get professional help from a medical professional:
- Noticeable issues with gait or balance. Seniors who walk with a limp, can barely walk on their own, veer to the side, get lightheaded while walking or have issues staying balanced while walking or standing, may need to visit a doctor. Balance issues are actually the number one reason adults make appointments to see the doctor. There may be a joint issue, a problem with vertigo or even an inner ear problem to blame. Seniors with these issues may also be suffering from nerve damage, muscle problems, brain conditions or they may be having a stroke.
- Seniors who fall or trip for no known reason over and over again. This could be more than just a mobility or balance issue, this may indicate a problem with eyesight, improper medication management, dementia or even Parkinson's disease and should be addressed by a professional.
- Complaints of being dizzy. Vertigo is a serious problem for seniors and constant complaints of feeling dizzy or lightheaded shouldn't be taken lightly. This can be from high blood pressure, heart disease, insomnia, chronic pain or diabetes. Seniors who are dizzy or lightheaded are much more likely to unexpectedly fall and hurt themselves, so this issue needs to be addressed immediately.
- An inability to walk or move on their own. When seniors all of a sudden can't or don't want to walk or move on their own, especially short distances that are normally quite manageable, it may be time that they see a medical professional. This is especially true if the caregiver is unable to help this senior move around safely. An inability or unwillingness to walk can be a number of issues ranging from depression to circulatory issues, an infection, early Alzheimer's, a mild-stroke, or taking medications that have sedatives in them.
Helping Seniors With Mobility Issues
The good news is that many seniors who struggle with mobility issues are often able to get the help that they need in order to regain enough mobility to stay active inside their own. Many doctors will prescribe therapies, treatments or medications in order to help the senior regain strength and range of motion. However, there are also other small things that caregivers can do inside the home to set their senior loved one up for success.
Walking aides such as canes, walkers or wheelchairs can sometimes make little tasks much more manageable. Keeping the home accessible for seniors can also help prevent their mobility issues from interfering with their everyday lives. Seniors should be stretching and exercising daily to increase range of motion and to make sure that their muscles are getting the exercise that they need to stay healthy. Well-exercised muscles are mobile muscles.
Seniors also always need to be wearing proper footwear, even when they are in the home. This not only helps prevent falls but it can make it much easier for seniors to get around on their own safely. This means comfortable, low-heeled shoes with wide, rubber soles and good arch support. Seniors should refrain from wearing clogs, sandals, high heels and slippers. Setting seniors up for success with changes such as this, instead of helping them too much, can help any older adult restore their mobility and stay more active and independent.
There are many physical considerations that need to be taken into account with seniors who have mobility issues. However, there are also mental and emotional considerations as well. Many seniors, particularly those who have fallen in the past, have mobility issues because they have a fear of falling. Senior caregivers should help address these fears in their senior patients or help them get the professional counseling they may need to overcome this fear. This is a very serious problem among many elderly individuals and is not something that should be overlooked.
Mobility issues are very serious for any senior adult, no matter what type of care they may be receiving. Taking extra steps to address and treat these issues can help any senior who may be struggling with mobility.