Does the elderly loved one in your life need to exercise? Quite simply, it may be a case of do or die.
Research shows that regular exercise is beneficial even for the frail and very old. The National Institutes of Health says when older people are no longer able to do some everyday tasks on their own, the cause often stems from inactivity, not aging. And exercise can prevent or delay several diseases associated with aging.
Still, it may be hard -- or even impossible -- for an elderly person to exercise on his or her own. With the increasing popularity and availability of home-care agencies, some clients may wonder if it's acceptable to ask the home-health aide to help the elderly person exercise. "Not only is it OK, we strongly encourage it," says Renata Gelman, a registered nurse and clinical manager at not-for-profit Partners in Care (partnersincareny.org), an affiliate of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. "Exercise should be part of everyday routines for every elderly person." Gelman says it is standard throughout the industry for home-health aides to assist clients with exercise.
Gelman says her agency's exercise regimens are designed by a physician and a registered nurse, who instructs the home-health aide. Depending on the health and skill level of the senior, exercise can include strength, balance and flexibility training and physical activity such as walking. But even if the client is confined to a wheelchair, there are range-of-motion exercises that can be helpful, such as flexing and stretching the upper and lower extremities and rotating them at the rotation points. All the exercises are designed to increase flexibility and blood circulation and to strengthen the bones to prevent further osteoporosis and bone damage. And more than the body will benefit. "It gives them an overall feeling of general well-being," Gelman says.
Among the exercises Gelman has found beneficial for many seniors are wall push-ups and chair squats. For family caregivers who would like to add these and other exercises to their daily tasks, Gelman recommends visiting bit.ly/senior-exercises.
Whether the regimen is supervised by a home-health aide or family caregiver, it is vital to monitor the senior and avoid overdoing it, especially when beginning an exercise program. "No pain, no gain, does not apply to the elderly," Gelman says. "Go slowly and gently, but definitely with a lot of determination."