It’s inevitable. Most of us will experience a loss of muscle strength as we get older. Maybe it’s an illness or a fall. Maybe it’s lack of activity that begins a slow, sometimes imperceptible decline.
But what happens when you know you won’t get better? That no matter what, no matter how much you work at it this is probably as good as it will ever get. And guess what “good” pretty much sucks.
Getting older and weaker is no joke. And no fun. My great-grandmother used to say “It’s heck to get old.” That doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Have you experienced this yourself? Maybe it’s your loved one and daily living is becoming harder. The simple things we take for granted like getting out of bed or getting dressed become impossible without help.
How can you keep from getting worse? At least maintain what little independence you still have for as long as possible. How can you do this when you are already at a severe disadvantage?
Even if you can’t stand up or walk I’ll show you 7 simple exercises for seniors straight from a physical therapist on how to maintain strength even when getting better just isn’t going to happen.
They won’t get you running. Nothing will stop aging completely, but you can delay it for as long as possible.
What qualifications do I have? Actually none. Officially anyway.
I am the sole caretaker for my grandmother. My husband and kids live here too. They are my best helpers and cheerleaders. My husband works long hours. I delegate many household chores to my kids. However, the majority of the caregiver duties fall on me.
My grandmother had a fall recently. Up until then she was getting around with a walker. It was slow, but she was independent. Even though she was sore from the fall, nothing was really wrong with her. Since the fall everything she did alone before came to a screeching halt.
She can’t get out of bed alone. In fact, she can hardly get to a sitting position without help. She stands up, barely. Often her legs buckle and two steps take a huge effort. I transport her around the house in a wheelchair.
She can’t use the bathroom alone. Can’t wipe herself. Sometimes it takes multiple tries to get her off the toilet, even with assistance. From bed to the toilet and back to the chair takes upwards of twenty minutes. That’s just for pee visits.
This is with wearing nightgowns. Let’s not even discuss pants. No really. Shut up. She likes telling people I won’t let her wear pants. Sigh.
She can barely stand long enough to raise up her briefs. Can’t lift her butt up either lying down or sitting. She is so weak that we can barely manage getting her from the toilet into the wheelchair, I cannot even imagine pants.
Besides, she only likes the old lady polyester ones. No sweat pants. No soft and fuzzy pj pants. Freakin’ old lady, 70’s polyester.
This doesn’t take into account that she often begins peeing as soon as the disposable briefs are down. I don’t say this to make fun, merely practicality and safety.
Now, she only weights about 120 pounds. However, did I mention I’m barely pushing 100? She goes down we’re both going down. There’s lots of hard things to hit in the bathroom. If I get hurt too, we are in serious trouble.
Did I also mention this is not only how, but where she fell in the first place? In the bathroom, pants around her ankles. No pants dammit.
After the fall, we called in our local Visiting Nurses Association. They also brought in a Physical Therapist and a Home Health Aide to assist with showering. Hallelujah.
I never thought having someone to do 1 little thing for me just an hour a week would be such a huge deal. It. Is. Awesome.
So now here we are. Five weeks after the fall. Three weeks after beginning physical therapy. And here’s the reality. She isn’t going to get any stronger. She’ll only maintain where she’s at for a short time. That’s if she’s willing to continue doing the recommended exercises six days a week.
With the dementia, the excessive sleeping and her personality….I honestly don’t see that happening. I can only encourage her, prompt her and do them with her if she’s willing. The rest is up to her.
That may happen to you too. Maybe your loved one isn’t going to cooperate. Like anything with caregiving, especially dementia everyday is different, sometimes every minute.
Today it works. Tomorrow not so much. If you’ve gotten to the point we’re at, give it a try and hope for the best.
These exercises were given to us by a Physical Therapist. They are designed for someone who has limited ability, endurance, range of motion or strength.
I used the exact drawings she did for us to draw these. Try to contain your excitement since the artistic talent is staggering, lol. 🙂
1. Extend arms. Bend wrists up & down.
2. Bend elbows. Touch shoulders. Extend arms.
3. Reach arms up overhead, in front.
4. Bring arms down at sides then lift out to sides, like flying.
5. Tap toes and heels.
6. Kick foot up toward ceiling. Alternate legs.
See simple. Nothing hard. Unfortunately the days of getting stronger probably isn’t happening. All we can do is help them keep being able to do what little they still can.
If they can sit up, eat by themselves, do a bit of washing up with cues, it’s a good day. It may not sound like much, but to them it may be everything.
The longer they can continue to do at least a few things for themselves the better. For all of us.