By Christina Bhattacharya
Many older adults have issues with their mobility. Recent research shows more than 10 percent of all U.S. seniors need to use a cane; over 4.6 percent need a walker, and three percent use wheelchairs or scooters to move around independently, says the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Mobility issues can be frustrating for many seniors, especially men. The loss of mobility often decreases independence, and can lead to depression, anger, and other health issues. These tips can help you assist your dad manage his frustration, rebuild his confidence, and retain independence for a higher quality of life.
1. Offer Encouragement and Assistance
For many older adults, problems with mobility signal major life changes. Once mobility changes begin, new physical limitations follow. You can help your dad through this challenge by supporting his emotions and ensuring that he speaks with his doctor if his anger or depression becomes overwhelming.
Another key to building your dad's independence is offering assistance — but avoid being overbearing. Let him know that you are there to support him, but also, allow him the independence to confidently and safely accomplish many activities of daily living on his own.
2. Choose the Right Assistive Devices
Assistive walking devices can make a huge difference in your dad's independence. His doctor or therapist may suggest he use a cane or walker for walking around the home and in public.
There are also other devices that can be used to help your dad remain independent in his living environment. Items like transfer discs to help him get out of bed, chair risers to help him get up from his favorite chair, and a shower chair can make it possible for him to bathe on his own. Talk to your dad's doctor or therapist about how these devices can help him live more independently.
3. Help Build Independence
One of the main reasons limited mobility issues may frustrate your dad is because it could impact his independence. Once he recognizes that he is still capable of getting around on his own with the help of assistive devices, his confidence and a sense of independence may be restored.
Investing in a medical alert system—like the GreatCall Splash medical alert device—can also help your dad feel more self-confident and safe living with his mobility issues. Knowing that help is just the press of a button away allows your dad to live more independently and gives you peace of mind.
4. Improve Balance and Walking with Games
Decreased balance is a common problem in seniors with mobility issues. Rehabilitative techniques, like physical therapy, can help to restore balance and mobility in seniors. Recent evidence suggests that a popular video game system popularly used in many rehabilitation facilities —the Nintendo Wii— can improve physical fitness and balance in seniors, says the American Physical Therapy Association.
A recent study cited in the Journal of Aging Research found that seniors who played Wii Fit's exercises, and fun games like Wii tennis, bowling, and boxing, saw substantial improvements in their balance and walking. Another study published in Radiology found that men and women with multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms who used the Nintendo Wii balance board at home for 12 weeks exhibited positive changes in the part of the brain responsible for balance and movement.
Be sure to talk to your dad's doctor or therapist about how to safely incorporate the Wii into his daily routine. For more exercises ideas, check out our post on helping Dad stay fit.
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