Functional mobility is essential to daily life, allowing seniors to walk from one room to the other without fearing a fall. But as people age, they may become concerned about emerging problems related to walking. Here’s an overview of walking issues in the older population.
Easeful walking is a necessity of life. Seniors need to be able to maneuver to the bathroom, to the kitchen or to the front door. Walking helps older people conduct errands, such as at the grocery store or post office, and to retain their independence. Even getting out of bed requires the ability to walk.
Older people, however, may start to notice that they move at a slower pace. Additionally, seniors may begin to fear a fall when walking even short distances at home. When such fears arise, it is important for aging people to have their walking patterns evaluated by a physician.
Walking difficulties are not unique among the elderly. In fact, approximately 30 percent of seniors report that walking three city blocks or climbing one flight of stairs are major physical challenges. Mobility aids, like canes or walkers, are also used by about 20 percent of seniors.
What are the consequences of immobility?
When walking problems develop, the senior can suffer physical, psychological, and social consequences. Immobile seniors may not be able to get to the bathroom on time, leading to accidents. This, in turn, may lead to urinary tract infections and skin infections.
Psychologically and socially, immobility can have devastating effects. Seniors who struggle to walk may no longer have the ability to visit with friends, take a stroll through the park, or go out to dinner. Individuals who are homebound can become reclusive, isolated and, therefore, depressed.
What are risk factors for immobility?
Some common factors are linked with problems walking. Advancing age, a lack of physical activity, impaired strength and balance, and obesity can lead to a loss of mobility. Diabetes and arthritis are chronic diseases that can also increase seniors’ risk factors for immobility.
Although less common, red flags for walking issues include depression, memory issues, problems with thinking skills, and feelings of helplessness. Seniors who have been recently hospitalized or who drink alcohol or smoke also increase their risk of developing walking problems later on.
When do gait changes appear?
Changes to walking typically manifest in people who are in their late 60s or 70s. Gait changes are a normal part of the aging process and triggered by a gradual decline of the nerves and muscles, as well as the deterioration of sharp vision.
Seniors diagnosed with diabetes or obesity are likely to experience a more rapid decline in their walking abilities. This is especially the case in diabetic seniors who live with pain and numbness in their feet (otherwise known by the medical term neuropathy).
Falling and its health repercussions are the worst outcomes of walking issues. It’s a misconception to believe that falling is a normal part of aging—it isn’t. People also mistakenly believe that falling cannot be avoided in older people. However, medical intervention can improve a senior’s gait.
How does medical intervention improve walking issues?
Medical rehabilitation programs, for instance, can help elderly individuals who are concerned about gait to make significant improvements, especially when coordinated by a physiatrist and a physician trained in physical medicine. A rehabilitation program can include physical and occupational therapies.
A physiatrist is a medical professional who evaluates seniors’ issues with gait and designs a program to help them improve. Older adults can find a physiatrist through their physician. A primary care physician who is aware of the senior’s decline in walking abilities can provide a referral to a physiatrist.
A visit with the physiatrist starts with an evaluation. Walking speeds and patterns are observed. The length and width of the senior’s stride as well as how weight is transferred between legs are also noted. The physiatrist will check the senior’s balance and observe how the patient steps over obstacles.
The Get Up and Go Test may be performed. Mobility is checked fairly simply: The senior is asked to stand up from sitting in a chair, walk 10 feet, turn back and sit down. Walking slower than a yard per second indicates a gait problem, which increases fall risks.
Walking difficulties should be addressed before they lead to a loss of mobility. Seniors who are concerned about their gait are encouraged to incorporate strength training and physical therapies to improve balance. Subspecialists can treat medical conditions that may result in a loss of mobility.
Screening for mobility challenges is important since it could mean the difference between living at home and residing in a facility. A loss of walking abilities also puts seniors at greater risks for falling, which could cause a hip fracture. Patients with hip fractures can suffer fatal complications.
Fortunately, seniors of all physical ability levels have care options that can improve problems with walking. Assisting Hands Home Care provides seniors with the in-home support they need to live as comfortably and independently as possible. Companion care help seniors stay socially engaged.
Assisting Hands Home Care companion care services prevent the social isolation and loneliness that plague seniors who are immobile or live alone at home. Through activities, conversations, and outings, caregivers from our home care agency build friendships with the seniors we serve.
Our transportation services are invaluable to seniors who are either immobile or mobile. We drive elderly care recipients to physical therapy sessions, doctors’ offices and conduct errands. Isolation is deterred since our caregivers transport aging individuals to social events and senior centers.
Additionally, caregivers from our senior senior home care agency provide help with the activities of daily living. Our responsibilities include meal preparation to ensure seniors eat nutritiously, discreet help with toileting and personal care, light housekeeping, medication reminders, and transfer assistance into or out of bed.
Assisting Hands Home Care is preferred by families and seniors in the communities of BallenIsles, Boynton Beach, North Palm Beach, Jupiter, Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Royal Palm Beach, Singer Island, Wellington, West Palm Beach, FL and the surrounding areas (See All Served Areas). Our bonded and insured caregivers deliver peace of mind and invaluable elder care. Contact our office at (561) 566-5989 to schedule an in-home consultation, and we’ll develop a customized care plan for your loved one.