When a parent begins to fail physically, it makes their living alone more challenging and creates concerns about safety. You may begin to notice Mom having a difficult time getting up out of a chair or holding on to furniture as she moves from one place to the next. Maybe she has fallen several times, hopefully without injury; or she fatigues quickly when you are out and about.
First things first, check in with her doctor. Make sure that there is nothing medically going on that could be causing the decline. Seniors can become weak from very minor illnesses; even a cold can really set them back for weeks!
Check Mom’s nutrition and hydration. Is she eating like she should? Have you noticed a weight loss or decline in appetite? Is she drinking enough? As we age our thirst mechanism diminishes. This, along with the fear of having to go to the bathroom frequently, often leads to dehydration in the elderly which in turn causes weakness. Encourage fluids and regular, nutritious meals!
Then, talk to the doctor about the possibility of an order for some physical and occupational therapy. Request an order/script for evaluation and treatment. The reasons could be varied; generalized weakness, falls, balance issues, decline in ability to get out of a chair or the bed, having difficulty with bathing and dressing.
Therapists can work with Mom to help increase her strength, improve her balance, maximize her endurance and accommodate activities to make them easier to accomplish. They can provide her with a home exercise program that will help her maintain her improved physical status after she completes the therapy sessions. Get the therapist to show you the exercises so that you can encourage Mom after therapy is done.
An occupational therapist can work with Mom to identify any equipment that might help her with her daily activities. There are all kinds of assistive devices that can make daily tasks easier and safer for her to do. The OT can identify the equipment that would best help Mom and then teach her how to use it to accomplish the tasks.
Some therapy providers will do an in-home evaluation to see what accommodations can be made in the home to make things easier for Mom. They may also work with Mom in that environment to show her how to best do things with her very own set up.
Medicare or other Medicare-type-insurance-plans (Medicare Advantage Plans) should cover some of these expenses if you obtain a physician’s order/script. They may also cover some of the equipment expenses; again, get a script.
Getting Mom strong and providing her with equipment that can help her complete her living tasks will allow her to stay in her home as long as possible which is a big money saver. If Mom is stronger and able to move about more easily and safely, you will have less to worry about too! Mom will feel better and so will you.
I don’t know why doctors don’t always consider this option without prompting, but most are likely to agree if you ask. Therapy can be a proactive treatment to slow and sometimes reverse that physical decline and help to keep Mom healthy and active!
So get Mom into the gym and pumping ‘iron’!
On the journey with you…….Kathy
Tune in to the Mary Jones Show on The Talk of Connecticut: WDRC Radio 1360 AM/102.9-3 FM on Thursday, May 24th at 1:30 to hear us chat about the challenges of the Sandwich Generation and caring for an aging parent!