Good health practices in our youth and adult life will generally take us into old age with stronger bone density, a healthier cardio vascular system, better balance and even increased cognitive function. This is a good thing, because on average longevity has increased 5-10 years for the average individual. As we work with seniors, our greatest challenge is to incorporate fitness programing into our daily care regime. The greatest challenge the Medical Exercise Specialist – MES will face is working with the frail senior with multiple medical conditions.
When working with a variety of age groups and medical conditions, it is very important that you first of all perform a detailed medical history account of your senior. Ask to see their medications, know side effects and reactions and understand that your senior may have side effects directly related to the intensity of exercise combined with medications he or she may be taking. Seek medical clearance from their physician and/or gerontologist. Ask them specifically about medical conditions you feel may be a challenge for them and if there is anything that is contraindicated for this client. For the senior with multiple conditions, it is key that if you aren’t sure what to do, at the very least know what you must not do that might cause further exacerbation of their medical condition.
With COVID-19 still being present in our communities, it’s much safer to provide exercise from the comfort of the seniors home instead.
A portable exercise kit may consist of:
- Small weights
- Door pulley
- Step up block
- Exercise mat
An exercise program incorporating the same components as you would at the gym, may be incorporated into the in-home program namely:
- Cardiovascular conditioning
- Strength exercises
- Specific rehab for problematic areas
The goal is to increase flexibility and mobility, keep or build on the strength your client currently has and to maintain that function for as long as possible. The combination strength of biceps/triceps, quadriceps and core muscles will assist your senior with the ability to rise from a chair, or bed, and sit with control. Some in-home programs are completely chair based incorporating all the exercise components above and may be very effective in not only maintaining strength but increasing it.
Functional strengthening is a priority to keeping your senior living independently. The ability to perform activities of daily living such as transferring, dressing, toileting, eating, bathing, and ambulating are dependent upon maintaining a certain level of strength. Check in with your senior often, ask them how they are doing, and offer reassurance and encouragement.
As care workers working in the community, the rewards are great as you see your frail senior not only maintain a level of fitness, but attain greater strength and balance, flexibility and mobility to age in place longer – living in the home they love!