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It is hard to imagine life in 40 years time. What we often forget with the elderly is that at one point they were all our age, experienced growing up, being fit, feeling strong. The thought of growing old scares me slightly and chatting to my Granny helps me understand some of the problems she faces on a day to day basis. The purpose of this article is to increase awareness and so that we as daughters, sons, grandchildren and friends can change our behaviour, use our experience of technology to improve the quality of life of the ones we love. It also gives some information on those little things in life that make everything a bit easier.
Please do not read this and go and buy everything available for your loved one. No one wants to feel that they are losing their independence and sometimes material home aids can be seen to be patronizing and may disempower them. Instead discuss possible solutions to every day problems in a non threatening, non intrusive manner. No one person is the same so try to work out problems that they face and provide useful solutions.
Life’s little challenges….
- Unscrewing jars/Unpeeling packaging: As we grow older there is a natural process of degeneration (wear and tear/osteoarthritis) and gripping, particularly around small objects can become difficult. There are many things available on the market which help when opening jars and larger jars are easier to open. If helping your granny/granddad shop try to choose jars that are fairly light (if they struggle holding something heavy) and ones with easy grip lids ie good depth.
- Small jars usually are preferable and hopefully the contents is less likely to go off. Something I’ve learnt from my Gran is she cant bear to waste food and this causes her unnecessary stress if I buy her big jars (thinking they will last longer). She eats less than me so whereas I would get through all that jam in a week it may last her a month!
- If buying jars suggest that perhaps you could unscrew the lid then place cling film over the top and the place the lid back on lightly twisted so that it is easily removed. Obviously this is only appropriate if they wish to eat that food at that time and best to leave it the fridge.
- Look out for packaging, which is easy to open. Sliced ham has to be the worst! A pincher grip (holding thumb and first finger together) is something we take for granted. Choose packaging where you can use scissors to open it or that has a large ‘tab’ to peel back.
- If yours or your love ones hands are getting stiff and sore visit a physiotherapist who can provide you with gentle exercises. Don’t know where to go? Sign up with www.whocantreat.me to find a physio near you.
2. Getting up from a chair. As we grow older we tend to be less active and can lose underlying muscle bulk and strength. Many will begin to feel unsteady on their feet and fear of falling can further reduce activity. To some extent this can be trained and utilizing a physiotherapist or personal trainer who can help target areas of weakness and improve overall exercises tolerance.
This is an excellent Birthday/Christmas present for your loved one (particularly as its often difficulty to think of appropriate presents). When your loved one (you) has consulted a clinician they will advise them on what training regime they might benefit from (they will assess any health conditions and adjust their program accordingly). Programs are likely to involve things like sit to stand, steps ups, balance exercises and strengthening exercises.
3. Walking: Walking is something we all take for granted. Imagine trying to get from your kitchen to your living room and not feeling like you have the strength or stability to get there without losing your balance. This is the barriers faced by many elderly people.
There are several walking Aids available to provide support for people, sometimes as a short time measure whilst they undergo a rehabilitation program to improve strength and exercise tolerance. Some may find that they regain independence with a walking AID, which allows them to walk in the garden around shops and out to see friends.
4. Keeping entertained throughout the day. As mobility reduces so does confidence and it can be harder for older people to get out to socialise and get involved in sports teams. As people begin to slow down it is important to remain active, both physically and mentally. IPADs are a great source of games and can be used even with moderate arthritis whereas some puzzle/chess pieces may become too difficult. Where as we have grown up with technology you will have to spend time to explain how it works and keep this up once a week until they have fully got to grips with how to turn it on and activate games.
5. Cooking food. This can be extremely hard work and difficult with heavy pans. There are now good quality ready meals (Waitrose/Marks and Sparks) available which can make life easier for those struggling to make meals. Don’t forget to check out the nutrition information to choose healthy options. Making meals can be good exercise in itself so its good for people cook where possible but keep a supply of quick and easy meals for those days that they may be feeling a little tired.
Below are some possible aids that may benefit yourself or a loved one. If you are unsure which are appropriate book in to see a physio in your local area for an assessment to discuss which would be appropriate and adjust the size for you. Most will be familiar and can teach you how to use these safely (ie elbow crutches, frame, etc)
Physio Treatment may be useful for those who:
- Have experienced increased frequency of loss of balance/falls.
- Find it difficult to grip.
- Experience pain in a joint- We often out this down to age however just because we are older doesn’t mean that we are not exposed to normal musculoskeletal conditions such as muscle strains/imbalances.
- Experienced reduced mobility and strength.
- Find it difficult moving about the bed, getting out of a chair, getting off the toilet.
- Want to improve exercise tolerance and general fitness (its never to old to be healthy!)