If your loved one is experiencing mobility issues—such as difficulty driving, walking upstairs or bathing—you may wonder what you can do to help them stay safe and maintain their independence and quality of life.
Start with a conversation. You could kindly say, “I’ve noticed you seem to have some trouble getting up the stairs lately. Would you like me to help you look into ways to make your home safer?”
If possible, try to plan ahead for your loved one’s potential mobility issues. This is important because motor vehicle crashes and falls are the top causes of injury and injury death in people over age 65. Mobility is also essential because it allows older adults to maintain their social interactions and overall health.
The most common causes of mobility issues
Now that you know why mobility planning is crucial, let’s look at the top causes of mobility problems in older adults:
- Certain medications can have side effects, such as sleepiness or dizziness
- Limited eyesight
- Balance problems
- Muscle weakness
Health care for mobility issues
Whether your loved one is already experiencing mobility issues or you’re planning for the future, it’s a good idea to stay up to date on their health care visits. This includes:
- An annual physical to address health issues that increase the risk of falling (like arthritis or dementia) and review their list of medications that may increase the risk of falls
- A yearly eye exam
The doctor may also recommend a balance, gait or strength test to assess if your family member needs physical therapy or an assistive device.
In addition, your loved one should consider the following healthy habits to stay as active and mobile as possible:
- Exercise regularly
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and limiting alcohol
- Eat calcium-rich foods, like yogurt and milk
- Use an assistive device, if needed, such as a walker or a cane
Exercises for mobility
First, get clearance from your family member’s physician before encouraging a new exercise regimen. Regular exercise for strength and balance can help your loved one improve their strength and balance. Strength exercises include:
- Lifting weights
- Using a resistance band
- Wall push-ups
- Arm curls
- Overhead arm curls
- Squeezing a tennis ball
- Carrying groceries
Balance exercises include:
- Standing up from a chair
- Balancing on one foot
- Tai Chi
Physical therapy can also help with balance and strength, so ask your loved one’s doctor if that’s something they recommend.
Fall prevention at home
There are many ways to reduce tripping hazards in an older adult’s home:
- Check the floors and remove tripping hazards, such as small pieces of furniture, clutter, rugs, cords and wires.
- Put frequently used items in the kitchen within close reach.
- Use a step stool instead of a chair to reach items that are not within easy reach.
- Ensure the home is well-lit by using bright lightbulbs, placing lamps in easy to reach places, installing night lights or a timer to turn on lights.
- Check that all stairs are secure and carpet firmly adheres to each step. Be sure the handrail is sturdy and firmly attached to the wall. Consider installing handrails on either side of the stairs for extra safety.
- Install grab bars in the bathroom for additional support when getting out of the shower or up from the toilet. Use a non-slip mat in the bathroom as well.
- Ensure they wear sturdy, supportive footwear that has a firm heel and textured sole to prevent slipping and maintain balance.
- Consider getting them a medical alert device so they can call for help if they fall.
Transportation and mobility issues
It’s also important to consider your loved one’s transportation needs. Make a list with them of all the places they frequent, such as the grocery store, doctor’s office, post office or place of worship. Discuss how they currently get there and options for getting there in the future if they’re unable to drive. Can they get a ride with a neighbor or friend, take public transportation, or use a rideshare service?
By considering these aspects of their life, you can help your loved one stay as healthy and independent as possible.
Caregiving support at home
If you’d like additional support keeping your loved one safe, consider hiring a CareLinx caregiver. CareLinx caregivers are trained, pre-vetted, and have undergone a thorough background check to ensure that your loved one receives high-quality care personalized to their needs. Find a CareLinx caregiver near you.