My mom has started shuffling and sliding her feet when she walks. I always remind her to pick up her feet, but she keeps ignoring me! It’s so annoying! Why does she refuse to walk normally?

Asking your mom to pick up her feet and walk normally isn’t likely to work. Why? Because there’s probably something causing her to shuffle. To help her walk more normally (and safely!), the first step is to find the cause.  

10 common reasons seniors shuffle when they walk:

  1. Weak hips and leg muscles
  2. Arthritis pain in joints
  3. Loss of flexibility in feet making it hard to flex them normally
  4. Decreased ability to maintain balance
  5. Decreased vision making it hard to see
  6. Fear because of a recent stumble or fall
  7. Slow reaction time when unbalanced which increases fear of falling
  8. Medication side effects
  9. Worn or poorly-fitting shoes or slippers
  10. Slippery floors

Serious medical conditions, like Parkinson’s or dementia, could also cause your mom to shuffle or walk unsteadily. To make sure her shuffling isn’t caused by a health condition or medication, it’s best to get a check-up from the doctor.

A shuffling walk increases senior fall risk

  • If your mom is shuffling, dragging, or generally not lifting her feet off the ground when walking, she’s at greater risk of falling.
  • Shuffling is a common cause of falls because sliding feet can more easily trip on rugs, door thresholds, or even slightly uneven surfaces.
  • Older adults who shuffle are more likely to stumble because their shoes can catch on the ground. Also, the narrow stance of shuffling feet makes someone more unbalanced than if they had a normal walking stance.

What to do if your senior shuffles when they walk

Unless the reason for shuffling is obvious and easily corrected, like replacing a too-old pair of shoes, it's a good idea to take your older adult to the doctor for a full check-up. That will help identify the cause of the shuffling behavior. Once the reason is known, you and the doctor can come up with a plan to improve the situation.  

Next Step: 3 exercises to improve balance and reduce fall risk

September 13, 2021
Family Tips

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