If you have grandparents, parents, or friends who have been isolated in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and independent living facilities, then you know they may be facing muscle weakness due to limited physical activity. Muscle weakness and overall deconditioning is a concern in the elderly at this time.
So what can we do to help them?
Call them frequently, utilize Zoom meetings to check in on them. Discuss their levels of physical activity with them. Ask them: Are you eating 3 meals a day or 6 small meals a day? Are you walking much, whether in the apartment, communal areas, or maybe outdoors? Are you eating fruits and vegetables? Are you drinking enough water? Are you doing any type of physical activity? Are you participating in any exercise groups in person or on video streamed to your room? Are you doing any deep breathing exercises? All of these questions are important for their health and well-being.
Get a visual of them, see them, whether by video chat or basic camera. How do they look? Have they lost weight? Do they look healthy? Ask them if they are having any problems. How is their coloring? Assess their communication. How are they speaking? Are they communicating clearly? How does their voice and clarity sound? How is their train of thought? Do they sound short of breath at all while carrying on a conversation?
Believe it or not, lack of movement and physical activity can cause all types of atrophy, or muscle mass loss. Our heart is a muscle, and if it is not being exercised, it affects every part of the body, including the brain, the lungs, our organs, and our circulation. Muscle atrophy also occurs in our skeletal muscles, such as our biceps, triceps, calf muscles, and even our finger and feet muscles. Therefore, muscle weakness affects our whole body in some way. That is why it is important to make sure that the elderly are moving and preventing muscle atrophy.
Educate them that it is important that they keep moving for their health and over all well-being. Educate them to eat healthy meals and snacks, and to drink plenty of fluids, including water.
This is a very stressful time for everyone, including the elderly. Stress causes easy depletion of important vitamins and drains you of energy. Lack of good nutrition can lead to dehydration and vitamin deficiencies. You cannot stay physically strong if you are vitamin and mineral depleted and dehydrated. You cannot think clearly when you are weak and tired. Nutrition is important. Physical activity is important.
So get them moving! Encourage them and guide them in some basic exercises. Walking is one of the easiest and best exercises out there! Tell them to walk several laps around their room, apartment, and building, several times daily. If they have soup cans or bottled water, encourage them to use them as dumbbells to do biceps curls. Have them follow a seated chair exercise program. If they have good balance, they can do some standing exercises holding onto their kitchen counter or hallway railing for balance. There are so many basic exercise programs out there. If you need some recommendations, I can provide some. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.