Occupational therapy evaluates the elderly person’s ability to manage everyday activities, like getting dressed, bathing, grooming, and preparing meals. Certain medical problems like arthritis, paralysis, etc. can prevent the patient from performing tasks like buttoning shirts, tying shoelaces which we tend to take for granted. Occupational therapy is useful to provide alternative ways of doing these tasks by using simple devices. A long-handled grasper, for example, can be used to pull on socks that one can’t reach. Occupational therapists also suggest home safety measures to make the home a safer place.
How important are physical exercises?It is very important for the elderly person to remain active in whichever way possible. Even for bedridden patients it is important to have some degree of physical activity. Ask the doctor to suggest an exercise schedule to ensure that the exercises are performed at the right time and in the right quantity. It is important that the patient does not strain himself/herself by performing more exercises than he/she is capable of.
Most people who are unable to get out of bed have difficulty moving around in the bed as well. Changing positions can be difficult, and lying in one position for too long can lead to pressure sores and ulcers. Turning them or helping them turn onto their back or side every two hours can help prevent pressure-related problems. Other simple exercises like bending and straightening the arm at the elbow, moving the limb gently through it’s normal movement, etc. prevents the muscles from becoming stiff. A typical, full body range of motion regimen, starts with the shoulders and works toward the feet, moving each joint in turn. It is important that these exercises are performed in the presence of a trained therapist, nurse or doctor initially. Once the family members get accustomed with the ability of the patient to perform the exercises, presence of a therapist is not essential. These exercises should be performed carefully and slowly and it must be ensured that the patient does not strain himself/herself, while performing these exercises.
For mobile patients, walking is the most beneficial exercise. It helps in increasing circulation, maintaining strength of the bone structure, etc. It is very easy to perform this exercise with the help of a walking stick and other aids. Walking can be done within the premises of the house, or in some nearby parks depending on the physical condition of the elderly person. This simple task can give the person both a daily dose of exercise and a sense of accomplishment.
What are the types of walking aids available?Certain physical disabilities can make walking a very difficult or even an impossible task. To overcome these obstacles doctors recommend various walking aids to their patients.
Some of the common walking aids are
A walker is useful for patients with a severe balance problem. An arm rest and other accessories can be used with a walker for additional protection and support. If walking for long distances is difficult, use of a wheelchair can be considered.
Canes are of two types. Single Point Canes are useful for patients with a slight balance problem. On the other hand Quad Canes, with four feet, provide more support and stability for patients than Single Point Canes. Handles for these canes are available in a variety of forms and shapes to suit the needs of the patient. Special handles called ‘Ortho–Ease’ are molded according to the patient’s grip and this makes the use of cane more comfortable.