Addressing Fears about Physical Activity

Hello everyone,

Halloween is fast approaching  (Thursday this week!), so we thought now would be a good time to address the fears that some of your residents may have about walking, falling and exercise. For people with dementia, a lack of physical activity can lead to a further decline in function and overall health, so it’s is important to find ways to manage fears and motivate these residents to participate in physical activity routinely.

It’s easy to understand that if a person has fallen before and gotten hurt—often this is what led them to living in an AL community—that they are afraid of falling again. Because of this fear, they avoid walking and become weaker, which actually increases their risk of falling again. Sometimes people  with arthritis shy away from exercise because they think it will be too painful for their knees, hips, etc. In fact, exercise can help relieve arthritis pain.

Below are some things that you and your staff can do to help reduce the fears that your residents may have about physical activity:

1.       Be sure that residents have consistent opportunities to walk safely with a nurse or aid.

2.       Practice sit-to-stand exercises with a handrail in the hallway and a gait belt if needed to help residents feel secure as they strengthen their lower body and improve balance. You can sit next to them and role model the exercise as well.

3.       Ask the residents about their fears and let them express how they feel; be sure to listen to what they are telling you.

4.       Some residents are reluctant to walk, do exercises or transfer out of their wheelchairs in front of their peers because they are embarrassed or worried about falling in front of them. Be considerate of this, and try to help them do these things privately.

5.       Educate—never stop educating!—your residents about the benefits of walking and regular exercise. Help break the vicious cycle of falling, not walking because of fear of falling again, then getting weak and falling again!

6.       Start small. No need to begin with a walk around the whole complex!  Start by walking a few doors down the hall or to the dining room if close by. Do 3 or 5 sit-to-stands and end with success. Gradually increase the number and frequency over several weeks.

7.       Offer support  and words of encouragement  when a resident begins walking more, transferring  from  a wheelchair to a chair, going to exercise class, and doing sit-to-stand exercises.

Lastly, we invite you to take a minute to watch this fantastic video of older adults in an assisted living community doing the Monster Mash—with amazing costumes and lip syncing too! We admit it raises the bar a bit, but it can surely inspire you and your staff to get your residents up and dancing at your Halloween parties this week:

Have a great week!

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