Understanding the Dangers of Immobility in the Elderly
- Immobility in the elderly can be the result of physical injuries, medical conditions, or the patient’s mental health.
- Common effects of immobility include constipation, muscle deterioration, and shallow breathing.
- Low-impact forms of exercise and even making sure the patient gets out of the bed in the morning can help prevent immobility.
- Make sure the nursing home where your loved one lives is not understaffed, as it can lead to mobility because they may not receive proper monitoring that can prevent immobility.
Activity is important to everyone; regardless of what age they may be. However, being active could be even more important to the elderly, even when they have other health concerns that may limit how much they are able to move around including stroke recovery, broken hips, and pain from arthritis.
What Causes Immobility in the Elderly?
Immobility can be the result of various injuries, medical conditions, and even a patient’s mental health. Unfortunately, some medications prescribed can lead to depression and anxiety which can often result in the patient’s not wishing to get out of bed. Some of the more common causes of immobility in the elderly include Parkinson’s Disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, broken or fractured bones, depression and anxiety, pain from arthritis and osteoporosis, muscle and joint pain as well as malnutrition. Activity is difficult when it is uncomfortable, regardless of your age but in elderly patients, immobility often leads to other health conditions.
What Are the Major Complications of Prolonged Immobility?
Most of us never consider how dangerous immobility can be; unfortunately, prolonged immobility can often be deadly. Consider how many people die annually from pneumonia after a fall or broken bone. Oftentimes, this is because of inactivity. Some of the other health concerns associated with immobility include:
- Gastrointestinal– one of the most common responses to immobility in the gastrointestinal system is constipation. This can lead to serious bowel blockage which can cause other infections and if left untreated, could lead to death.
- Musculoskeletal– inactivity leads to a deterioration of the muscles. This becomes a vicious circle because the more the muscles deteriorate, the less the patient feels like moving around. Muscles can atrophy and additionally, patients often suffer bone loss. This combination can cause falls or lead to the exacerbation of osteoporosis.
- Respiratory – the heart and lungs are also impacted by a lack of activity. Lower activity levels often result in more shallow breathing which can lead to pneumonia. Those who have more shallow breathing often have difficulty coughing which can result in fluid build-up in the lungs. Additionally, a patient’s heart can shrink because of the lack of exercise resulting in a host of problems including higher blood pressure, chronic heart disease, and circulation problems including edema.
These are some of the more common problems associated with immobility; however keep in mind, the consequences of immobility can, and do, impact the entire body.
How Can Immobility Be Prevented?
Naturally, activity is the best prevention available to ensure your loved one does not suffer mobility-induced health problems. However, preventing immobility remains a challenge. The more pain a person suffers, the less likely they are to want to move and the problem not only continues but worsens. Fortunately, there are some simple things that can be done to ensure your loved one is mobile enough to not suffer additional health concerns. This begins with making sure they get out of bed in the morning. There are hundreds of low-impact forms of exercise that an elderly patient can participate in; including exercises that may be done while sitting in a regular chair or wheelchair.
Mobility for the Elderly: Making Sure Mobility is Possible and Encouraged
To ensure your loved one is able to get sufficient exercise, you should be certain they have a good diet and are drinking plenty of fluids. Without the proper nutrients, seniors often feel too weak to move around much which can lead to longer periods of inactivity. Patients who are in nursing homes should be encouraged by staff members to eat properly, drink plenty of fluids, and whenever possible, walk at least 15 minutes daily, even if a mobility aid is required to do so. Even leg and arm exercises performed in a chair can help ensure circulation is maintained and help minimize the possibility of muscle atrophy which can lead to other health problems.
Staffing Issues Can Lead to Immobility
If you have noticed your loved one does not seem to be as energetic, appears to be suffering from mild weakness or is not able to focus, it could be because they are getting insufficient physical and mental exercise. Keep in mind, if a nursing home is understaffed, you may find your loved one is not being monitored carefully enough to avoid immobility issues from developing.
Contact an Experienced Nursing Home Attorney
If you believe nursing home staff is inadequate to meet the mobility needs of your loved one, you should discuss this issue with staff members as well as your loved ones physician. The risks of not getting regular exercise can be deadly and the longer immobility continues, the more serious the impact on your loved one. Filing a formal complaint with the nursing facility is your first step and if the situation does not get resolved in a timely manner, you should speak with an attorney. Having an advocate for your loved one is only one step in ensuring they do not suffer additional health problems due to inactivity and inattention. Contact the Rooth Law Firm today at (847) 869-9100 or contact them online for a free consultation.