Family caregivers know that encouraging aging parents to exercise is important. Ease of motion, strength, and balance can be key in fall prevention measures. Additionally, a regular exercise program for seniors can encourage other healthful benefits such as proper nutrition, hydration and better sleep.
Although a new exercise regimen may be daunting or challenging for elderly parents, a family caregiver can help encourage small, incremental changes at a time.
Go4Life, a website of the National Institute on Aging, encourages physical fitness among seniors and offers many tips on fitness-related issues, including ways that those taking care of elderly individuals can encourage such ones in their efforts to be fit.
Among these tips are:
- Simply listen. The person trying to change his or her level of fitness may need a sounding board to express his or her fears or apprehensions. Being there to listen to these concerns and to respond with encouragement can be a big help.
- Make it easier. If your loved one needs new exercise shoes or clothes, volunteer to help select these and get them. If he or she wants to participate in a group activity, such as an aerobics class or yoga session, help to research session locations.
- Be a part of it. Try to find time in your own schedule to join in when possible. This may be as easy as agreeing to take a walk around the block or as involved as taking dancing lessons.
- Recognize that things happen. Illnesses and other stumbling blocks may cause the program to get temporarily sidelined. Work with that and help your senior loved one to get back into the swing of things when the cause of the interruption is over.
- Offer the proper level of support. Realize that there’s a fine line between being supportive and nagging (no matter how well intentioned). Also, work on making positive rather than negative statements (e.g., “Think how nice it will be when you can fit into that pretty new dress” is more effective than “You’re not working hard enough to lose weight.”)
Taking care of elderly loved ones is a big responsibility; caregivers deserve a big pat on the back themselves for helping seniors to stay active in an appropriate way.