The Role of the Caregiver in Helping Seniors Stay Fit

If you are the caregiver of seniors, you know how important it is for them to stay fit and healthy.  And as a caregiver, you may play an important role in helping them exercise and stay in shape. By supporting and encouraging them, you may help them increase their confidence as they exercise, especially if they haven’t exercised in a while. 

It may be unsafe for seniors with mobility issues or certain medical conditions to exercise alone, which is why your role is so important for their safety as well as their fitness. Chair exercises may be a great option for seniors who have difficulties with mobility. Click here for my comprehensive visual guide.

Benefits of Exercise for Seniors

There are so many benefits for seniors who exercise. These include: 

Seniors who stay active and exercise regularly have a greater chance of living longer and reducing the risk of injuries and disease.

Seniors who stay in shape are less likely to fall and sustain injuries, such as hip fractures, which may need medical attention. Approximately 25 percent of seniors who experience hip fractures die within a year, and those who survive may have complications that limit their mobility.

Exercise improves cardiovascular health, endurance, balance, flexibility, muscle strength, and bone density. It reduces the risk of conditions such as dementia, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

The Role of the Caregiver

As a caregiver, it is your responsibility to make sure your seniors have clearance from their medical professionals before helping them with an exercise program. Once you know that your clients are able to participate in exercise activities, you need to take several things into consideration as you determine which exercises are appropriate for them. This includes their fitness levels, mobility issues, previous falls or injuries, medical conditions, and any limitations they may have. 

Make sure to include both aerobic exercise and strength training for a complete program. For example, you may include 30 minutes of aerobic activity, such as walking or swimming, and weight-bearing exercises to improve muscle strength and flexibility. 

As you work with your seniors, gather any equipment you may need, such as a chair or dumbbells, and make sure everything is set up properly before you begin. This will prevent you from having to leave them alone to find any additional equipment.  

Specific exercises may be modified according to each person’s abilities and fitness levels. Below is information on some chair exercises, which can be done by almost anyone. Chair exercises are a great place to start for most seniors who have mobility issues. Here is how you can help.

Chair Exercises to Try

Shoulder Exercises, Bicep Curls, and Chest Presses

When working with seniors on shoulder exercises, bicep curls, or chest presses, keep in mind that some people cannot lift a large amount of weight. Make sure the weight you’re using is the correct amount, and if you’re not sure what your senior’s capabilities are, start with lightweight dumbbells. Work with them to determine their range of motion and how much weight they can handle before allowing them to complete these movements on their own.

These exercises are great for strengthening the upper body, including the chest muscles, shoulders, biceps, and triceps. As you help seniors with these exercises, watch their posture to make sure they are sitting straight in the chair, and monitor their arm movements to make sure they are doing the exercises correctly.

Seated Knee-to-Chest

The knee-to-chest exercise is simple and effective for strengthening the core muscles. Have them sit in a chair with their core muscles engaged as they grip the chair for stability. They should then bend their knees and raise both legs up toward the body. If this seems too difficult, you may have them start with raising one leg at a time. As you monitor them, make sure they keep their backs straight and hold on firmly to both sides of the chair. 

Squats

Doing squats strengthens the lower body and leg muscles. Your job as the caregiver is to make sure your senior is keeping the correct form while doing the squats. You can have them hold onto the back of the chair for support as they stand with their feet hip-width apart and bend at the knees without pushing the knees over the toes. As they bend their knees, they should push their buttocks down toward the floor before returning to a standing position. Not everyone can do a full squat, so it’s okay to start with a small squat and work up to a full one.

Seated Calf Raises

Calf raises are easy for most people to do, so they are a great exercise for most seniors even if they have some mobility issues. Have them sit in a chair and tighten their core muscles as they grip the seat for stability. With both legs at a 90-degree angle and feet flat on the floor, have them slowly pull their heels upward as they push their toes down toward the ground and return to the starting position. After they have mastered this exercise, you may try adding weight to their laps to make it more challenging.

Stretching Exercises

There are so many stretching exercises to choose from, and as you decide which ones are the best for your seniors, you should consider their flexibility and strength, as well as their fitness level. Make sure to include a variety of stretches to cover the major groups. Some good stretches to start with include neck stretches, overhead arm stretches, side stretches, and seated hip stretches. Your seniors should do these stretches slowly and hold them for around 10 to 20 seconds. 

Safety is the most important thing to consider as you help your seniors exercise, so as a caregiver, it’s important that you make sure they maintain proper form so they don’t pull a muscle or experience an injury. With your support and encouragement, your seniors may have greater success is staying active and getting fit.

Author’s Bio:

Joseph Jones has been writing senior care and aging-related articles for years. He got his start while writing for a personal blog before he was offered to work at California Mobility in 2018 as the Content Marketing Manager, creating highly informative guides and health awareness articles for aging adults.

He’s currently contributing to a variety of blogs in the senior health industry in hopes to spread information about taking care of seniors and what to expect in the aging process.

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