Assisted living for seniors with mobility issues
A senior might also deal with muscle weakness and joint stiffness, not to mention metabolic changes and excess weight. All of these challenges will influence the overall level of independence, preventing one from functioning as intended or handling daily living activities. To improve the overall quality of life, one might consider long-term care options, such as assisted living.
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What is assisted living?
Assisted living represents one of the most common long-term care options for seniors. Aside from the adapted room and board, seniors benefit from meal plans and limited healthcare. Depending on their level of independence, they receive assistance with the activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, bathing, grooming, or toileting. Within the campus, they have access to a wide range of services and amenities, meant to improve the overall quality of life, but also to keep them engaged and stimulated.
It is true that assisted living communities offer the best of everything, with seniors have access to both private living units and social spaces. Basically, they provide a low-maintenance lifestyle, allowing seniors to focus on the things that matter the most. Seniors are supported in their level of activity, with the staff being ready to accommodate their needs and demands. Even if the assistance offered is limited, seniors who have increased needs are given the possibility to hire home care aides. These can visit them within the respective community and cater to their needs, whether these involve daily living activities or the use of various medical devices.
Mobility and disability - a complex connection
The issue of mobility is often discussed within the context of senior age. However, we should take a moment and analyze how complex the matter is. The loss of mobility is often caused or accompanied by various disabilities, most of which can be addressed through long-term care options, such as assisted living. Naturally, the physical disability represents one of the main reasons for which a senior might deal with mobility issues. A sensory disability might add to this problem. For instance, an elderly person might suffer from loss of vision or hearing, finding it difficult to be on his/her own. Intellectual disabilities, whether they involve communication difficulties or cognitive decline, can add to the equation. Mental health problems can affect mobility, especially when it comes to issues such as depression and anxiety.
Considering how complex the picture of senior living is, it makes sense for such a person to benefit from long-term care options, such as assisted living. All of these disabilities affect mobility, not just the physical or sensory. Family members are often among the first to consider assisted living as a potential option, recognizing the positive impact it might have on their loved ones. Assisted living communities offer everything that is needed, starting with the adapted living environment and right up to the services that target physical health.
How seniors with mobility issues can benefit from moving into assisted living
Upon reaching a certain age, many seniors have trouble getting around without assistance. Even if they are not confined to a wheelchair, they might have difficulty completing mobility-related tasks, most of them being essential for a satisfactory quality of life. Assisted living represents a suitable option, as they can benefit from the needed assistance, within a facility that is adapted to meet their requirements. At the same time, they will be helped to overcome the challenges experienced, enjoying their daily life to the fullest.
Seniors who are dealing with frailty or general loss of mobility present a higher risk of falling, which in turn might lead to bone fractures and other injuries. There is also the increased risk of social isolation, which is often associated with depression and anxiety. Caregivers often try to care for their loved ones, supplementing their needs as much as it is possible. They might even attempt to modify the home environment, adding safety features that reduce the risk of falling. Combined with the permanent assistance that has to be offered, they might end up dealing with health problems themselves. Caregiver burnout is a real thing, and it can lead to further health issues.
Assisted living facilities offer an adapted living environment, meant to address the physical limitations one might be dealing with. There are plenty of safety features available, including grab bars and rails, wide hallways, elevators, ramps, walk-in showers, flattened thresholds, non-slip mats for the bathroom, etc. Social isolation is easily counteracted through the daily calendar, which often includes group activities. Seniors also benefit from a common dining area, where they can talk and interact with each other. Most of them report an improved mindset upon moving into assisted living. Naturally, the move is also beneficial for family members, who are able to sleep peacefully at night, knowing that their loved ones are safe and thriving.
Unfortunately, the loss of mobility can also rob one of the necessary independence, restricting the overall functionality. Assisted living communities are designed in such a way that they are able to offer its residents the necessary assistance with everyday tasks. Seniors benefit from an initial assessment, with their level of independence being determined. Some are able to complete certain activities on their own, while others will need assistance with only a part of the task. Keep in mind that assisted living facilities offer assistance for several ADLs, encouraging seniors to maintain their independence for as long as it is possible.
It is worth mentioning that the staff working within such facilities has been especially trained to handle seniors with mobility issues. As a result, they are able to provide the necessary assistance, taking into account the specific needs of each senior. For instance, they might help with transfers, no matter if the senior in question uses mobility devices or not. One of the things that will have to be determined is whether the senior can bear his/her weight, at least partially for a limited period of time. The transfers are always performed in accordance with the resident's abilities, naturally with consideration to both his/her safety and comfort.
How assisted living can benefit seniors who are wheelchair users
Various health issues can cause seniors to deal with limited mobility, requiring a wheelchair to get around. Some might need the wheelchair because of general frailty and muscle weakness. The good news is that assisted living units often welcome seniors who are wheelchair users, offering an adapted environment that meets their needs in every way. For instance, the hallways and entryways are always wide, so that the senior can pass through without effort. As for the senior living staff, they are specialized in wheelchair-bed transfers, helping seniors as needed. As mentioned above, the move into an assisted living community might also be beneficial for family members acting as caregivers. This is especially true for transfers, which are difficult to perform and always present an obvious risk of injuries, for both the senior and his/her caregiver.
Many wheelchair users report an improved sense of satisfaction upon moving into an assisted living community. This is connected, of course, to the personal care services. Provided by trained personnel, they make the impact of living with a disability less visible, reducing the level of stress one might experience. Second, assisted living communities offer safe and accessible spaces. This is essential for someone who spends the better part of his/her day in a wheelchair. The built-in accessibility aids serve the same purpose, contributing to an improved quality of life. Aside from the personal emergency response systems, which are available within the living units and can be used in case of major health events, seniors might benefit from wall-mounted communication systems, grab bars, and other assistive elements.
The accessibility regarding social spaces is another reason for which assisted living is worth it. As you will see, the layout of assisted living communities is optimized, so that wheelchair users can access common spaces without any difficulties. The same goes for the scheduled transportation. If the seniors need to run an errand or want to take part to off-site trips, which are organized on a regular basis, they will have access to special vehicles, optimized for wheelchair access. Last, but not least, wheelchair users benefit from regular physical therapy sessions, which are meant to help them maintain their current range of motions and reduce stiffness. The physical therapist will take the existent limitations into account, choosing a program of guided exercises that also offers pain relief.
How are mobility issues addressed?
Aging is a normal process, one which is often associated with a declining state of health. The declining mobility is a natural occurrence and seniors must learn how to adapt to the challenges it brings. Fortunately, life within assisted living communities addresses exactly these issues, with the staff going at great lengths to help residents manage their mobility. In many situations, it might even be possible to improve the overall physical health.
As you will see for yourself, most assisted living facilities offer services and activities that target physical health. Seniors have access to a regular gym or fitness center, not to mention yoga studios, swimming pools, or tennis courts. Experienced and dedicated trainers introduce them to low-impact exercises. Regular training can actually increase the overall level of strength, not to mention it will do wonders whereas their balance is concerned. Seniors also have the opportunity to attend group sessions. For those with limited mobility or are wheelchair users, there are fitness programs that include chair-based exercises. In suggesting balance, walking, or stamina exercises, the trainer will always consider the senior's level of mobility and co-existing health issues.
An experienced therapist might also introduce a stretch-based program, which is meant to increase the overall range of motion in major joints. The whole exercise program is performed under the careful supervision of the therapist, who will instruct the senior on regard to the kind of stretches that need to be performed and how many repetitions are necessary. They might also be taught how long to hold a particular stretch, so as to avoid further injuries. Physical therapy remains one of the best options for mobility issues, with the specialist knowing how to address age-related challenges in an effective manner. Some communities might also have podiatry services available, helping seniors address specific problems related to their feet.
It might also interest you to know that seniors benefit from personalized meal plans, which are meant to address chronic health issues, including those related to mobility. Nutrition is known to influence general health, especially in combination with physical exercise and adequate rest. Within assisted living communities, seniors have access to meals made from fresh ingredients, meals meant to help them improve their mobility level, as well as their energy. Thanks to the personalized approach to nutrition, they can maintain a healthy weight and manage current health issues, without further complications.
Naturally, a beneficial diet will strengthen their bones and ensure the joints are healthier. At the same time, they can increase the overall muscle mass, while losing excess fat. A healthy diet is associated with a better range of motion, improved circulation, and increased brain activity. Combined with physical exercise, it leads to increased strength and endurance, which in turn will reduce many of the age-related challenges a senior might face otherwise.
Solutions to increase independence
Just because one is dealing with mobility issues, living within an assisted living community, this doesn't mean that independence is a thing of the past. On the contrary, the staff will always encourage residents to handle as many tasks as possible on their own. Seniors with disabilities will benefit from various assistive devices, which are designed to increase the overall level of independence. These can target physical health, such as wheelchairs, walkers, or canes. In addition, there might be assisted tools that can be used to make daily living easier. Just remember that these might be available at extra cost, being offered by third parties. The list of potential solutions might include: voice recognition devices, door knock signalers, large-display clocks, computer programs for assistance, phone or tablet apps for touch-free use, modified keyboards (including large-print keyboards).
Is assisted living the right choice for me or not?
This can be a difficult question to answer, but not impossible, especially if you will take your time to think about all the benefits you might chance upon. As a wheelchair user, however, you will have to take your specific situation into account. While assisted living welcome wheelchair users, they might have certain restrictions in place. Factors to consider might include your age, co-existing health issues, and how much you dependent on your wheelchair. Keep in mind that assisted living communities reserve the right to reject certain applicants. For instance, they do not accept those who are bedridden or require several persons for transfers. In such situations, other long-term care solutions might be considered, such as nursing home care.
Ideally, assisted living is the best option for seniors who are wheelchair users or have a limited weight-bearing capacity, but are still able to perform certain tasks alone. The same goes for those who need help changing positions, requiring the assistance of only staff member. The assistance offered might include daily living activities, such as bathing and dressing, toileting, and eating, but also other activities or needs, including dental care, standing and walking, transfers. Additional services that might be provided include medication management, health monitoring, incontinence assistance.
Speaking about the reasons why you might not be a good candidate for assisted living, we must mention the need for significant or continuous medical care. Most communities of this kind are not equipped to offer more than limited health care, which is why they will reject seniors who need skilled nursing care or those who require around-the-clock supervision. If a senior is not able to most or all of the daily living activities, he/she might be rejected as well. The same is valid for those who need medical equipment to live but are unable to operate or maintain it. Assisted living communities will not accept those who are unable to follow directions or lack the physical capacity to reach a safe place in case of emergencies. Naturally, seniors who suffer from infectious conditions will not be accepted either.
If decreasing mobility is your main complaint, then you should definitely consider assisted living as an option. Maybe you are dealing with age-related degeneration, such as arthritis, or you suffered a recent injury. Or maybe you are suffering from obesity, the loss of mobility coming as an unfortunate complication. Upon dealing with any of these issues, self-care might become difficult, not to mention that the interaction with others will be severely restricted. By moving into an assisted living community, you will handle all of these problems, working towards a better life overall.
The thing you have to remember is that assisted living facilities are designed with the needs of seniors in mind. The adaptation regards not only the actual living environment, but also the meal plans, services, and amenities. The staff is trained to help aging adults as needed, thus minimizing the impact of the mobility issue. Whether one deals with a decreased range of motion or limited mobility in general, it is important to have help available, and thus thrive within the respective environment. This is also true for wheelchair users, who have particular needs in terms of assistance.
From a different perspective, it is worth mentioning that the assistance offered within such communities plays a huge role on the senior's mental health. The loss of mobility is often associated with a poor state of mental health, with many seniors dealing with depression and anxiety. Seniors might also not enjoy becoming dependent on their loved ones. Immobilization might also be associated with incontinence issues. All of these challenges are best addressed within assisted living communities. Once integrated in such a facility, you might also notice that your mental health has improved.
Questions to ask assisted living centers that accept people with limited mobility
As you might discover for yourself, assisted living communities offer tours of their campus, welcoming prospective residents who are looking to form an idea about the setting, as well as the services and amenities offered. The staff is usually ready to answer any questions you might have, so be sure to have a list of questions prepared.
Here are some of the most important questions you might consider asking:
- Does the assisted living center offer limited assistance with ADLs? If yes, what are the precise limitations?
- How is the environment adapted to those with limited mobility?
- How does the assisted living facility accommodate the needs of wheelchair users?
- Has the assisted living staff been trained to work with seniors with limited mobility or wheelchair users?
- What are the general services offered? What about amenities?
- Do you offer activities that target physical health? What about those for mental health?
- How is mobility supported? Does the assisted living community have specific exercise programs available?
- Does your senior living community have a licensed physical therapist?
- Does the assisted living center offer water therapy? Is there a licensed therapist available?
- Does the assisted living offer personalized meal plans?
- How are medical emergencies handled? Do the living units have emergency response systems available?
Life at senior age does come with its fair share of complications, including when it comes to physical health. The loss of mobility can affect your independence and the ability to handle daily living activities, which in turn can lead to depression and anxiety. Instead of allowing yourself to wallow in despair, it is for the best to consider long-term solutions, such as assisted living. These senior living communities are especially designed to cater to the needs of elderly with mobility issues, offering an adapted living environment, targeted services and amenities, a daily schedule filled with stimulating activities, and many more benefits.
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