Senior Independence Month

Senior Independence Month
During Senior Independence Month, our guest blog contributor, Geoff Mosley, provides some simple-to-follow and effective solutions to ensuring every senior can experience an active, engaging and independent lifestyle.
It's Senior Independence Month! Join us in honoring each and every healthcare professional for their outstanding commitment to constantly learning and helping their patients live a more independent life. Share this post and tag someone whose work needs to be celebrated! Posted by on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Written by Geoff Mosley

Ask almost anyone over the age of 65 and they will tell you that one of their most important life goals is staying as independent as possible for as long as possible. Unfortunately, many seniors fall victim to health conditions or personal circumstances that threaten this independence. Decreased activity, disease, and loss of social support networks can all lead to isolation and an overall decline in health and mobility. However, there are many things that can be done to help stave off these issues and maintain autonomy.

Have regular doctor checkups

It is vital that seniors maintain a healthy relationship with their physicians. Not only can they catch life or health threatening illness early, but they also serve as counselors for their patients in terms of healthy lifestyle choices. Medications, especially if a person is taking multiple drugs, should be closely monitored by the physician for signs of interactions and unwanted side effects. For instance, many elderly patients take multiple meds for controlling blood pressure. Although they may successfully control hypertension, they can lead to other issues such as orthostatic hypotension, which can lead to an increased risk of falling and sustaining injuries. Other health care professionals can also help monitor for these unwanted issues, and they can refer patients back to their doctor when needed.

Stay active

Sarcopenia, or age-related loss of muscle mass, often happens at a faster pace than necessary. Everyone should stay active and exercise regularly, but many elderly lead mostly sedentary lives. This leads to an accelerated loss of strength and endurance, which limits their mobility even more and can lead to falls. In addition to the normal reactions we use to correct balance during a fall can be impaired due to weakness, which can increase the severity of injuries sustained in a fall. A physical therapist can not only address fall risks, but can impact a person's attitude towards exercise and instill more permanent changes in lifestyle habits.

Make the home more accessible

Many changes can be made to the home to improve access to different areas and enhance safety. For instance, throw rugs, thresholds between types of flooring, and furniture placement can impact a person's balance and fall risk. Grab bars and accessible seating in the bathroom can make bathing a safer and easier activity. Proper lighting throughout the home can reduce falls-related to impaired vision, as well as high contrast markers for potentially dangerous transition zones (for example, brightly colored tape on stairs). An occupational therapist can provide a valuable service in assessing a patient's home and making recommendations for adaptations and changes.

Stay connected to the community

A strong social network is one of the keys to successfully maintaining self-sufficiency. Encouraging seniors to stay connected to friends, family and social groups not only creates a safety net of assistance when someone needs it. Having strong relationships with others also keeps people more active and healthy, both physically and mentally. Older adults that stay involved with church or other community social groups have been found to live longer and stay healthy longer than others who don't. The CDC reports that an elderly person is treated in an emergency room every 11 seconds due to a fall related event. It is vital as healthcare providers that we counsel our patients with a holistic approach to ensure that all risk factors are identified and they are connected to all of the appropriate resources in order to continue leading healthy and productive lives. In addition, preventative care should be a signature component of any professional practice, as many of the topics discussed above can be offered to able-bodied persons before issues begin to arise!

About Geoff Mosley, PT, NCS

Geoff Mosley is board certified in neurological physical therapy from the American Physical Therapy Association Board of Specialties. He has earned Vestibular Rehabilitation certification at Emory University’s annual course, as well as certification, from RESNA, as a Certified Assistive Technology Practitioner. Mr. Mosley has conducted rehabilitation research and is currently seeking publication for a study on body weight supported gait training. Mr. Mosley is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Missouri, Missouri State University and Southwest Baptist University.

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