Watch for These Early Indicators of Mobility Changes in Older Adults

A man experiencing mobility changes in older adults holds tightly to the railing with both hands while attempting to climb the stairs.

Mobility changes in older adults may be subtle at first, but are important to detect in order to prevent a fall.

In echoing Benjamin Franklin’s timeless wisdom, the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” rings particularly true when it comes to the important issue of identifying and addressing mobility changes in older adults. The stark reality, as outlined by the CDC, is that falls among seniors result in a staggering 3 million emergency room visits, 300,000 hip fractures, and 32,000 fatalities annually.

Preventing a potential tragedy requires knowing the warning signs that indicate escalating mobility concerns in seniors:

  • Avoidance of Stairs: Keep a watchful eye on older loved ones who, while seemingly mobile, shy away from stairs. This cautious approach may indicate a fear of falling, potentially fueled by a range of factors such as diminishing strength, joint issues, or an unsteady gait. If stairs become a perceived obstacle, it’s crucial to explore the root cause and address any underlying mobility changes. Encourage open communication to understand their concerns and work collaboratively on solutions, which might include home modifications or the introduction of assistive devices to enhance confidence and safety.
  • Struggles With Sitting or Standing: Observing an individual’s ability to navigate between sitting and standing is pivotal. Difficulty in rising from a seated position or settling back down may signal muscle weakness, joint stiffness, or balance challenges. If external support, such as furniture or nearby objects, is relied upon for these movements, it’s an indication that a person’s mobility may be compromised. A comprehensive assessment, including a consultation with a healthcare professional, can unveil the specific areas of concern and guide the implementation of targeted interventions, including exercises and adaptive equipment.
  • Decline in Physical Activity: A significant red flag is raised when an individual undergoes a noticeable shift from an active to a more sedentary lifestyle. This decline in physical activity can result from various factors, including a fear of injury, chronic pain, or overall fatigue. Recognizing the reasons behind this shift is crucial in addressing the root cause of potential mobility issues. Engage in supportive conversations to understand a person’s experiences, preferences, and any perceived barriers to staying active. Collaboratively developing a personalized plan that accommodates their needs and interests can foster a gradual return to physical activity, improving overall mobility and well-being.
  • Dizziness and Balance Problems: Unexplained dizziness and challenges with balance are multifaceted issues that demand careful attention. These symptoms may arise from conditions such as inner ear disorders, medication side effects, or cardiovascular issues. Swift identification and addressing the root causes are imperative to mitigate the risks posed to mobility. Encourage regular check-ups with healthcare providers, including specialists, if necessary, to conduct thorough assessments. By pinpointing the specific factors contributing to dizziness and balance problems, tailored interventions, which may include physical therapy or medication adjustments, can be implemented to enhance overall stability and mobility.

One effective method to assess mobility and fall risk is the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test. Its simplicity makes it a valuable tool in gauging a person’s mobility:

  • Place a sturdy chair against the wall.
  • Mark a distance of 10 feet from the wall.
  • Instruct the person to sit in the chair.
  • Upon your signal, start a timer as they stand, walk to the 10-foot mark, turn around, return, and sit down.

Stand nearby for support if necessary, track results over time, and share findings with the doctor for guidance. Further details on the test, along with a downloadable assessment sheet, can be found here.

If any of these signs resonate, initiate an open conversation with the individual. Express concerns and schedule a check-up with their doctor. Introducing simple mobility aids can significantly enhance safety and independence.

For additional insights into mobility changes in older adults and how to address them, contact our team of experts at Harmony Home Health & Hospice. You can reach us any time at 1-877-I-NEED-CARE (1-877-463-3322) to find out more about how our home health care services in Salt Lake City, Orem, Albuquerque, and throughout Central New Mexico and Northern Utah can help someone you love.