According to a 2005 CDC report, one-third of people in the U.S. 65 years or older struggle with walking three city blocks.
These challenges can affect older adults’ quality of life. Mobility problems can also be the first signs of decline in older people, which can lead to loss of independent living. A loss of mobility can be gradual – or it can occur after a serious event like a stroke or fracture from a fall.
Another report from JAMA reviewed studies from 1985–2012 on mobility and aging. It offers advice for seniors, their families and caregivers.
According to the report, doctors should be asking older adults the following two questions:
- “For health or physical reasons, do you have difficulty climbing up 10 steps or walking a quarter of a mile?”
- “Because of health or physical reasons, have you changed the way you climb 10 steps or walk a quarter of a mile?”
Physical therapy can help.
The report says that referring to physical therapy may be appropriate, since physical therapists can create specific treatment plans. Most treatments involve resistance and balance exercises for improving physical weakness and balance disorders.
Assessing a patient’s physical environment is also important to determine the need for assistive devices or a ramp.
Mobility devices are important, too.
Devices such as canes, walkers and wheelchairs are used by more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. Benefits include reducing fall risk and improving independence.
Medications can increase risk.
Certain medications have side effects that may affect walking, balance or mental awareness and can increase the risk of falls by older adults.
Several types of medications – including antipsychotics, antidepressants, antihypertensives, sleeping pills and tranquilizers, and even some over-the-counter drugs – have been linked to falls and impaired mobility. Asking your doctor or pharmacist to conduct a careful comprehensive medication review (click for Walgreens appointment scheduler) can help.
Seniors may need help taking medications.
Impaired mobility can lead to trouble taking medicines as prescribed and even physically accessing a pharmacy. Using an inhaler or eye drops and opening medication vials, for example, can pose problems for older adults. Aids such as calendar packages for medications can be useful along with non-child-resistant prescription vials.
Given the aging of the U.S. population and the effects of mobility problems, simple advice on how to identify and manage these problems can go a long way.
Be well, stay well!
~ Pharmacist Andy