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tips for caregivers: Walking

There are many health benefits for seniors who walk on a regular basis, such as, strengthened muscles, preventing weight gain, improved balance, lower likelihood of falling and a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and osteoporosis. If the loved one in your care has mobility issues, they can still benefit from walking, even if it's just a little bit. Here are some tips to help your loved one remain mobile:

  1. Make sure your loved one wears the right shoes. Sturdy, well-fitted, low-heeled shoes with wide rubber soles will help your loved one be steady on their feet. Avoid slippers or any shoe that can fall off easily, since they can increase the risk of falling.

  2. Encourage your loved one to use a cane or walker if needed. Using a cane or walker when taking a walk helps with balance and takes pressure off painful joints. It also will keep them from grabbing onto you as a balancing mechanism (which can pose a fall hazard for both of you!). Just make sure the device is the right height for your loved one (a physician or physical therapist can help make sure your loved one is using the proper tool).

  3. Whether it's across a room, throughout the house or around the park, make sure the path is clear for your loved one. Eliminate any fall hazards-loose rugs, cords, errant branches.

  4. If your loved one has fallen in the past, they may avoid walking because they fear falling again. Discuss their fears and help them take small steps toward remaining mobile. The risk of falling will actually increase if they avoid walking altogether, and they can be setting themselves up for additional issues such as problems with circulation. Help your loved one set and reach achievable goals-your support and encouragement can go a long way toward helping them overcome their fears.

  5. Check with your loved one's physician about range of motion exercises that your loved one can safely complete. The physician may recommend an appointment with a physical therapist to develop an exercise regimen that is best suited to your loved one.

    A version of this article appeared in the Private Health News.