• Shawn Weiss

Adaptive Living to Improve Overall Wellness

Updated: Sep 18, 2019

Written for Answers For Elders August 2019 Newsletter


What is Adaptive Living? How do I know what I need? How do I know

what my parents need? How can I remain at home and have the best

quality of life? These and many other questions run through the

minds of seniors every day with regards to their own health, as well

as the health of their loved ones.


As a practicing Physical Therapist and Home Health Agency owner,

Adaptive Living can look quite different for each person! I always view

this topic through a very proactive approach towards overall

WELLNESS. When assisting clients and their families to age in place,

adaptability can be addressed in four ways: Adjustments in

Environment, Activity Levels, Nutrition, and Emotional Health. All four

will contribute significantly to an individual’s ability to not just

maintain, but also THRIVE in their place of residence.


ENVIRONMENT: Adapting the environment to one’s current

functional level is critical, not only to allow for participation in activities

of daily living, but also for safety and reduced fall risk. The Centers

for Disease Control (CDC) has a checklist for safety in the home

available, along with many other fantastic free resources for seniors

and their families at www.CDC.gov. When looking to adapt the

environment, first check the pathways through the home. You should

be able to access all necessary rooms without clutter or cords. Next,

check the flooring. Is all carpet secure. Remove any loose throw rugs

throughout the home, especially if there already is a risk for falling or

if one is using an assistive device. (Yes, this means removing the

pretty rug that matches the shower curtain and towels)…or it gets

rolled up and used only when stepping out of the shower. In the

bathroom, do you need to install grab bars at the entrance and inside

the shower or bath? Possibly purchase a shower seat. If you do not

have a walk-in shower, is it safe to get into the tub? A tub bench

would solve this problem and prevent having to step in and out of the

tub. Install a hand held shower wand. Can you get up from the toilet

safely? There are raised toilet seats and over the toilet benches

available on Amazon. You can also install a grab bar next to the

toilet (I do not recommend using the towel bar to assist, as they are

not sturdy enough)! Lighting will also need to be assessed. Install a

motion nightlight in the bedroom and along the path to the bathroom

as well as inside. In the kitchen, are all daily items within reach?

Move things from high shelves to counter height. Do not forget to

avoid excessive bending in order to reach lower cabinets, as this can

pose a fall risk. Lastly, assess the seating in the living room and

dining room. Is your favorite chair just too low now? Is it difficult to get

up from? Does it have armrests to assist you? Consider placing

another chair with good back support and arm rests in the living

areas. This reduces the fall risk and allows for more independent and

safe transfers. You can also place risers under sofas to raise the

height to allow for safer transfers.


ACTIVITY LEVELS: A multitude of studies have clearly shown the

benefits of daily activity for seniors, regardless of medical history or

cognition deficits. There is something safe for everyone!

Incorporating daily exercise has been proven to increase and

maintain strength, improve digestion, improve mood and behavior, as

well as reduce the risk for falling. Seated or standing repetitive

exercises not only address cardiovascular health, but joint mobility,

and muscle strength. A home health therapist can easily design a

home exercise program. They will be able to evaluate your ability to

function and take in to account your past medical history in order to

provide you with safe activity suggestions!


NUTRITION: Proper diet and a healthy life go hand in hand.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a majority of the

diseases that older people suffer are the result of an improper diet.

Age related challenges that can hinder proper nutrition are

medication side effects, poor dental health, Depression, physical

difficulty, and memory loss. If you or your loved one are trying to

maintain living alone or with a family member, it is critical that

someone make certain proper daily nutritional requirements are being

met. Eliminating overly processed foods and replacing them with

healthier fresh options will ensure the proper intake and benefits. A

balanced meal should consist of carbohydrate-rich foods like sweet

potatoes or brown rice; protein-rich foods such as fish, salmon, and

beans; as well as fruits and vegetables. Also incorporate foods that

are high in omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, and fiber. Finally, create the

hydration habit by having a large Yeti or similar water bottle filled

each morning with water. Always consult your physician for any

dietary restrictions for medical conditions and allergies.


EMOTIONAL HEALTH:

Older individuals still experience stressors common to people of all

ages. There is a strong connection between mental health and

physical health! As circumstances and family dynamics change, it is

important to adapt and start new routines for you and your loved

ones. Retirement, bereavement, loneliness, a new living environment,

decreased physical mobility, and chronic pain are just a few changes

that can affect one’s emotional well- being. There are many options

to help create positive daily experiences. Socialize at the local senior

center. Stay involved in family gatherings. Talk to friends on the

phone and in person! Play games and puzzles to work your mind.

Consider writing in a journal. If you are physically able, volunteer in

the community. All of these suggestions create a sense of value and

purpose.


Adaptive Living will look different for each individual! Be proactive!

Get a head start on living your best life by addressing all four

components of overall wellness!


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