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.
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
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!