cmcwrinkl1 Asked September 2012

How much activity and exercise does my mother need?


Background: My mother has been living with me for almost one year. She had a stroke 15 months ago and lost about half her vision due to blind spots. Before the stroke she was a designer and worked on the computer all of the time. Since the stroke she has been retired and cannot work or drive. Due to her vision issue, her balance is a little shaky. She walks around the house fine but when we go anywhere we walk arm in arm. She says she can’t use a cane or walker. She is also a little forgetful since the stroke and gets easily distracted. I try to let her eat on her own schedule but sometimes I worry she won’t realize she is hungry. I feed her breakfast and dinner on a regular schedule but leave lunch up to her. She mostly watches tv all day, naps, or gets on facebook. She has puzzles, books, art things, even quilting things if she wants to do them but she says she isn’t inspired to do them.

We go to her old employer’s office once a week because I am now doing some work for them. Then we see my sister and her two toddlers for a few hours. On Saturdays and Sundays we go shopping or to the beach or to a movie. And we eat out at least three times a week. We probably run other errands once or twice more a week. But I’m not sure if she gets enough stimulation or movement. She takes a shower almost daily. She unloads the dishwasher each day and walks from her room to the kitchen for each meal and then back to her room. It is too hot to walk very far outside but I wish she would walk in the back yard which is fully fenced.

She says she is contented. She also says she doesn’t really want to do much and any friends she had before are all too far away to visit very often. She says she will call them but she procrastinates calling them for days.

I worry that she isn’t getting enough stimulation. Or exercise. I work at home but can’t continuously tell her to do this and do that, then remind her to do it, or take her outside in the heat. I wonder if I am doing enough. There are three or four days a week when I don't plan things for her and just let her entertain herself. I still cook or get take-out for every dinner and cook breakfast every morning and we usually watch tv for 1-3 hours about 5 evenings a week.

Does she need me to make her do more?

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ksudz7 Dec 2012
cmcwrinkl1- I hope you're having good luck finding a trainer. I have found since starting my business that there really aren't a lot of people in this type of specialty out there, so it takes the right wording to find them! If you need any help I can always type in a request on one of the forums looking for reputable (obviously very necessary) trainers in your area. Many personal trainers are not legally able to work with non-healthy individuals, as most PT certifications are mostly for healthy people (less liability, and then they can get the certification in a weekend or whatever the case is). Other people have gone to one or more colleges for this, so really look into their background. Usually the people willing to come to your home to train (since your mother may not be willing to go to an intimidating gym) are the reputable kind, but that is not always the case. It's usually a good indicator though.

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cmcwrinkl1 Nov 2012
Hi ksudz7, this does help. Thank you. I live in an area with lots of retirees and would think finding a personal trainer for her would be easy, but I've been surprised. I had started thinking along those lines, but I'm not really sure how to find a personal trainer except to look online or in the phone book.

I had also thought of taking her to a gym but haven't looked into the ones around here. Your suggestions have given me some motivation.
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ksudz7 Nov 2012
I just found this and thought I would put my input in. I am a health fitness specialist, and I work with non-healthy populations. I work with all older adults, and mostly with stroke survivors.

It sounds like your mother is depressed if all she wants to do is watch TV and not do any of the things she used to like to do. This is very common in stroke populations, and with aging. I would minimize how much she is watching, since it seems like that's what she does during the day and in the evenings with you.

It's great that you take her on errands with you, and that she is trying to walk around the house. To maintain her form of independence I would have her start an exercise program at a local gym, or find a trainer that can work with non-healthy populations. Then she has some socialization, and she will start having exercises a few times a week. American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes of weekly exercise in the form of moderate intensity (some more if it's low intensity). Exercise has a huge list of benefits, and research has shown lately that exercise is better for keeping your brain healthy (i.e. warding off dementia as long as possible) than crossword/suduko/puzzles. I would suggest some cardiovascular exercise (walking in a pool would probably be awesome for her, or using a Nustep machine), strength training (to maintain her independence and ability to do things like stand up by herself, go to the bathroom, shower, and reach into the cupboard), flexibility (to minimize injuries), and balance training (as simple as standing behind a chair and shifting her weight to one leg or the other).

I realize you are busy and this is difficult to push her to do things, but unfortunately the elderly in the past have been viewed as "weak" and that they should just sleep as much as possible because they are so tired. Research has shown these things are incorrect and if she wants (key element here) to maintain an active lifestyle she will need to stay active and not be held back by these stereotypes.

Sorry for the length. I hope this helps.
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cmcwrinkl1 Sep 2012
Jeannegibbs - thank you for your answer. I did get Mom a DVD of exercises that can be done while sitting. But she never felt like doing them or forgot to do them. I finally stopped nagging her about doing them.

Sometimes I feel like I do a lot with her and sometimes I feel like I could do more. I loved in another state most of my life so we were never really close. But after my dad died and then she had a heart attack, open heart surgery, and then a stroke all in two months, she needed help. Like so many others on here, my parents didn't plan for their old age and expected us kids to take care of them even though they did little for us.
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jeannegibbs Sep 2012
In my opinion, this sounds pretty good.

Since her vision is OK for television, maybe getting a dvd of gentle exercises aimed at an elderly audience would be a nice supplement.
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