Question: Mother has been living with us for many years and is confined to a wheelchair. Her legs are very weak and she just sits around waiting to die. I remember that you talked about the importance of exercise in your book and I would like to have some good exercises for mom to do while in her chair. Would you print some in your column for me? Thank you.
Answer: Exercise is as important to an elderly person as it is with younger people. Even if your loved one is immobile, exercise is essential to good health.
Use the magic of music to encourage your mom to move. Music has a way of enticing you to get up and move your body. If she is able to stand, dance with her. It will make her feel alive again and that's what you want.
Put on music with a solid beat and move to the rhythm. If your loved one is immobile, try the exercises I found in a publication given to me by the Legacy Family Support Services, at Good Samaritan Hospital and Medical Center. I found them useful for my husband who was in a wheelchair for years. These exercises will help your mom's circulation and range of motion. Do them with her; it will be good for you too.
Head and Neck Stretch: Move the chin to chest, then return. Turn head to the right, center, and left. Tilt head toward the right shoulder. Tilt head toward the left shoulder. Repeat movement five times.
Shoulder Shrug: Shrug both shoulders toward the ears. Repeat 5-10 times. Shrug one shoulder at a time. Repeat five times.
Hands to Shoulder: Bend arms at the elbows and bring hands to shoulders. Repeat 10 times
Make-a-Fist: Squeeze the hands into fists. Relax. Repeat 10 times.
Squeeze-a-ball: Using a rubber ball like a racquetball, squeeze the ball with the right hand and then relax. Repeat five times. Switch hands.
Upper Body Sitting Stretch: Sitting in a chair, sit upright and spread knees and slowly bend forward from the waist. Reach hands toward the floor and hold for the count of two. Return to a sitting position. Repeat three times.
Sitting Leg Raises: In a chair, place feet flat on floor and raise one leg in front as far as possible. Hold for a count of two, then return the foot to the floor and relax. Repeat three times.
Knee Raises: Sitting in a chair, place feet flat on floor, arms at sides. Bend one knee and raise foot slightly from floor. Return foot to floor. Repeat with other leg. Repeat three times with each leg.
Reach Tall: Raise both hands above head and stretch up as far as possible. Bring hands down. Repeat three to five times.
Check with your mom's physician before starting her exercises. I'm sure they will be OK, but it's better to run it by him first.
Try to have your mom do these exercises at least three times a week.
If you have questions or suggestions, please send them to email@example.com or the East Oregonian, P.O. Box 1089, Pendleton, OR., 97801.