Use and disuse bring about wear and tear. Unfortunately, in this case, we’re not talking about machinery, tools, or everyday items, but body organs. As we age, our organs wear out. They begin developing issues, and sometimes even fail completely.
As a result, many seniors and elderly folks begin having difficulty walking without assistance. And, difficulty walking leads to inactivity which can, in turn, compound current health issues and even cause new ones.
That said, what is ambulation, and why is it important in the elderly? Read on to find out.
This article is part of my “Importance of Elders” series that features 50+ articles on keeping seniors and the elderly happy and healthy so that we can have them in our lives longer. See the entire series here.
What is Ambulation?
Ambulation is a term used in the medical field to refer to the act of walking around especially after surgical treatment. It simply means moving about, whether independently or with the help of assistive devices like walkers. One of the most important things seniors may do following surgery to avoid complications is to begin walking as soon as possible.
This is because walking is a low-impact activity unlike other forms of exercise found in the gym. It is the least hazardous to the back and joints and does not need any devices. More importantly, ambulation after surgery has numerous advantages for all patients, especially the elderly.
Why is Ambulation Important in Senior Citizens?
Here are several reasons why it is important that seniors and the elderly maintain their ability to walk for themselves:
1. It Promotes Blood Flow in the Body
Ambulation helps the patient’s blood to circulate well in every body part. That way, a senior is less likely to get a heart attack or breathing problems. In addition, it stimulates blood circulation which can help stop the development of stroke-causing blood clots.
2. Helps in Fast Recovery
After surgery, patients are left with a wound. By walking frequently, the wound left behind heals faster because nutrients and medicine flow efficiently to the wound. This is because every part of the body functions well when someone is actively walking.
3. It Results in Healthier Muscles
Walking increases muscle tone and strength, especially those of the abdomen and ankles. More importantly, it also helps seniors to maintain a healthy posture because their muscles and joints are stronger and healthier.
4. Helps Patients to Eat Better
Early ambulation can help increase seniors’ appetites after surgery. This is because patients who walk increase their emotions of independence, their mood, and their self-esteem. As such, they are in a better mood to improve their appetite. Eventually, such patients are discharged sooner.
Dangers of Missed Ambulation in Seniors
Ambulation is important because being non-ambulatory has the following detrimental effects:
Can Lead to More Health Complications
Patients who stay sedentary for long periods are more likely to develop pressure ulcers also known as bed sores. Moreover, individuals who do not move following surgery are more prone to infection and urine incontinence. On the other hand, constipation is less likely in patients who can walk and go to the restroom.
Can Lead to Bone and Joint Complications
When a person’s bones are not able to support their weight, minerals are lost, which can lead to loss of bone density. This is because exercise plays a big role in maintaining bone and joint health.
Generally Lowers a Senior’s Immunity Even Further
Patients who are unable to walk are more prone to developing vascular resistance and deep venous thrombosis. More importantly, seniors who choose not to walk following surgery are more likely to develop lung issues and pneumonia. Simply put, being inactive reduces the patient’s capacity to fight against any other diseases.
How to Encourage Ambulation in the Elderly
- Clear clutter and overcrowding from ambulatory pathways. In addition, make sure they’re well-lit, and get rid of any obstacles that could make your grandma or grandpa trip and fall.
- Provide a strong and steady hand under the senior’s arm if he or she only requires minimal assistance while walking.
- Offer as little support as possible when walking to help them regain their independence.
- Make sure that the elderly patient is wearing comfortable shoes which prevent slipping.
- Encourage your loved ones to wear comfortable clothing to make the walking exercise fun.
- Buy your elderly loved ones assistive walking devices such as walkers and canes so that they can walk even when they are alone.
Taking care of the elderly citizens in our society is an obligation we should all embrace with love. After all, these seniors played a major role in our upbringing.
That said, always create time to encourage seniors to walk and move around. More importantly, create a supportive, safe environment and avail all the necessary tools for ambulation.