How do I get my sedentary mom, who spends all her time sitting or laying down, to be more active?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My 84-year-old mom is frail (just old age, not serious illness) and sedentary, spending most of her time in bed or in a chair. Yet she seems mentally OK. She reads and watches TV, but I'd like to find activities that get her going a little more, physically. Can you suggest anything?

Expert Answer

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

If your mother has not been very active during her life, than she may be very happy just reading and watching TV. However, if this is a new behavior, then your mother may be depressed or have some new medical issue that's causing her to be inactive. Ask yourself: Does your mother sit around because moving hurts? Maybe she has arthritis and needs pain medications to feel better. Has she had some falls? Sometimes older people are afraid of falling so they keep their moving around to a minimum. Does she get dizzy? Is she tired? Also, is she bored? Maybe she needs more social interaction. With any of these, the first thing you should do is have your mom checked by a medical specialist.

Once she gets a checkup, and everything is OK medically, I would suggest getting a referral to a physical therapist for exercises or an exercise program. She could also try an adult day dare program, which would provide her with physical and mental activities, as well as socialization. To find out about programs near your mom, contact her Local Area Agency on Aging, a government office that links people with local senior resources, or a Senior Center. Senior Centers can be a really great resource. They offer classes, activities, and social gatherings for older persons. Check a center near your mom.