What can I do to motivate my mother to get up and exercise?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 23, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mom recently got discharged from a rehab/nursing home stay, she broke her femor bone. My mom was in the NH for about 3 months doing rehab. Now that she is home, she doesn't care to go anywhere because she said she can't walk. she says she can't exercise because it hurts and will not take anything or pain.
Her husband is 85 and his daughters doesn't want him to do any lifting or extrensous activity with her or for her. He has a bad heart and recently diagnosed with slight dementia. My mom says that he isn't that old and he should take care of her to a certain extent. She is morbidly obese, about 4'9" 305 lbs. I just spoke to her and she isn't getting up today and she said that she exercised by going to the bathroom 2 times today.
I want to have an intervention for mom, but she has a temper. She doesn't want to go anywheres or do anything, because she said she can't walk and it hurts.
Bhe can walk, using a walker, she doen't like to. the surgeon that did the operation told her to walk up and down her ramp, she said to me today, no she hasn't and isn't going to and I do not understand. Mom is 71, her husband is 85, she hasn't really exercised in years and don't know how to begin to get her moving like she needs to be. she sits in her recliner and watches tv all day. Is there anything I can do to motivate my mother into getting up?


Expert Answers

Laura Beltramo, a physical therapist who specializes in geriatrics, graduated with honors from the University of California at San Francisco in 2000. She loves her job working as the sole physical therapist at a premier life-care facility in San Francisco. She has written articles and lectured extensively on fall prevention and other issues relevant to the aging experience. As a registered yoga teacher, she teaches yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness techniques to seniors -- helping them expand their repertoire for coping with stress, pain, and illness in the later years.

Oh, I am so sorry. This sounds like a difficult situation and is understandably discouraging and frustrating for you. Since your mom was in the NH for 3 months, it would be interesting to talk with the rehab team there to get some insight into how they were able to motivate your mom. It sounds like there are a lot of layers to this problem--including her obesity, pain, and mental/emotional state. Has her MD evaluated her for depression? You are right to want to motivate your mom to get moving. Sitting in bed or a chair all day does not bode well for her recovery, mood, or functional outcomes. But remember that there is only so much you can do and ultimately her decisions are up to her. This being said, a couple of suggestions are: 1-get her some home or outpatient PT to address her function that is limited by her pain, 2-use what is important to her to motivate her and don't even reference "exercise" i.e. suggest she make coffee for her husband or go for a little walk with you to see the garden, or go out in a wheel chair to shop for her grand kids 3-finally, sometimes suggestions from family members aren't received well. Perhaps you can speak to some of her friends about helping to encourage your mom. The best of luck to you. Remember--that you are just one piece in a very big and complicated puzzle.


Community Answers

Oldestsister answered...

The thing is, you can't motivate another person. Only another person can motivate themselves.

How is your mother normally motivated. Then start creating her environment to have that in it.

For example, @Laura mentioned having your mom make coffee for her husband. The thing to find out is what your mother likes doing. If she likes serving, then maybe reminding her that getting up to make coffee for her husband is a wonderful action to take.

It's not going to be easy but you'll find the right way. For now you might want to let go of your expectation that she is going to be doing squats everyday! Or whatever expectation you might have.

My mom, while a skinny little toothpick thing at 95 pounds at 84 years old, refuses to exercise too. When she is in my caregiving, 4 months of the year, I noticed she is willing to exercise if I do it along side of her - fear of falling maybe? So I save about 10 minutes of my own work out routine to do a few exercises along side her.

It's a GREAT question!