• Carrie Klaege

Caring for Mentally Alert Seniors with Physical Limitations

Being physically limited while mentally alert can be especially difficult. Read on for ways to cope with this challenging situation.


Many people feel that their brains stay young even as their bodies age. Physical challenges affecting mentally alert seniors can be frustrating as a result.


Many aspects of aging are challenging. The deterioration of the body is one of those challenging things that can lead to depression and anxiety, especially when the senior remains mentally alert. There are several ways to help seniors' mental wellbeing while they struggle with their physical health.


Signs of a Mentally Strong Senior

* Can carry on fluid conversations

* Remembers recent activities

* Is socially engaged

* Is aware of current news

* Can communicate needs and challenges

* Engages in mindful activities like reading

* Recognizes physical changes and limitations


The Challenges of Being Alert But Limited Physically

When a person ages, they can expect to experience some deterioration. What many seniors don't expect, though, is how difficult it can be t become physically limited while remaining mentally aware. Some compare the experience to feeling like a young person trapped in an elderly body.


Challenges that result include:

* A loss of ability to participate in physical activities

* Increased dependence on others for everyday life

* Mental stamina that is greater than physical endurance

* Frustration with desires to act that cannot be carried out

* Depression from a perceived loss of purpose or independence

* Anxiety over physical changes and limitations


Coping with the Physical Aging Process While Mentally Young

Since anxiety and depression can result when mentally alert seniors struggle with physical challenges, it is important to protect their emotional well-being. Coping mechanisms many seniors find helpful include:

* Adopting hobbies that require mental agility but little physical effort (sudoku, crosswords, puzzles, painting, reading, woodworking/carving...)

* Using technology and tools to adapt to physical limitations ("grabbers," mobility aids, sock and dressing aids...)

* Retaining independence in whatever ways are possible

* Regularly engaging socially apart from physical activity (maintain church activity, stay part of social groups when possible, can't play pickleball anymore? Still watch!)

* Having access to transportation if independent driving is not possible (Call Southern Arizona Home Care to assist with errands and outings!)

* Participation in reasonable physical activities, especially to prevent further limitation (would physical therapy help to reduce further loss of mobility?)


Preventing Depression Among Physically Limited Seniors

Depression can increase mortality rates and overall health, especially among seniors. Since physical limitation can contribute to depression, it is important to help physically impaired seniors prevent depression.


Tips to prevent depression include:

* Regular social engagement

* Mentally stimulating activities

* Participating in purposeful hobbies

* Receiving counseling

* Adaptations that promote independence

* A positive attitude for the senior and those around them

* Support of loved ones


For many mentally strong seniors, a positive perspective can make coping with physical limitations easier. Remind seniors of the people who love them and value them. Help them focus on their purpose and pleasures. Offer a perspective of gratitude and hope instead of dwelling on limitations.

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