Exercises to help you regain strength after a hospital stay
A hospital stay can be a stressful experience, especially for older adults. Changes in sleep pattern, activity level, and other routines can even lead to physical and mental decline.
My 95-year-old aunt contracted COVID-19 and it resulted in pneumonia. Treatment required a seven-day hospital stay, during which she was in bed 80% of the time. Though she felt well enough to walk around her room, her activity was restricted by hospital staff who worried that she was a fall risk. She lost conditioning during that time, and the lack of stimulating in-person conversation was very hard for her.
Before hospitalization, my aunt was independent and exercised three times a week. Knitting, crochet and word search were all parts of her daily lifestyle. She called friends and family, visited homebound companions, and doted over her grandchildren.
Once home from the hospital, she displayed symptoms similar to dementia, such as not remembering where the bathroom was or how to dress herself. She was handed mail and she did not remember how to open the envelopes or what to do with the “get well” cards inside.
After a month of supervision, a return to a regular exercise schedule and stimulating activities, and a great deal of love and attention, she began to behave more like her old self.
Movement is vital to rehabilitation. If you or a loved one is returning home from a hospital stay and has been cleared for activity by a physician, here are some exercises to help regain strength:
Walk throughout your house or apartment often throughout the day.
Sit in a chair or on the side of a bed and reach up toward the ceiling and down toward your toes. Make sure that you are breathing throughout the movement and moving slowly, without rushing. Repeat 10 times. This movement stimulates the muscles that support the spine, improving posture, stability and balance, and decreasing your risk of falls.
Position yourself in front of a chair and sit down, take a breath, then stand up again. You can use your hands to assist, if needed. Repeat this sit-to-stand movement 5 to 10 times. Familiar movements can help to improve your functional fitness level — the ability to perform daily activities.
Open your arms wide, feeling a slight stretch in your chest, and then wrap your arms around your shoulders as if you are giving yourself a hug. Do this 10 times. This movement can improve your oxygen level.
Perform brief self-massage, gently rubbing your thighs, calves and shins. This will help to eliminate the possibility of blood clots that can result from sitting or lying immobile for long periods of time.
And always remember to fill a water bottle and sip it throughout the day to stay hydrated. Also, ask questions and promote stimulating conversation about current events.
These strategies helped my aunt and they could help you and your loved ones, too.
Yvonne Ferguson Hardin (Fergie) is the owner of Fergie’s Instructional Training FIT in Germantown, where she offers in-person bootcamp-style group classes and also virtual training. She specializes in educational movement programs for exercisers aged 55 and older. For more information, go to TransformURlifetoday.com.