Caregiver Blog: How Caregivers Can Help Weak or Immobile Patients

Article Categories: Caregiver Corner & Caregiver Skills

Muscle weakness is quite common. It can develop over time or appear suddenly. When a person is weak, it is hard to move around or even do simple things. Getting up from a chair or pouring oneself a glass of water can already result in shakiness and wobbly knees.

To be able to move properly, a person needs energy and strength. They must also have properly working joints and muscles as well intact brain and nerve functions. If a patient has issues with any of these factors, they will either feel weak or have difficulty moving.

Weak patients will give extra effort to move a body part. Those with generalized weakness will say that they can barely move at all or complain that they already feel tired with the slightest of movements. In worse cases, a part of the body can become paralyzed. Paralysis is a condition where all muscle control and strength are lost.

Caregivers like you will encounter many patients in your career. Many of them will have weakness or paralysis that will make movement difficult or even impossible. There are special considerations to be aware of so that your patient receives quality care and be safe at the same time.

1. Know who’s at risk.

Any patient can complain of weakness at any given time that they are receiving care. But be very particular when it’s a new or recent complaint. A report of sudden weakness, especially if accompanied by sudden trouble seeing, speaking, and walking, can be a danger sign of stroke.

Stroke is a threatening condition where blood flow to the brain is disrupted. When a stroke happens and the patient fails to receive immediate medical attention, the weakness worsens to become paralysis. It could even lead to death.

Many other conditions cause weakness. Those with chronic pain, muscle and nerve diseases, heart conditions, thyroid issues, or those who just underwent surgery will also have some form of weakness. Also, bodily changes caused by aging can make an older person frail.

2. It can trigger a domino effect of health issues.

Unfortunately, patients who feel weak for weeks on end will likely suffer its after-effects. Without much movement, the muscles start to waste away. The joints slowly stiffen. It can throw the patient off-balance if they suddenly decide to walk on their own. It can also lead to poor circulation until they feel weaker and weaker as days pass by.

When patients become bedridden and immobile, true complications set in, such as constipation, pressure ulcers, changes in blood pressure, and the formation of blood clots.

3. Weak patients are the perfect candidates for big fall accidents.

Because most patients still value their independence, they will attempt to move independently from one place to another. This combination of weakness and thirst for independence can result in falls.

Your role as a caregiver is to assist weak patients as they try to move around and to make sure to prevent the effects of immobility. Side rails may help secure your patient in bed, but always be available when they need to get up because the side rails can increase the patient’s risk of falls if they try to climb down on their own.

When using a wheelchair for transfers, lock the wheels unless the patient is safely seated and you are ready to push it. Let patients use assistive devices, too, to preserve their strength in doing independent tasks.

Help weak patients perform passive and active exercises. Refer to the care plan to know which type of exercises are helpful. Passive exercises don’t require any effort from the patient. On the other hand, to perform active exercises, the patient will have to move muscles and joints. Exercises prevent the complications of weakness and immobility. Just be careful not to overdo it or else the weakness may worsen and cause fatigue.

Also, don't forget to cheer your patients on. Help them get inspiration for moving. Is it to attend a granddaughter's wedding? Or is it to go back to gardening as a hobby? Whatever it is, help them set a goal for recovery if it is still a possibility.

A good way to help patients is to also take care of yourself. Use proper body mechanics because you will have to rely on your strength to assist in patient transfers. Helping out in facilitating patient mobility feels like you're lending them a limb, so be careful of that extra weight that you have to bear.

Caregivers are many things to a patient and they have that special place in their quest for recovery and quality of life. Even if patients are weak, they will not feel powerless if caregivers provide the best care.


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