Long Term Care- importance of adding physical activity to daily routine

Importance of incorporating physical activity to those in nursing facilities

The healthcare care system is made up of many complicated and broken areas. One of these areas is long term care, which is defined as a complex American system with elderly being the predominant users of services, covering a variety of chronic conditions (Shi & Singh, 2015). Many people look at the negative factors when staying in a nursing home, but instead should try and improve the quality by enforcing positive environments. According to the CDC, there are over 15,000 nursing homes (CDC 2015). With the rise in the elderly population and average life expectancy, we need to work on decreasing cost, improving quality of life and access by incorporating more opportunities for physical activity within nursing facilities. We are going to keep seeing a high demand for this type of care.

Each state has different standards within each nursing home, but the United States needs more federal mandates and requirements for education, wellness programs, and heathier diets with extended food choices added to the daily routines at nursing home facilities. A variety of wellness programs would be crucial to fulfil the positive benefits of each individual based on their health level. Although there are benefits in aerobic training, resistance training in the older population is increasingly apparent as it improves walking endurance (Franklin 2002). When having a wellness class for the residents, an education session can follow. Without education on preventative health or the importance of physical activity, some elderly people may not understand why these services are available. Preventive health services are valuable for maintaining the quality of life and wellness of older adults. In fact, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 includes provisions related to relevant Medicare services. However, preventive services are underused, especially among certain racial and ethnic groups. (Healthy People 2020)

You can’t always focus on this because not every elderly resident will want to participate, but the importance of physical activity should be stressed more and done in a fun manner. Studies show the increase in satisfaction when their mind is being taken off knowing they are at a nursing home. Many elderly residents who don’t have family will spend time alone and it really can decrease their happiness. On the other hand, when keeping busy and with satisfaction you see less depression. Research has shown that doing a mix of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities 3 to 5 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes can give you these mental health benefits (CDC 2015). Also, when increasing access to daily physical activity, a study also showed better sleep at night.  Resources to help treat sleeping disorders in elderly include good sleep from physical activity and environmental factors (Martin 2012). Other factors to overall increase satisfaction in the elderly include a balanced meal every day.

Overall incorporating more physical activity or classes that even get residents moving will emphasize the more positive aspects. Some examples include instead of limiting the movement of the elderly, nursing staff should focus on increasing physical movement. This could be by taking little steps at a time, but even with that you’ll see improvement. One of the most common reasons residents fall are due to muscle weakness, which accounts for 24 percent of falls (CDC 2015). This problem could be decreased if we helped improve their muscles by getting them to sit less. After strengthening muscles, it would reduce the cost of needing excess medical care. When adding more physical activity, falls could also be prevented by adding education not only about importance of being healthy, but how to prevent falls through different strategies. The CDC found statistics that actually saw a decrease in falls when they decreased the amount of restraints used. In the long run, nursing facilities could save money in other areas when keeping the residents from getting any other chronic diseases. When residents are being healthy and active while they are staying in a nursing home, more illnesses are less likely to occur, increasing their overall quality of life. This can prevent unnecessary added costs as well, which is a huge factor when trying to improve our healthcare system. By increasing quality of life, you are positively improving a critical component of public health.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015) Nursing Home Care. In Long Term Care. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/nursing-home-care.htm and http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/

Franklin, Barry., & Nied, Robert. (2002). Promoting and Prescribing Exercise for the Elderly. Am Fam Physician Journal. 65(3):419-427. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/0201/p419.html

Healthy People 2020. (2015). Why Is the Health of Older Adults Important? Retrieved from http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/older-adults

Martin, Jennifer. (2012). Nursing home residents’ psychological barriers to sleeping well: a qualitative study. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2215778/

Shi, L., & Singh, D. (2015). Long-Term Care. In Delivering health care in America: A systems approach (6th ed., p. 407). Burlington, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett.



Long Term Care- importance of adding physical activity to daily routine

Author Guest Post: Viterbo nursing student

“When looking at long term care, I think many problems are faced by residents and barriers are always being found. The first one being there are never enough staff for each resident and sometimes I felt like I wasn’t providing as much patient satisfaction as I wanted too. I worked as a CNA in a nursing facility and some residents needed more care than others. To get them lifted out of bed and cleaned up could take a long time, and then you hear other call lights going off, but can’t always attend as fast as you want too. I think the ratio of health care workers to residents needs to be more equal to improve their quality of life.

Staffing is just one barrier, but I noticed other problems that could be improved on. I think there could be improvements in nutrition side as well. It’s important to provide a variety of meal options, while keeping it healthy. Sometimes I think nursing homes can steer away from that. They need more options to allow them to move around and not just sit all day.

Lastly, I think the high stress of working in a nursing home is the reason that many workers come and go more often then maybe in a hospital. I think sometimes people prefer that hospital setting and the pay is usually higher as well. I love my job as a CNA, but some of these problems can be heart breaking, especially when you look at how much it cost. I hope someday there will be more federal funding for those staying in nursing homes, along with an improvement in nutrition and more education on physical activity.”

Author Guest Post: Viterbo nursing student