Dear Family Resource,
My 82-year-old grandmother fell and broke her hip and after surgery was in a rehab center for 3 weeks. Her physical therapist told her it was important that she walk every day and also gave her exercises to do at home. The problem is grandma refuses to do any type of exercise. She says it hurts and she wants us to take care of her. When she asks me to do something that I know she could do for herself I feel bad saying “no” so I just do it. The physical therapist comes once a week and yesterday told us that grandma is becoming weaker rather than stronger and could even end up in a wheelchair! I feel bad so I help her but then she doesn’t get better, and I feel guilty. What should I do?
You are sweet and loving, but you’ll help your grandmother more by encouraging her to get up and move about. I understand that you feel badly, but you can still give her love and attention without giving in to her. Even though a hip fracture can be scary and painful, immediately following surgery, the hospital therapists had your grandmother up and walking and this continued at the rehab facility. The visiting physical therapist and you should be working on building her strength and endurance. Have you asked the therapist or her doctor about your grandmother’s pain? It may be a good idea for her to take a pain reliever an hour before activities. Perhaps a weekly visit with the physical therapist is not enough. You can check with the therapist to see if she can come an additional day. Review the exercise and walking program with the therapist and together speak with your grandmother about your plan to keep her moving.
You might find it helpful to extract yourself from the role of grandma’s helper and consider hiring a home care aide who will work with grandma on her walking and exercise a few times a week. Set some goals with your grandmother with dinner, an outing, or a special event as the prize for improvement. You want your grandmother to regain her previous level of functioning. So take a deep breath and try some tough love.