What Can Cause Seniors to Experience Leg Weakness?

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Leg weakness in older adults, whether it’s progressive in nature or sudden, is worrisome because it can increase the risk of falling. In fact, results from a Canadian Community Health Survey show anywhere from 20–30 percent of seniors fall each year. Here’s a closer look at some of the possible causes of leg weakness in older adults and some tips for what you can do as a caregiver about these issues.

Spinal Disc Problems

Seniors are statistically more likely to have spinal discs affected by age-related wear (degenerative disc degeneration). If the sciatic nerve in the lower back is affected by a damaged disc, muscle weakness could extend to the legs. Older adults often benefit from physical therapy and appropriate lifestyle adjustments to manage disc problems. Other spine-related problems that could contribute to leg weakness include:

• Spinal arthritis
• Spinal lesions (growths) or tumors
• Spinal narrowing (stenosis) in the lower back area contributing to nerve irritation and leg weakness

Aging in place can present a few unique challenges for older adults. Some only require part-time assistance with exercise or meal preparation, while others are living with serious illnesses and benefit more significantly from receiving live-in care. Victoria, BC, Home Care Assistance are leaders in the elderly in-home care industry for good reason. We tailor our care plans based on each senior’s individual needs, our caregivers continue to receive updated training in senior care as new developments arise, and we also offer comprehensive care for seniors with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s.

Leg-Related Injuries

If leg weakness comes on fairly suddenly, your loved one may have sustained a leg-related injury. Fractures and strains and/or sprains are common examples of injuries that can make legs weaker. Treatment often involves making a positive diagnosis and recommending appropriate therapies to strengthen the affected leg. Problems with knees and hip or ankle joints are related issues that could affect legs.

If your loved one needs help with everyday tasks while recovering from an injury, a home caregiver can be the ideal solution. Victoria at-home care experts are available to provide high-quality care to seniors on an as-needed basis. From assistance with mobility and exercise to providing transportation to the doctor’s office and social events, there are a variety of ways professional caregivers can help your aging loved one continue to live independently.

Stroke

According to a survey conducted by Statistics Canada, roughly 4 percent of people 65 and older are living with the effects of a stroke. Survivors sometimes experience leg weakness because of how the brain is affected. Therapy and an aggressive rehabilitation plan may be helpful, although some seniors have to rely on assistive devices to remain stable and safe while walking post-stroke.

Peripheral Neuropathy

This is a type of nerve damage associated with diabetes. It can contribute to leg weakness and issues with stability. If your loved one has diabetes, work with his or her doctor to get advice about how to address this condition and reduce the risk of nerve damage.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s is a progressive condition that often affects movement. Over time, limb stiffness that could contribute to leg weakness may develop. Treatment typically involves a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes to minimize muscle weakness and increase stability.

Toxins

Some older adults develop leg weakness because of toxic neuropathy, which refers to nerve damage caused by exposure to toxic substances. This may be an issue for seniors who worked around insecticides or similar chemicals during their working years. Excess alcohol consumption can have a similar effect. Medication may help. If alcohol is an issue, your loved one may benefit from an intervention program.

An Inactive (Sedentary) Lifestyle

Leg weakness in older adults is sometimes due to muscle weakness caused by a lack of sufficient activity or exercise. If your loved one’s doctor agrees this is likely a factor causing leg weakness, steer your loved one toward exercises that can safely strengthen the legs and supporting muscles. Some of the many possibilities include:

• Water-based activities
• Walking at a comfortable pace
• Leg raises and hip exercises
• Marching in place, dancing, and other fun activities that target leg muscles 

Some conditions could make it challenging for aging adults to exercise on their own, but help is available. Homecare service professionals can be a wonderful boon to seniors. Whether they require around-the-clock supervision or just need assistance with exercise and household tasks a few days a week, seniors can enjoy a higher quality of life with the help of trusted in-home caregivers. If you need professional care for your senior loved one, Home Care Assistance is just a phone call away. Reach out to one of our Care Managers today at (250) 592-4881.

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