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Taking Care of Elderly Patients with Muscle Weakness

August 17, 2021

Your role as a PCS caregiver is to make your patient as comfortable as possible in their home space. Often, elderly patients deal with muscle weakness as they get older. This setback can affect their ability to do many items that they once could do before. It might be tricky as a caregiver to know what you are supposed to do to help them out.


Keep on reading to learn more about taking care of elderly patients with muscle weakness. They deserve the best, and this article will guide you along so that you can give them the best quality of life possible from their homes. You can be the helping hand that they need by understanding what they are going through.


What is Sarcopenia?

The most common type of muscle weakness that occurs in elderly individuals is known as sarcopenia. Essentially, this is age-related muscle degeneration. For many, it can start as early as the age of 30, particularly to those who are inactive and do not keep their bodies in proper shape as they continue to change with time.


Those who are not active can lose as much as 3% of their muscle mass every decade. If this begins in their 30s, that could mean 12% of this critical tissue is gone by their 70s. When the individual becomes elderly, this loss becomes apparent. It becomes hard to gain this strength back.


Sarcopenia could make elderly patients more vulnerable to:


●  Tumbles and falls

●  Reduces risk of life

●  Fractures and breaks


All of these can result from this loss of muscle mass.


As a caregiver, serving a patient with sarcopenia is vital. You can protect them from the various risks and even help them reverse the effects of this aging disease if you are both determined enough. Though you won’t be able to help them fully regain their mass, you can assist them in bettering their lives. It can be beneficial to understand what causes this issue in the elderly.


What Causes Muscle Weakness in the Elderly?

Now that you understand what sarcopenia is, we should talk about the items that cause it. These might assist you in helping your elderly patient to prevent or even reverse the effects in the future.


Most of these causes come from various life choices. You might inform your elderly patient of these and encourage them to better their lifestyles.


Without moving, the body cannot develop the muscles that it needs to help you move around. This lack of movement can cause weakness to occur. Your limbs are not required to do the work that they need to keep you active.


Of course, not all individuals choose to be immobile. Those who have to use a wheelchair or experience severe pain when moving might not stay active enough to prevent sarcopenia. This lack of mobility often occurs with the elderly, who cannot get around as well as in younger years


If possible, an elderly patient should:


●  Try to walk a few steps a day

●  Attempt to activate all of their muscles a few times a day


This movement will help them to prevent sarcopenia from spreading and getting worse.


If your patient cannot walk, immobility is likely the cause of sarcopenia. Do not try to force them to move if they are unable. You will need to help them deal with this muscle weakness in another way.


Bad Diet Habits

Your body needs protein to gain and keep muscle mass. Without it, there is no way for the muscles to sustain themselves in the human body. A diet that centers on items like carbohydrates, sugars, and fibers will not be able to build up muscle mass as well as an individual that eats a lot of protein.


Some good examples of protein include:


●  Fish, such as trout or salmon

●  Light meat, such as chicken and turkey

●  Eggs, both the whites and the yolk


All of these are full of the nutrients needed to keep muscles from breaking apart.


You might try to increase the protein in your patient’s diet if you suspect that they are not getting enough. You should give them at least a little bit with every meal. Protein is a vital food group that the body needs to sustain itself. Sarcopenia can fade away with good protein sources.



Inflammation can play a part in whether or not an elderly individual has sarcopenia. This issue can range from something as severe as Arthritis to seasonal joint pain. Any inflammation in the body can contribute to the onset of sarcopenia as the individual ages.


Inflammation can:


●  Prevent the person from moving around, which promotes the loss of muscle mass

●  Affect the breakdown of muscle protein inside the body

●  Disarm the pathways in the body


All of these cause the muscle mass of the body to shrink. This damage can, in turn, can bring on muscle weakness in an elderly individual.


Different exercises and therapies can help a patient reverse this breakdown. You might also change their diet to see if that could be playing a part in the inflammation.



Stress can lead to sarcopenia. Many are not aware of the devastating impacts that this neurological issue can have on them. Your body experiences muscle loss as a result of stress because:


●  Stressed individuals are often more sedentary, leading to reduced activity and building of muscles

●  Tenison in the muscles can cause them to atrophy over time

●  Poor dieting as a result of stress can deprive the muscles of the nutrients that they need to grow


All of these items can subject the body to sarcopenia.


If your patient is stressed, you should try to locate the source of this disturbance in their life. It might lead to a better quality of living if you can find out what is causing them trouble. Stress is a high-risk factor for elderly patients.


Symptoms of Muscle Weakness

If you suspect muscle weakness coming on in your elderly patient, there are a few key symptoms that you can seek out for confirmation. Many of these are easy to observe with the naked eye.


Noting any of these symptoms means that you should take action to protect your patient. Inform them of the situation and discuss the next steps that you would like to take on together. Some of the most common symptoms include:


●  Difficulty lifting things that were easy before, such as a heavy dinner plate or a cup

●  General weakness, which might show up when they are walking down the stairs or getting ready in the morning

●  Weight loss, which could mean that they are not getting enough food in their bodies due to the weakness in their muscles

●  Slow walking, which could be an indication of pain

●  Quick tiredness, showing that their bodies are not fit for the tasks that they want to take on

●  Loss of interest in fun activities, demonstrating that they cannot move as well as they once could


All of these are common symptoms of muscle weakness. It is usually fairly obvious to the casual viewer.


Before calling a doctor and confirming this issue, you should communicate with your patient. Decide what to do together. This discussion is vital when providing quality care for elderly patients.


How to Reverse Sarcopenia

Sarcopenia is a unique disease because there are ways that it can be reversed. Just as the muscles are broken down, they can be built back up again. You can assist your patient in helping themselves through this process.


Keep on reading to learn more about the best ways that you can reduce sarcopenia in an elderly patient. These might be able to help them improve their quality of life, allowing movement that many older patients will never be able to experience again.


Keeping Muscles Active with Exercise

We touched on this earlier when discussing the risk factors for sarcopenia. Exercise is one of the best solutions to this problem. A patient doesn’t have to move that much to help reverse the sarcopenia that is spreading throughout their body.


There are a few movements that are the easiest for elderly patients to take on. These might include:


●  Walking, which can happen outside or around the neighborhood if possible

●  Water aerobics, which is easy on the muscles and doesn’t require much use from the legs

●  Chair yoga, which permits the strengthening of muscles from a less dangerous position

●  Dumbbell strength training, which might be impossible for some but can help the upper arms to gain a bit of their power back


All of these are of varying difficulty levels. Your patient can try the ones he or she feels comfortable with and decide which will give them the most in the long run.


You should try to get your patient to activate all of the muscles in their body. This way, you can attempt to bring back muscle strength in all areas rather than just one at a time. Ensure that they are not doing a workout that is too hard for them so you can avoid injury.


Ingesting Foods That Build Muscles

Another way that you can help your patient to reverse any muscle weakness is by eating foods that will help build up the muscle in their body. There are many options, so even the pickiest of eaters should be able to incorporate some of these into their diets.


The best foods for building muscle contain protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. Some of the best options out there include:


●  Eggs, which have high protein, healthy fats, and amino acids

●  Salmon, which hold omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and protein

●  Cottage cheese, which is full of protein and has varying amounts of fat

●  Peanuts, which hold a good combination of carbs, healthy fat, and protein


All of these are great. Any food that is made of lean protein will be a good choice for your elderly patient. Try to get whole foods in their meals rather than ones that are mostly processed products. You should be able to read all of the ingredients listed without stumbling.


To help your patient’s body utilize the food properly, you should encourage moderate exercise every day. This movement might include walking or something even less complicated. This action will ensure that the body takes the food and uses it for muscle rather than fat.


Help them to avoid foods that are high in sugar and unhealthy fats. This abstinence will ensure that they stay healthy and fit while battling this new and scary time in their lives.


How to Help Elderly Patients with Weakness as a Caregiver

As a caregiver, you might wonder what you can do to help a patient with muscle weaknesses. How are you to assist them when dealing with this new challenge in life? It can be scary. Luckily, there are many options for you to choose from for assistance.


As a caregiver, you can help them by:


●  Ensuring that they get around the house and the world safely

●  Taking them to physical therapy to try to regain muscle back

●  Feeding them nutrients that they need for muscle growth

●  Helping them to decide what to do next

●  Bringing them to doctor’s appointments


All of these are items that you can do to help your elderly patient.


The most vital thing that you need to do for your patient is to provide them with comfort and protection. You should ensure that they are safe and provide them with a list of options that they can pick from for the future. If they want help reversing this weakness, you should help them. If they simply want to ride it out, you should let them do that.


Being a caregiver is hard. With a little bit of patience and a lot of understanding, you should be able to assist your elderly patient in the best possible way. They will most certainly appreciate the time that you take out of your day for them.

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