As older adults come to need help from paid or informal caregivers, the health changes that necessitate this assistance often mean they have fewer opportunities for physical activity. This lack of activity can then contribute to increasing frailty and other negative health outcomes. A recent pilot study sought to address the problem by training paid home care aides (HCAs) to deliver physical activity interventions to care recipients who had difficulty walking or performing daily activities.
The intervention lasted four months, and involved 54 older adults and 46 HCAs. The HCAs were trained to implement the Healthy Moves for Aging Well Program, which is designed for older adults with two to four limitations in activities of daily living. The HCAs were taught three chair-bound exercises and a “motivational enhancement” component in which the care recipients set personally meaningful goals related to the exercises.
The average length of each Healthy Moves session administered by HCAs was 27 minutes, and the older adults were asked to perform the three exercises (arm curls, ankle point and flex, and seated step-in-place) every day. On the days that the HCA visited, the HCA reminded their client of their personal goals and routines.
Following this four-month program, the care recipients showed statistically significant improvements on two separate measures of daily activity function. Clients also showed statistically significant improvements in performing each of the exercises that made up Healthy Moves and reported significantly more exercise-related support from their HCAs. They reported high levels of satisfaction with the Healthy Moves program, and 70 percent said they were highly motivated to continue following the intervention period.
Based on this promising pilot study, further research is warranted, both with larger populations of HCAs and their clients as well as with other paid and unpaid caregivers and their care recipients.