Reduced grip strength is a known indicator of weakness for seniors.
If you research grip strength testing for seniors, you will find there are many common diagnoses that may correlate with grip strength testing as indicators of fall risk, fracture risk, mortality, etc. Grip strength can be an indicator of overall strength and wellness, fitness and health, for seniors. I love that grip strength testing is an easy way to add objective data for a more thorough patient assessment.
The strength of a healthy grip is also important for functional activities, and to help seniors remain independent. We utilize our gripping ability frequently throughout the day, for a variety of self care and activities of daily living: opening medication bottles, opening jars of food, toothpaste caps, shampoo bottles, dishes, cleaning, dressing…. Although many items are available to accommodate pain and weakness (and we should use them when needed, to protect our joints), it is always beneficial to use our own muscles as much as possible, to maintain or even continue to build strength.
Occupational Therapists are vital to help patients improve safety through education and exercise.
Occupational therapists have a vital role in helping keep seniors independent and safe. I have often seen their expertise overlooked by patients and other professionals. If a patient has safety issues or weakness, I frequently request orders for an occupational therapist evaluation. They are able to collaborate with me for home set up and safety, arm and hand strength for maximizing function, balance education and training, followthrough with exercises, self care and medication organization, safety with memory strategies, etc! If your patient (or parent) has grip weakness, consider discussing it with a clinician, to see if they would benefit from an OT evaluation.
10 grip strengthening tips and activities with house hold tools or specialized equipment to use:
Always follow your health professional’s recommendations, and seek their input if you have any concerns.
1)Perform exercises and activities in a “neutral” or midline wrist position, not flexed or extended.
2)Start out with easy repetitions and increase slowly. Do not push exercise through pain.
3)Make shapes with playdough/(affiliate link) therapy putty (variety of strength, reusable, lasts longer):
4)Color in coloring books/(affiliate link) coloring books for seniors (larger picture, appropriate items):
5)Use colored Pencils / (affiliate link) colored pencils for seniors (glide on color making it easier to see results):
6)Squeeze and pinch a squishy ball/(affiliate link) ergonomic stress ball (better wrist alignment):
7)Use a grip exerciser/(affiliate link) cushioned grip exerciser (with soft protective layer):
8)If you have difficulty opening jars, protect your joints and use a (affiliate link) grip assist.
9)For difficulty with controlling (affiliate link) utensils, if you make the grip larger, it may be less painful or easier to control.
10)You can apply this concept to other items such as toothbrushes, razors, etc. with (affiliate link) foam tubes.
Protecting and keeping our wrists and hands strong is imperative to maintaining our independence as we age. It is so easy to overlook the importance of our grip strength. However, we will benefit greatly to follow through with protecting and strengthening our helpful hands!
What do you think? I would love to hear what tips or tools you use to strengthen or assist gripping activities!
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