Why Do Some Seniors Shuffle When They Walk?

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As seniors age, they often develop mobility problems, which may manifest as a slow, shuffling gait. Mobility issues can be caused by a myriad of factors, ranging from muscle wasting to minor cardiovascular events. If your senior loved one is having difficulty walking, the shuffling gait may be due to the natural aging process, or it may be a sign of something more serious.

Microscopic Strokes

Microscopic strokes are a common cause of impaired mobility in the elderly. These tiny strokes don’t usually show up on standard brain scans, but they damage the blood vessels in the brain. The damage may be slight, but these hardened arteries may have a tangible impact on motor control. In some cases, they can lead to reduced motor coordination, impaired balance, and the slow, shuffling gait associated with seniors. There’s no one way to prevent these tiny strokes, but maintaining good cardiovascular health via diet and exercise can prolong a senior’s mobility.

Overcorrection

For some seniors, a slow, shuffling gait isn’t the result of a cardiovascular event or a significant decrease in musculoskeletal health. Instead, it’s the result of overcorrection. Sometimes after seniors experience a major but not critical fall, they adopt an overly cautious gait. This gait isn’t a natural result of their sensory and motor capacities. It’s their attempt to safeguard against falls. Characterized by a wide base, slow movements, hunched posture, and a reduction in arm swing, an overcautious gait can impair mobility in the long run. If your loved one has recently experienced a fall and has adopted a new gait, he or she may need assistance from a physical therapist. 

Physical therapy often has to be done at home as well as in a medical facility, and a professional caregiver can coordinate with a senior’s medical team to help him or her perform exercises at home safely and as directed. Cedar Falls senior 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.

Impaired Vision

Gait can also be affected by impaired vision. If seniors aren’t confident in their ability to navigate their surroundings, it may result in a slow, shambling walking style. If your loved one has started to use his or her hands more when walking—stopping between steps to reach for nearby objects or people to lean on—it may be a sign that impaired vision is impacting his or her mobility.

Cognitive Decline

Cognitive abilities and gait are intertwined. As impaired vision impacts a senior’s ability to navigate his or her environment, so does the reduction in cognitive control associated with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other cognitive disorders. For seniors to maintain optimal mobility, they need command of their attention, executive functions, and visual-spatial perception. Because varying forms of dementia impact these abilities, they can lead to a slow, awkward gait. 

If your loved one is facing both physical and mental challenges as result of dementia, a trained dementia caregiver can provide tremendous assistance in both areas. For dementia care Cedar Falls families can count on, reach out to Home Care Assistance. Our compassionate caregivers use revolutionary memory care programs to help seniors stave off the progression of dementia, and they can also assist with a wide variety of important everyday tasks, including bathing, grooming, exercise, and cooking.

Musculoskeletal Disorders

For some seniors, gait problems are caused by musculoskeletal disorders, which include joint swelling/arthritis, osteoporosis, kyphosis, and muscle atrophy. While cognitive health helps seniors navigate the world, musculoskeletal health helps them maintain balance, correct their posture, and perform the basic task of putting one foot in front of the other. Regular exercise and a diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, and protein can help seniors boost their musculoskeletal health.

A shuffling gait is a common occurrence in seniors, and it can be related to a variety of health issues. If your loved one’s gait has changed, or if he or she is having other types of mobility issues, a professional caregiver can be of immense benefit. If your loved one needs professional care, Cedar Falls Home Care Assistance is here to help. Call one of our Care Managers today at 319-260-2222.