Have you been watching your loved one struggle to get up or down stairs? Or are you the one having difficulty walking up or down a flight of stairs? Difficulty climbing stairs is a red flag for progressing functional decline. If you are having difficulty on the stairs, you want to make sure you discuss this with your physician.

Most people believe that having trouble climbing steps or walking is a normal part of aging. The change is often a slow process, so they do not even think about discussing it with their doctor. Sometimes they have even been told that functional decline is a normal part of aging and to get used to it.

MedlinePlus posted an article about research and recommendations from Dr. Cynthia Brown, MD, of the division of gerontology, geriatrics and palliative care at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She noted that mobility problems are an early sign of impending functional decline in seniors, which can affect their ability to live independently.

Dr. Brown published a study along with Dr. Kellie Flood titled “Mobility Limitation in the Older Patient: a Clinical Review” in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study consisted of a review of articles on assessing mobility limitation and interventions in community-dwelling older adults. They found the most common risk factors for mobility impairment were older age, low physical activity, obesity, strength or balance impairment, and chronic diseases such as diabetes or arthritis.

Dr. Brown recommended that primary care doctors ask their older adult patients two questions to determine their risk factors for functional decline.

For health or physical reasons:

1) Do you have difficulty climbing up 10 steps or walking a quarter-mile?

2) Have you modified the way you climb 10 steps or walk a quarter-mile?

What can you take from this?

If the answer to either one of these questions is “yes” for you or your loved one, make sure you bring this awareness to your physician’s attention. You may be thinking: “Well what can my doctor do about it?” He can make the appropriate referrals to physical therapy. The doctor will also make sure you have the appropriate assistive device for walking and climbing stairs.

You want you and your loved ones to stay healthy, independent, and safe to live in your own homes as long as possible. Please do not be afraid to mention your limitations to the doctor. Do Not Wait. Waiting will just make it that much harder and longer to regain your functional ability.  Waiting too long may make it impossible for you to regain your independence.

I know that arthritis and other health conditions can play a part in someone’s ability to walk and climb stairs. These things can be addressed by the doctor and by a physical therapist. We are here to help you stay healthy and active. Please allow us to help you better by keeping us informed.

Happy Day! Here’s to Moving Forward in Life with Ease and Confidence!