Seniors who can’t get around like they used to may turn to the internet for their social activities. Websites like Facebook and services like Twitter help give seniors that social interaction where they might otherwise feel alone and isolated. This usually leads to a lot of time at the keyboard. To help avoid repetitive stress syndrome, remember what your mother told you growing up, and apply it to your in home care plan.
“Sit up straight!”
Mom was definitely right about this one. Sitting up straight, not slouching, can be very difficult if you’re at your computer for long periods of time. Muscles want to relax, not remain in a rigidly upright position. As they relax, however, they start to put strain on tendons as your whole frame relaxes. This, in turn, leads to inflammation. If you notice Mom or Dad hunching over at the keyboard, try to find a way to make it easier for them to sit upright. Sometimes a wireless keyboard will do the trick as it allows the user to recline instead of having to lean forward to meet the desk.
“Don’t sit so close to the TV!”
While sitting too close to the monitor can lead to eye trouble, having the computer and peripheral equipment properly placed can help reduce over-stressing muscles and tendons. Laptops are particularly problematic as they are often placed on the lap. This makes a user’s head tip down so they can see the screen and keyboard. This puts unnecessary strain at the neck and shoulders. If they’re resting their arms on the arms of the chair, their elbows will also feel it. Be sure to place peripherals where they can be comfortably reached while maintaining a healthy posture. Use speech recognition software or other adaptive technology to help.
“You’ve been sitting there too long! Go outside and play!”
Taking a break from repetitive tasks is important. It keeps them from being, well, repetitive. If a person has limited movement, they can still take a break by doing anything that doesn’t put them back in front of the monitor. For example, they can get a snack and eat it someplace else. If they eat it in front of the computer, they’re probably going to be too tempted to keep doing what they had been doing.
If they can’t easily get way from the computer, introduce them to other activities that don’t use the same action. For example, if they’ve been doing a lot of “point-and-click”, suggest they open an eBook or go to a heavily text-based website and read. (Wikipedia has a “random article button”. While user-generated content may have accuracy issues, it’s at least entertaining if not educational!)
“Clean up your room! It looks like a disaster!”
Keeping the computer area free of clutter will give them room to stretch and to move around. Being encased in stuff can make a person inadvertently start to hunch down and keep them from moving easily. This can keep a person from taking much-deserved breaks.
“Relax, it’s not the end of the world!”
Even if the computer area is well-organized and free of clutter, they take regular breaks, and get away from the screen once in a while, they can still have problems with Repetitive Stress Syndrome. Why? Repetitive stress in day-to-day life can keep a person tense and wound up. This steady pressure on your muscles will cause damage to your muscles and tendons as well as your state of mind.
Learning how to prioritize concerns and how to cope with situations that can’t be controlled is paramount to good health. According to Statistic Brain, more than 3 quarters of the US population has regular stress, with more than half suffering mentally and/or physically from it. By learning how to cope with stress, whether through a therapist or simple relaxation techniques, they’ll not only better avoid repetitive stress syndrome, but may also discover a healthier lifestyle!
RSS’s Other Names
Repetitive Stress Syndrome goes by many names: bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, Dupuytren’s contracture, epicondylitis, ganglion, rotator cuff syndrome, tendonitis (or tendinitis), tenosynovitis, trigger finger, or writer’s cramp. Whichever form you have, it’s not pleasant at all. It’s very uncomfortable and can be very damaging if left untreated.
Mom was right
She was either your best friend, or she was a creature from another planet. Whether she gave you these tips as gentle nudges or as thundering commands from on high, the fact is that these simple things can help reduce anyone’s chances for developing Repetitive Stress Syndrome, especially seniors. If they have done all of these things and continue to have problems with pain, tingling, numbing, or weakness, they should see a doctor. They might be able to get away with anti-inflammatory medication or a heat pack. But if it’s a more developed stage of Repetitive Stress Syndrome, the doctor will know what is needed to treat it.
For more help and resources in taking care of your elderly loved ones at home, contact us.
And if you hear your mom saying “I told you so!”, just admit she was right on this one!