Activity professionals at senior living communities spend every day creating ways for residents to get up and moving. Social engagement through exercise is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle for older adults, but how is it possible to do so while protecting them from COVID-19 exposure risks?  A few simple steps and exercises not only can keep residents moving but also will help them avoid potentially life-threatening health conditions that can arise from a more sedentary lifestyle.

In particular, thrombosis is a formation of a blood clot in a blood vessel that can affect anyone, regardless of age, ethnicity or race. Once formed, a clot can slow or block normal blood flow and even break loose and travel to an organ. Thrombosis often is a preventable underlying cause of heart attack, thromboembolic stroke or venous thromboembolism (VTE), the top three cardiovascular killers.

Adults aged 60 or more years have a greater risk of developing VTE, especially if they are inactive. This a crucial time for executive directors, health and wellness directors and activity directors to ensure that residents stay physically active and take preventive steps, while still adhering to physical distancing recommendations.

These simple points can have significant positive effects:

  1. Implement hourly walk breaks. Help residents set alarms on their watches, timers, computers, or phones for five minutes before every hour. Encourage them to use that five minutes to get up from the couch or chair, if possible, to walk around or even to do stretching exercises.  
  2. Know the symptoms and signs. Ensure that residents know about VTE and what to be on the lookout for. Any persistent new pain or tenderness in the leg, leg swelling, redness or red streaks in the legs, or cramping in the calf that spreads are possible symptoms. They aren’t always all present. Advise those in your community that if any of these signs occur, they should contact a healthcare professional immediately.
  3. Try chair exercises while sitting. Have residents exercise their legs while sitting by raising and lowering their heels while keeping their toes on the floor. Another exercise for them is to raise and lower their toes while keeping their heels on the floor, and tightening and releasing leg muscles. 
  4. Stay hydrated. Dehydration causes blood vessels to narrow and blood to thicken, increasing the risk for blood clots. Make sure residents have a water bottle handy at all times.

One in four people worldwide dies from conditions caused by thrombosis. It’s a startling fact that as many as 900,000 people in the United States alone have VTE each year. By implementing these easy-to-follow tips and ideas, senior living residents can significantly reduce their VTE risk while still protecting themselves from potential COVID-19 exposure.

It’s important for older adults to talk to their healthcare providers about their risks associated with VTE. A VTE risk assessment should be conducted if hospitalization or surgery occurs, and if a senior is not already taking an anticoagulant, then his or her doctor may prescribe one, especially if the resident tests positive for COVID-19.