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The Sequelea of Bed Rest Elderly Patients Lose Muscle Mass at Three Times the Normal Rate

The Sequelea of Bed Rest Elderly Patients Lose Muscle Mass at Three Times the Normal Rate Bed rest serves as a time-honored recommendation for both injury and illness, and it is prescribed more often around flu season (the peak of which ends in March). One of the drawbacks of bed rest is the way it can weaken a patient, especially a geriatric patient. A normal muscle, at complete rest, in the absence of illness, loses up to 15% of its strength each week.1 During bed rest, the first muscles to become atrophied are the trunk and lower extremity muscles involved in gait and upright posture.2 Illness itself can also cause atrophy of the skeletal muscles, over and above the strength losses caused by rest. Your elderly patients prove particularly vulnerable to the negative sequela of rest. Among a test sample of healthy subjects age 67 and older, 10 days of bed rest resulted in more lean tissue loss than 28 days of bed rest caused in younger test subjects.3,4 For patients over the age of 70, bed rest is associated with a major, new disability in one-third of prolonged cases.4,5 Among elderly patients, when the negative effects of bed rest are not addressed assertively, injury or prolonged difficulties become more likely.

Research has found that during periods of bed rest at home, elderly patients tend to spend more time than needed resting in bed or sitting.4 This stems largely from lack of confidence and fear of self-injury inspired by the sudden loss of strength and fitness. After the injury has healed or illness has abated, many elderly patients still experience considerable risks associated with their period of rest. Rate of recovery from disuse weakness is slower than the rate of loss. With intensive exercise, patients take 2.5 times longer than the period of rest to regain lost strength.6 The fact of the matter is that most elderly patients do not engage in intensive exercise after periods of bed rest and are more likely to quietly decrease their daily activities and self-care. Fall injuries, medication errors, and other problems become more likely during the months following bed rest.

Among elderly patients, a recent period of bed rest may be an appropriate trigger for a new evaluation of gait, transfers, and independence with self-care tasks. To prevent injury and promote recovery, home care should be considered. People often think of home care aides as performing tasks for patients. However, the best home care agencies actually emphasize patient engagement in their own self-care functions. Aides trained in assistance with ambulation and transfers give some elderly patients the confidence they need to be more active and to adhere to home exercise recommendations. Home care can be ordered for interim recovery periods for long-term support when newly acquired disabilities do not fully abate.

McKenney Home Care in Naples, FL hosts a Lewy Body Dementia Support Group on the first Wednesday of every month.  This ongoing support group is approved by the Lewy Body Dementia Association in Atlanta and is in affiliation with the Parkinson’s Association of SWFL and the Alzheimer’s Support Network.

McKenney Home Care provides exceptional in-home health services and client-centered care. With a passion for maximizing the quality of life of their clients and their families, they are driven to ensure social engagement and specialty services during all stages of life.

For Individuals with neurodegenerative disorders, McKenney Home Care delivers enriched specialized training for its caregivers working with Dementia Patients. In addition to specialized videos and manuals, McKenney educates the caregivers through the use of the Virtual Alzheimer’s App. This virtual reality experience helps caregivers understand the feelings and experience of those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of Dementia.

Along with their medical expertise, McKenney Home Care is a certified Music & Memory Agency. Providing help for Dementia Patients; this specialized music therapy program is highly personalized and has been shown to reduce the need for anti-anxiety and antipsychotic drugs by up to 50%, while brining joy to the lives of patients who have Dementia.

If you or someone you know would like more information about McKenney Home Care or the LBD Support Group, please call McKenney Home Care at 239-325-2273, or visit

239-325-CARE (2273)
9655 Tamiami Trail North #201
Naples, FL 34108

1. Dittmer D, Teasell R. Complications of immobilization and bed rest – Part 1: musculoskeletal and cardiovascular complications. Can Fam Physician. 1993; 39: 1428-1437.
2. Halar E, Bell K. Rehabilitation’s relationship to inactivity. In: Kottke F, Lehmann J, editors. Krusen’s Handbook of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 4th ed. Philadelphia: WB Saunders Co, 1990: 1113-39.
3. Karinkanta S, Pirrtola M, Sievanen H, et al. Physical therapy approaches to reduce fall and fracture risk among older adults. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2010; 6: 396-407.
4. Brown C, Redden D, Flood K, Allman R. The unrecognized epidemic of low mobility during hospitalization of older adults. Journal of the American Geriatric Society. 2009; 57 (9): 1660-1665.
5. Viccaro L, Parera S, Studenski S. Is timed up and go better than gait speed in predicting health, function, and falls in older adults? J Am Geriatr Soc. 2011; 59 (5): 887-892.
6. Muller E. Influence of training and inactivity on muscle strength. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1970; 51: 449-62.
7. Gaugler JE, Kane RL, Kane RA, Newcomer R. Unmet care needs and key outcomes in dementia. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2005 Dec;53(12):2098-105.

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