How to get parent to move more

Hi, my 82 yo Mum lives alone, in the same village as me thankfully. She is VERY sedentary - every time we pass her house she is sitting in her chair. She does have back pain and arthritis. Normally she would be driving to about 4 different groups a week and so more active. Clearly lockdown has meant that this is not possible and so she has lost any movement she used to have. I should have been more proactive in getting her to move but it is difficult as she needs there to be a purpose to do it. She doesn’t just move for the sake of it, or for general health upkeep. Doesn;t seem to see the need! A month ago she was admitted to hospital with pneumonia and 6 different complications. This was a worrying time. She is now back at home and has some reablement on the NHS (mixed success) and also I put in place some private care, partly to encourage her to move more (maybe a ‘neutral’ carer would be more successful in persuasion?) and to help her keep her house cleaner and less cluttered. She doesn’t do any housework. That care has only just started so I can;t comment on any progress but she does still seem to sit in her chair all the time. She doesn’t have any dementia (although there was talk of that briefly during the hospital stay due to delirium, but that has now passed.) My husband is nagging me (rightly so) to get her moving - perhaps by suggesting two very cluttered rooms are sorted out as an alterative place to sit and do things. One is a conservatory so ideal for a nice outlook on her pleasant small garden Have you tried getting a stubborn lady to do that, widowed for 25 years and very used to her ways?!? There’s always an excuse, an answer to shoot me down. I’m exhausted by that and it is a source of stress to me. I understand I need to do something (I have no siblings to support me) but how? How do I sow the seeds that moving is good and necessary for preventing another fortnight in hospital? I can see her point of view - you’re coming into my house and telling me what to do/ how to live/ what things I can and can’t have lying around. How do I do this without becoming an interfering daughter in her eyes (because I actually CARE, in my husband and my eyes!!) Thank you Cath

Honestly, you won’t. It’s mum’s life, her choice. You’ve never been that age, but I suspect the motivation isn’t there. Don’t even think about the clutter.
I tried for 30 years to change mum, never worked, frustrated me beyond words, took a year to empty her house after going into residential care. She could have ended her days at home if she’d let me arrange for the main bedroom to be emptied, fitted with an ensuite. Steadfast refusal. So instead her last year was in a nursing home and she hated every minute.
Don’t even try! It’s like trying to persuade an alcoholic to give up drink.

Oh, that’s a bit depressing. I went round just now and asked her to come and look at the fridge contents with me so we could make a shopping list. She did under duress, and whilst we were sitting there I started to just go very pragmatically through the clutter on the kitchen table and we even threw some stuff out. I could tell she didn’t see the need, but I made the excuse that it was curbing my Spring cleaning addiction (that’s a lie.) I am hoping that, when I’ve gone, she might actually like a kitchen table that’s not full of crap and might even appreciate my efforts…and then on the the next pile and so on. I don;t know. At least I’ll know I’ve done my best but am I doing it for her or me (or my husband?)

Hi Cath and welcome,

Our Mum is similar although her rooms aren’t so cluttered that they can’t be used. When I read the start of your first post, I thought my sister had taken my advice and joined the forum!

We are hoping that come Spring and Summer she will start driving again and return to her various church activities. Like your Mum she lacks motivation and she has also lost confidence.


Hi Cath

People who surrounded themselves with things. Usually, have a valid reason/s for it. It can be connected to loss or losing control or staying in control. It’s the only thing left they feel able to have a say in.

Our home is the safe place that we make. Have a think if someone can into your home. And started to tell you how to organise your home/life. If your Mum is not in any danger and/or at risk. And is happy to live this way. It’s her choice.

Sure, but given that she was admitted to hospital with a lung issue, I would have thought that a de-clutter would lead to easier cleaning and elimination of dust which could aggravate the condition? If the rooms are clearer, it might encourage her to use them more and therefore move a bit more in the house. That would be a side-benefit. I appreciate the views and yes I would not be that happy with someone changing the way I live. That’s why it isn’t easy. I’m just hoping it might give a more positive outlook - surely that’s worth pursuing for a time and if it’s not wanted then I’ll step away. At least I’ll know I’ve tried.

Hi Cath, Would your mum consider getting a dog? That would certainly get her moving! The dog would need to go for walks every day and would need to be go in and out of the garden.

Hi, unfortunately no, that’s not an option. A shame as would be good company as well.

Cath - your mum is probably a bit depressed due to the Covid restrictions. It is really unfair that your mum has had her group activities taken away from her. Those frequent social events were very important to her and I reckon she misses them very much. Life must seem rather boring stuck at home all the time.
My advice is to try to bring some fun/happiness into her life. I know it’s not easy with so many places closed, but think about what she would like doing at home with you. If she likes singing you could put some songs on YouTube or would she like playing cards or board games?
Alternatively you could possibly get a dvd of exercises for older ladies and do the exercises with her. If she sees you enjoying the exercises she is more likely to join in. There are exercises now such as ‘chair yoga’ that she might like.
Hope this helps.

Karen I agree. Will try. The neighbour (just had a hip operation but working hard to rehab) saw me today and also offered to walk Mum up and down the street. This was met with negativity from Mum but it was/is such a kind offer. I think it would be good. ‘What’s the harm in trying?’, I’ll ask her.

Bit shocked that she’s had no medical follow-up from the hospital - except a chest xray. What she needs is professional Physio/OT advice on moving to help her fitness and breathing. Is there a route I can go to get this actioned? She had OT and physio i the hospital - I would have thought they’d ensure it was kept up?