As I write to you this month, it is such joy to celebrate the Fall Season with you. I imagine during the summer months that some of your days were really busy, drawing upon your energy reserves. I also imagine that some of you mayhave experienced rehabilitation services over the summer, to engage in functional and strengthening exercise programs to increase your independent activities of daily living. Along with being busy and maybe engaging in strengthening and exercise programs, you may have integrated strategies to help you conserve your energy. the day, but also as you planned for days ahead.
Strategies to conserve your energy are really important, and actually is a common fall prevention strategy. Why? Because falls can occur due to fatigue, over-exertion, and weakness, resulting in changes in your strength, mobility and balance.
Energy Conservation(EC) is a clinical program usually individualized to those in need by physical and occupational therapists and rehabilitation nurses. Energy conservation strategies are an integral component of all fall prevention programs (Elliott & Leland, 2018).
Energy conservation refers to the way activities can be done to minimize muscle fatigue, joint stress and pain (Duke University, Department of Physical and Occupational Therapy). Through education to conserve energy, individuals learn to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) in a sequential way so that individuals, you can save your energy, be less frustrated by your feelings of weakness and have enough energy to get through your day and your days ahead.
Energy Conservation Resources
Anticipating that you may need help to maximize your strategies to conserve your energy, I researched resources for your easy access so that you can learn to integrate EC principles and techniques into your daily living.
Duke University’s Department of Physical & Occupational Therapy has just the information that I was looking for to help you. The guiding principles are: Organization, Balance Rest and Activity, and Work Simplification.For each guiding principle, they offer techniques as actions that you can implement, available here, when together will help you to conserve your energy.
For the purposes of this message, I’d like to highlight several of their simple actions you can take. As you plan for your day or the next day, review your planned activities to combine tasks and activities that eliminate redundancy, extra efforts, that are not necessary. This organization helps you to set priorities and plan ahead. Such an example from my experience is getting dressed. Just the act of getting dressed can exert a lot of energy and has lots of steps. To conserve energy, place all the clothes that you will wear next to your bed or chair, that you can reach while in a sitting position. While in a seated position, put on your lower body clothes, including socks and shoes. Pull your underwear and pants/shorts/skirt up over your knees. Then put on your upper body clothes, all while seated! When ready, stand-up once, and complete dressing, pulling up your lower body clothes and adjusting your upper body clothes, all with standing only once. Think about the energy you are saving with rising to a standing position by needing only one time to pull all your clothes, eliminating multiple standing up and sitting down maneuvers as well as trips to get your clothes.This basic change to one activity of daily living, getting dressed for the day, is modified and simplified to conserve your energy. You can save a lot of energy by such planning, organization, dressing simplification, increasing your safety while dressing.
Other simple actions are balancing rest and activity, which allows you to pace yourself, and rest before you get tired. You can plan activities when you feel your best, but not over exert yourself, again, allowing yourself to rest, lying down rather than napping in a chair. Work simplification techniques help you to modify, cancel or delegate activities to others such as housework, laundry, or simplify how you do things, like the dressing activity that I mentioned above.
University of CaliforniaSan Francisco Health (UCSFH) also has information that I hope will be helpful to you – Tips for Conserving your Energy, available here. While their EC program is designed for persons living with cancer who have extreme fatigue, many of their suggestions complement those stated above. For example, their activity of daily living energy saving techniques expand suggestions to include sitting down whenever possible, such as when bathing and drying, using extension handles on sponges and brushes, and minimizing leaning over to put clothes and shoes on so that you do not lose your balance and fall over. Other suggestions are to sit while ironing, doing housework whenever possible, taking your rest periods, and of course, stop working or doing activities before you get overly tired.
They suggested as well to put a chair in places that allow for rest stops, if space always. One area where I have recommended an extra chair is in bathrooms, if space allows, rather than use of the toilet seat, as most toilets are low. Remember, chairs with armrests are preferred so you have support to sit down on and stand up from the chair. UCSFH has many other actions that may help you conserve your energy. I hope that you will take time to review their suggestions, and determine which suggestions seem feasible for you to integrate into your lifestyle and your daily activities.
EC Effectiveness Among Thosewith COPC
Some EC programs are developed for specific populations, such as those living with cancer (UCSFH), multiple sclerosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Just last year, researchers from a university in Sweden published the results of their study with 32 individuals living with severe COPD, who completed a 2-week EC training program, were better able to complete standard activities of daily living, even though they had lower oxygen levels and more difficulty breathing (Wingârdh, Göransson, et al, 2020). They learned techniques and activities to complete ADLs with reduced energy expenditures. The activities that were tested with energy saving techniques included making a bed, hanging up laundry, putting on and off trousers, stockings and shoes, preparing a cup of instant soup, and baking a sponge cake. Unique to these individuals was they also required specific breathing techniques due to their COPD. Key energy conservation techniques were pacing and redesigned activity performance techniques, as we previously discussed.
In summary, ladies and gentlemen, energy conservation principles and techniques are beneficial for all persons who have decreased functional activity tolerance, chronic illnesses, or have been hospitalized. There are many energy conservation recommendations and tips that can be used during all activities of daily living, such as prioritizing, pacing, planning, and modifying your body positions. Don’t forget assistive devices!. Assistive devices (i.e., stocking aids, long-handled shoe horns, long-handle reachers) can also help with eliminating bending and energy expenditures.
I hope this information is helpful to you, knowing that falls can be prevented by conserving your energy and integrating EC techniques that reduce fatigue and weakness and increase safety during ADLs.
Your Harmony Team and Healthcare Providers are dedicated to your health, wellness, function and safety, and reducing your risk for falls.
Stay strong, active, safe, and connected with your healthcare team.
Your Harmony Team is here to help you!
Thank you for reading this message and in advance for sharing with others.
Elliott, S., & Leland, N.E. Occupational therapy fall prevention interventions for community-swelling older adults: A systematic review.The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72(3): 7204190040p1-10.
Energy Conservation. Duke University. Department of Physical and Occupational Therapy. Accessed Sept 29, 2021. Available: here.
University of California San Francisco (UCSF). Health. Patient Education. Tips for Conserving Your Energy. Accessed September 29, 2021. Available: here.