Monday, January 21, 2013


As you hit 80s years old and the great beyond,  chances are you have found that one chair,… 
the favorite chair; it just might be this one, as it is for most of my patients , The Lazy boy. 

This is the one where the mechanical controls are conveniently placed at your fingertips;  Press a button and the chair tilts you up to almost perfectly vertical. Press another button and down you go, and another button;  your lower limbs are lifted up and within seconds you are in a full recline or a modified lying down mode. The next step is most always the lazy-ing around mode.

 Your needs by your trusty “strong” side:  remote control, medications, a beverage,  and a caregiver who will bring you lunch on a TV Tray.
 Then…one day  BINGO, …you are down for the count. You are no longer just relaxing….no it is worse, you have become part of the furniture. That ubiquitous Lazy boy recliner has done it once again: expedited Natures Gravitational pull to NOT GETTING UP... The recliner has seduced you in all its soft upholstered splendor.

When Lazy boy created this chair in the early 70’s its motto was: “Nature’s way of Relaxing.”  As a physical therapist trying to help people maintain  muscle mass, mobility   strength and independence for as long as possible; I say: “Boy oh boy Nature’s way of leaving your body so relaxed it can quickly turn to mush.

Please understand I have nothing against comfort. Remember the three bears?  We all know when someone has been sleeping in OUR bed… our bed alone that cradles  our own bodies smooth curves and rough ridges. 

I am talking about daytime beds!  I am saying DO NOT USE this mechanized chair till you absolutely cannot scoot forward, till you absolutely cannot bend forward, till you absolutely cannot use your arms to push off from a seated position, till you absolutely cannot weight bear too long on either of your legs, till your pain from any number of ailments has left you dependent.

I have become good at the quick scan of the furniture landscape of my patients homes. The fall risks are everywhere.  Is it the all- too- low sofas that nobody can get up from anymore, is it the chairs without arms still surrounding the dining room table, the too high bed or the need for rails by the bed, the toilet seat with no grab bars nearby. 
Many folks  end up living surrounded by the desert of abandoned furniture. But, there in the middle of a livingroom or bedroom is the almightly Lazy Boy to save the day. The kingpin of seating. “

“Lets start by seeing how you get up” I say. The patient takes a ride up as the chair perches forward to the sound of its electronic murmur until it comes to a vertical halt.

“Very good. Now lets try this again using your very own motor power: your arms and legs.”

I take them thru the paces that was once so automatic and yet now they are hanging on my every word:

“Scoot  forward in the chair as  far as possible, hold both hands on the arms of the chair,,, now lean forward and get your nose over your toes, now push off, straighten your knees and look up.. you are UP! Now breathe.”

When we are babies, everything in our motor cortex is conspiring to get us up.  From rolling to crawling to kneeling, to the final triumphant standing and walking. Its the autonomic  nervous system creating billions of neural pathways to get us going. 
In our elder years, It is our memory we have to re-awaken to relearn to stand, to sit, to walk, to turn around, to climb a stair, the many basic patterns of movement  this time with slight revisions.

Next time you are in the furniture store, Do the physical therapist a favor. Buy yourself what is comfortable, but please bypass the Lazy Boy.  I will be the first to cheer you onward and upward  when you can stand alone. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this and agree with much enthusiasm. Resist the sinister leather theft of functional independence known as the Lazy Boy. It aint called lazy for nothin!