How to Help Your Parents Age Healthily
September 13 2022
9 Geriatric Care Tips to Help Improve the Well-being of Seniors
As we age, there are a lot of changes in our life and in our bodies. This means that seniors may need to alter their lifestyle to remain healthy.
These changes can include dietary changes, additional dental check-ups, more doctor visits, new medications, or chronic illnesses. But these are only some of the changes that you might experience as one ages.
As a family caregiver, this can be a lot to juggle. It can be easy to set your own health aside as you focus on your parents. Because of this, it is important to understand and be aware of the health requirements of your aging parents, especially if they have a chronic illness.
Why Health Living is Key
While those with a healthier lifestyle during their younger years tend to stay healthy in their golden years, sometimes you can still fall ill or develop a new chronic illness that can change everything. For those that weren’t as healthy when they were younger, it’s never too late to start learning to live a healthier lifestyle.
Good habits make all the difference for seniors, no matter their current health condition. Here are 9 geriatric care tips to improve the overall well-being and health of your elderly parents.
1 | Healthy Diet
Maintaining a healthy diet is essential for any age, but particularly for seniors. As you age, the digestive system slows down, making it necessary to eat foods that are high in fiber and vitamins. Some examples of these foods include veggies, fruits, and whole grains. Adding fiber can also help lower the risk of major health issues, such as heart disease or stroke.
Staying hydrated is also part of a healthy diet. As we age, we generally feel less thirsty, making seniors prone to dehydration. Make sure that your loved one stays well hydrated to keep their energy up and to also avoid constipation and urinary infections.
If your loved one is experiencing a lack of appetite, be sure to talk to your loved one’s doctor to address any underlying conditions.
2 | Preventative Care
Preventative care can help detect a serious diagnosis. Preventive care includes regular doctor visits as well as health screenings. Other preventative measures include receiving regular vaccinations for the flu and pneumonia. Also ensure that your parents are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines.
3 | Be in the Know on Meds
Your parents may take quite a few medications and it is key that you review each prescription with their doctor on a regular basis. Ask about possible side effects and drug interactions, making note of any new symptoms or side effects your loved one may experience. For emergencies, such as a severe allergic reaction, call 911. Make sure to verify the medication received from the pharmacy is correct and, if necessary, help your parents organize their medication and encourage them to take their medications on time.
4 | Healthy Sleep Schedule
Insomnia and frequent waking is common among seniors. Despite this, it is still important to maintain a healthy and regular sleep schedule. Healthy sleep hygiene includes:
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (sets internal clock)
- Taking naps during the day
- Avoiding alcohol or caffeine in the evening
- Creating a bedtime routine, such as dimming the lights to spur drowsiness
- Creating a cool, comfortable, and quiet bedroom
5 | Cognitive Stimulation
Brain and cognitive health is just as important as physical health. Unfortunately, cognitive abilities often decline as we age. Seniors can keep their minds sharp through various games and puzzles (like crosswords), reading, and keeping up with or trying new hobbies. Not only does it stimulate their minds, but hobbies can also help your parents engage with their surroundings.
6 | Combating Social Isolation
Aging means that it’s harder to get out and socialize with family and friends. Feelings of isolation can occur, which can lead to depression, lower self-esteem, and decreased stress management abilities. Staying social can combat isolation and ward off mental health issues as well as inflammation triggered by stress-related diseases.
To help your parents stay connected and social, help them attend a senior center or schedule visits with family and friends. Such visits can leave them feeling more positive, which is a potent form of medicine!
7 | Get Physical
Exercise increases in importance as we age, helping us maintain a healthy weight and decrease chances of developing a chronic health problem. Regular exercise can also make it easier for seniors to complete daily living activities as they age. Be sure to speak with their health care professional about an exercise regime that best suits their needs. Encourage them to stick with it; participating with them can help!
8 | Hand Hygiene
Any kind of infection or illness can hit seniors harder. Encourage your parents to keep up with good hand hygiene by washing their hands on a regular basis. This is the first line of defense against germs and viruses. Proper hand washing techniques should be used. Also remind your parents to avoid touching their face, especially their nose, mouth, and eyes. Surfaces in the home should be disinfected regularly and when unable to wash your hands, be sure to use hand sanitizer.
9 | Stress Management
Chronic stress increases the body’s production of the hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol can disrupt many bodily functions, including the immune system. Help your loved one learn to better manage stress by using these tips and techniques:
- Good sleep hygiene
- Enjoying a hobby
- Enjoying a quiet activity such as reading or walking
- Learning to set reasonable expectations for yourself
- Using deep breathing or meditation techniques
By living a healthy lifestyle, your parents can reduce their risk for infections and chronic illness. It keeps them flexible and able to complete many of their daily living tasks, giving them more freedom and independence. It can also help them stay social and positive about life. By following these tips, they will be able to enjoy their later years more and live a full and happy life!