How to help your parents stay independent and healthy in their elder years

by Chatter DC News

As our parents get older, there are many issues to think about when it comes to ensuring that they stay healthy and independent for as long as possible. The prospect of caring for aging parents can seem like a daunting one, so here are some top tips to help you out. The longer that your parents stay fit and healthy for, the longer they can enjoy a life with a reasonable degree of independence. In turn, this makes the task of caring for them easier for you too. So let’s get started.

Encourage them to stay active

Staying physically active is a key part of staying healthy at any age, but it becomes particularly important as we get older. It can reduce the risk of certain health conditions such as stroke and diabetes, boost mood and mental health, plus increase strength and balance. This latter point is vital for preventing falls in the elderly and ensuring that they can continue to live independently. Try encouraging your parents to take regular walks – this has the added bonus of fresh air and a change of scenery – or to take up an active hobby such as gardening. These days many gyms have exercise classes specifically geared towards senior citizens, so that’s another good option. In fact, the social aspect of such classes can be of great benefit in itself.

Get them to eat healthily

Just like with exercise, eating a healthy and balanced diet is important for everyone. As we age, our calorie needs often decrease, but it’s key to ensure that your parents are still consuming all the nutrition that they need. Encourage them to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, drink lots of water, and cut down on sugary drinks and snacks. They should also avoid having too much salt because this can be a risk factor for high blood pressure and heart disease. Some of the key vitamins and minerals that older people need to get enough of include calcium, iron, vitamin C, and vitamin D. Try accompanying your parents on their weekly grocery shop, bringing pre-made dishes over, or helping them to prepare nutritious meals at home. Home delivery services can be another great option.

Make any necessary adjustments around the home

As your parents get older, you may well find that certain activities become more difficult for them. To deal with this, it might be necessary to make some adaptations around the home so that they can retain their independence. For example, you could have handrails installed in the bathtub, a seat put in the shower, or a stairlift on the staircase. Other suggestions include motion sensor nightlights to avoid tripping in the dark, power-assisted rising chairs to help your parents sit down and stand up comfortably and wider internal doors for those who use a wheelchair or walking aid. It may be possible to get some financial assistance for this, so be sure to look into your options.

Address the issue of loneliness

Strong social connections are vital for maintaining good mental health as we age, and social isolation and loneliness are among some of the biggest issues facing older people in the US. According to Blue Angels Hearing, untreated hearing loss increases the risks of social isolation and loneliness. Evidence suggests that these feelings are linked with a higher rate of diseases such as dementia, depression, stroke, and premature death more generally. This will be particularly relevant if you have a parent who lives alone. You can help by visiting as much as possible or keeping in touch via phone or video calls if this isn’t feasible. Another option is to encourage them to socialize by attending classes, hobby groups, coffee mornings, book clubs, or other such events in their local community.

Help them to stay mentally active

As well as staying physically active, it’s also crucial for the health of our brains to stay mentally active as we age. There are lots of activities that can help with this, from specially-designed ‘brain training’ games and puzzles to everyday things such as reading. If you can, encourage your parents to take part in a wide range of mentally stimulating hobbies. This could be as simple as doing the daily crossword in the newspaper or going out to art galleries, or more intensive options like learning a new language or playing a musical instrument. These kind of activities can help to stave off forgetfulness and other memory problems related to aging, as well as boost concentration and attention span.

Be alert to any problems or changes

One of the difficulties about caring for elderly relatives is that we don’t necessarily have all the facts. Sometimes parents are reluctant to worry their children by telling them about deteriorations in their health or problems they are having around the house. It’s important, therefore, to be vigilant to these issues when you visit and have open and honest conversations about the situation at all times. That will make it easier for you to determine when the time has come that your parents can no longer live independently and instead need to move to a dedicated facility such as Belmont Village Senior Living, where they can be assisted by professionals and enjoy a higher quality of life.

Ensure they visit the physician regularly

Very few of us visit the doctor as often as we should, but as with many of the topics we’ve discussed, this also becomes more important with age. Try to ensure that your parents are getting regular health checkups from their physician, as well as attending eye tests and other medical appointments as and when necessary. This is because the earlier that problems are discovered, the better the chance is of a treatment being successful. If your relative has a specific health condition, it might also be wise to ensure they always wear a medical bracelet detailing the relevant information. Another option is to get an emergency button they can wear around their neck, meaning they can always call for help if they have a fall or something similar. Your parents’ physician can offer more advice where needed.


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