As people age, they are more prone to developing mental and physical health conditions. This is why it’s so important to take measures to keep the elderly’s overall health in check. There are many things you can do to help ensure your loved ones stay healthy as they age. Here are five of the most important ways:
1. Keep them mentally stimulated
Playing games and involving them in mentally-stimulating conversation is the best way to keep the elderly sharp. Such activities can also help prevent Alzheimer’s or dementia in some cases (e.g. those with a family history of such mental conditions).
If your loved one is in a senior home, make sure that they’re getting enough companionship and mental stimulation. And if you can’t visit them as often as you like, consider enrolling your loved one in an activity such as painting, playing cards, or trivia games.
Group activities are usually best and can help extend socialization to those who would otherwise spend too much time alone. You can also try talking to your loved one’s physician about more closely monitoring their mental health.
2. Make sure their diet is balanced and healthy
A well-balanced diet is essential for the elderly, particularly because it will affect their energy levels and immune system. Unfortunately, older adults tend to have a sensitive appetite, which means they may often eat too little or be more prone to developing dietary deficiencies.
At home, encourage your loved ones to stick to a healthy diet. If they’re only eating junk food because it’s easy, you can try to make a deal with them — they eat healthy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and then they can have something sweet for dessert.
If your loved one lives in an assisted living facility or nursing home, you can also work with the professional staff to ensure their dietary needs are being met. So, if they’re not getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals, ask the staff to make adjustments as needed.
3. Encourage them to stay physically active
Prioritizing physical health is even more important in old age, particularly because it can affect both mental processes and the quality of life. This is why it’s important to encourage your loved ones to stay active, whether at home or outdoors.
Although they may be limited by their disabilities or health conditions, there are always ways to encourage your loved ones to exercise in some way. For example, you can encourage them to use their walker in the house or even go for a stroll down the block.
If they like to garden, you can help them develop their small garden and then teach them how to maintain it. This could also be a good bonding activity for small children to get closer to their grandparents. And if they’re up for it, you can sign them up for low-impact classes at the nearest community center or senior rehabilitation facility.
4. Help them get adequate sleep every night
Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as everyone else — between seven and eight hours every night. Unfortunately, due to physical limitations and health conditions, the elderly are often unable to get this recommended amount of sleep.
Some elderly people have trouble sleeping because they’re kept awake by physical pain, stiffness, or even excessive restlessness. If your loved one is having trouble sleeping at night, you could try talking to their physician about giving them a stronger dose of medications during the evening.
You can also help your loved ones get to sleep faster by creating a calm, comfortable environment in their bedroom. This can include dimming the lights, putting on some soft music, and not having any caffeine after dinner.
5. Be there for them and help them maintain independence
As your loved one gets older, you may have to play a bigger part in their lives. You may have to help them with shopping and cooking, get them out of the house, help them bathe, or even provide transportation to and from doctor’s appointments.
If you’re not sure how to help your loved one maintain independence, you can talk to their physician or nurse about how and when they need help, and ask them if there are any community resources you can reach out to.
However, you have to make sure that while you’re always there to assist when needed, you also give them enough space to be their own person. Just make sure to strike a good balance between helping and letting them do things on their own.
If you keep your loved ones active, encourage them to eat healthily, help them get good sleep every night, and ensure they have quality professional care, you can rest easy knowing that they are taking the steps to maintain healthy mental and physical health.