Caring for an elderly loved one can be a tremendously rewarding experience. It has brought families closer together, and made the last years of someone’s life a positive and joyous time for everyone involved.
But it’s not without its challenges. We could all use advice on how to make it the valuable experience it’s meant to be. Whether you’re a professional caregiver, or simply a family member looking to do the right thing, keep these tips in mind to help both you and your loved one alike.
Tip 1 – Suggest Small Changes
As we age, we tend to get set in our ways. It’s human nature. Suggest small but beneficial changes to lifestyle, such as quitting smoking, eating better, or exercising more. It’s never too late – no matter how old we are – to start living better.
Tip 2 – Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Non-profit organizations and support groups exist for every conceivable challenge, obstacle, and health issue you may encounter.
Perhaps you’re dealing with a parent who has Alzheimer’s disease. Find the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Or maybe you just need senior care advice and support. Whatever guidance you need, it’s out there. Just look for it and ask for help. We’re stronger together.
Tip 3 – Encourage Physical Activity
Too often, we condemn our oldest citizens to living out their remaining years sitting quietly in a chair. They need physical activity just as much as the rest of us. Yes, their abilities may be diminished, but unless they’re dealing with a debilitating condition, they can and should be appropriately active.
The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and at least two strength training session each week for individuals over the age of 65. Just 30 minutes of age and ability appropriate activity each day can have a lasting and positive impact on both physical and mental health. Encourage it. Participate in it. You’ll both be thrilled with the results.
Find out more on target=”_blank”physical fitness for seniors to keep them healthy, happy, and enjoying their golden years. Regular exercise increases stamina, balance, and flexibility, and helps to prevents loss of bone mass.
Tip 4 – Help Them Eat Right
Our dietary requirements change as we get older. If you’re responsible for feeding your loved one, make sure they’re getting everything they need from their diet.
The elderly usually need an increase in fruit and vegetables, as well as fewer snacks, refined carbs, sugar, and sodium.
They need to maintain calcium levels, too. Older adults need about 1,200 mg of calcium a day. The typical adult over the age of 50 should aim for 1-1.5g of lean protein each day for every kilogram of body weight. Make sure they’re getting enough vitamin B12 – it keeps blood and nerves healthy – and vitamin D – our bodies become less efficient at producing it as we age. You can boost the level of both with fortified foods or a vitamin supplement.
Fiber is another important one. It helps with digestion, and women over 50 should get at least 21g per day, while men over 50 should strive for 30g or more. Excellent sources of fiber include whole grains, wheat cereals, beans, nuts, fruit, and vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes.
Finally, don’t allow your loved one to eat alone in their room. Make mealtimes a social occasion to chat and catch-up.
Tip 5 – Create a Safe Environment
Just as we baby-proof our homes to keep our children safe, we often need to take a few precautions when living with an elderly relative. Remove slippery rugs from the floor, ensure adequate lighting throughout, and consider adding handrails in bathrooms and bedrooms as necessary.
Tip 6 – Eliminate Boredom
Prolonged boredom can lead to depression. Do everything possible to encourage your loved one to get involved with various activities. They could volunteer at a local charity, join a bridge or game night club, explore a new hobby, learn a new language. Anything.
You don’t have to fill every minute of every day, but encouraging and supporting their interests will most definitely improve their quality of life. No one wants to sit at home alone day after day, night after night.
Tip 7 – Get Outside
Schedule time outside in the sunshine and fresh air. It does wonders for our mood, our attitude, our health (walking is a great activity), and the sun exposure can help maintain vitamin D levels.
Tip 8 – Take Care of Yourself
This one is very important, but often overlooked. Take time for yourself. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you can’t properly take care of someone else.
Caring for an elderly loved one can be an exhausting, stressful endeavor. You can feel isolated and alone at times. You’re not.
Turn to caregiver websites and groups for support. Make time for your hobbies and interests. Keep yourself healthy and happy so you can better keep them happy and healthy, too.
Tip 9 – Don’t Treat Loved Ones like Helpless Children
There are few things more humiliating than being treated like a child in your senior years. The elderly are not helpless, confused individuals that need to be shielded from decisions and responsibilities. They may have reduced abilities, but whenever possible, keep them involved with decisions that affect them. Ask for their opinion – don’t just tell them what you’ve decided for them – and include them in household responsibilities and chores. They’ve earned that after a lifetime of providing for you.
The decision to look after an elderly loved one is life changing. With proper planning, and the right attitude, it could very well end up the best decision you’ve ever made.