Diminishing independence can affect seniors and caregivers alike as adjustments are made to keep mom and dad healthy at home for as long as possible. But with planning and prevention, your loved ones can maintain their homes and lives well into their golden years. Here are some tips for promoting the independence of your loved ones.
“Use it or lose it” is a common saying in the healthcare profession, and staying physically fit can greatly benefit senior independence. This doesn’t mean strenuous hours running on treadmills or lifting weights; it simply involves staying active. For instance, your loved one’s doctor might recommend walking, which is a great cardio workout that’s low impact and easy on older bones. You might even commit to walking with your parents for your own fitness as you spend quality time catching up with each other.
Along with exercise, good nutrition is crucial to staying physically healthy. Make sure your senior loved one’s refrigerator and pantry are stocked with healthy food choices, and if they aren’t, find out why. Is it because she can’t afford quality food, or is she having trouble with food preparation and needs some assistance?
The phrase “use it or lose it” applies to the mind as well as the body. You can find online brain exercises designed to help keep the mind fit, but if your parent is resistant to new technology, he may enjoy low-tech activities such as crossword puzzles or games of strategy such as cards. He might also enjoy taking classes to learn a complex activity such as dancing, where memorizing the steps and matching your partner’s movements helps keep the mind sharp. ADDitude recommends physical activities such as tennis or yoga to work the mind and body together.
Also check to make sure your loved one is getting adequate sleep and isn’t being kept up at night by medical conditions such as frequent urination or sleep apnea. If he complains of being unable to sleep well, make sure his doctor is aware of the problem and addresses the underlying symptoms interfering with sleep.
Learning to Adapt
Declining with age is a common experience, and learning to adapt to any changes in function becomes a key skill in maintaining senior independence. Pill boxes help seniors manage medications, for example, and if a conventional medication box isn’t enough assistance, consider an automated medication-dispensing device.
Physical helpers such ramps, lift chairs, and walkers with seats that allow seniors to sit down and rest as needed also help extend senior independence. Another example of adaptation is to ensure that if your loved one uses a wheelchair, she has access to a lower table or counter surface so that she can still sit during meal preparation or other tasks.
One of the biggest threats to senior independence is falling. A broken hip can have devastating long-term effects on independence and overall health, so make sure that pathways stay clear in your loved one’s home, and remove any tripping hazards such as loose rugs or cords. Installing safety bars and using bath benches can also greatly reduce fall risk.
Even with the best planning, falls can still happen, so plan ahead for that possibility. This is one place where going high tech can maximize safety. Make sure seniors have a medical alert system such as Philips GoSafe, which your loved one can use on the go as well as at home.
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