If you have older family members or loved ones, you may worry a lot about their health as they grow older. As people age, the chances of developing chronic illnesses like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and dementia increase. The good news is that establishing and continuing some important habits can help elderly individuals live longer and healthier lives. As a family member, it’s crucial to motivate healthy lifestyle choices in your loved ones – it’s never too late to begin!
Even simple changes in diet and activity level can improve health and well-being as people get older. Remind your loved one’s that making healthy choices now will pay off in the future by helping them stay independent longer and live with less difficulties as they age. Your encouragement and support can motivate them to adopt healthier routines that will improve both their duration and quality of life. So reach out, offer to go on walks together or cook a nutritious meal – every little bit helps and will be appreciated. The more older adults establish healthy habits, the more it can help combat age-related health issues.
Prevent social isolation and loneliness
Poor health, the death of a partner, caring for a loved one, and other situations that are more likely as people age can all lead to being socially isolated or feeling lonely. These adverse circumstances that often accompany aging can result in an individual having less social contact or feeling alone. Increased social isolation and loneliness are connected to higher risks of health problems, such as depression; heart disease; and cognitive decline, which refers to a reduction in the ability to think, learn, and remember. It is important for adults and their loved ones to be aware of these risks and seek to combat isolation through social activities, community involvement, and family connections in order to promote optimal health and well-being in the later stages of life.
Here are some ways you can help:
- Schedule daily, weekly, or biweekly phone calls or video chats with loved one’s.
- Encourage them to seek out others with shared interests, such as through a garden club, any organization, or walking group.
Promote physical activity
Exercise can help notably reduce levels of stress and anxiety,which improve balance and lower risk of tumbles, enhance sleep, and decrease feelings of dejection. Motivating the elderly adults in your life to exercise may not be simple — it can be problematic to get somebody to initiate a new activity — but the benefits are worth the effort. Regular physical exercise has many health benefits for elderly individuals.
Following are some suggestions to help encourage exercise or other daily activities for loved ones :
- Aim for a balanced mix of physical activities including cardiovascular exercise, strength training, improving balance, and stretching for flexibility. This could involve walking around the neighborhood, weightlifting, gardening, or stretching.
- Discuss with them how much physical activity is recommended and brainstorm ways to incorporate movement into their everyday lives. Experts advise getting at least 3 hours per week of moderate aerobic exercise, and muscle-strengthening activities.
We should share our favorite physical activities that get us moving. Are there any we could do together? If so, that’s a bonus because in addition to promoting movement, we’re also helping to prevent loneliness and social isolation.
Encourage healthy eating
Having a balanced and nutritious diet is vital for maintaining good health as we age.
Eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables regularly gives our bodies important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help keep our immune system functioning properly. This can lower our risk for many health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers.
By focusing our meals and snacks around the nutritious options, we give our bodies the “fuel” they need to function at their best and stay healthy as we grow older.
Schedule regular check-ups with a doctor
Getting regular check-ups from doctors on a yearly basis, and possibly even more depending on overall health status,which can assist in lowering the probability of developing medical conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Routine check-ups can also aid in identifying problems in their initial stages and enhance the likelihood of effective therapy. This could help them remain on top of their appointments and medications by having an additional person who can assist with scheduling, arranging transportation, and remembering to refill prescriptions. Having a family member involved can provide needed support for aged one’s.
Spiritual and Emotional Needs
Many people nearing the end of life may be grappling with deep questions about the meaning of life and death and may seek solace and guidance through spiritual beliefs and practices. They may turn to their faith or spiritual beliefs for comfort and guidance during this difficult time.
Caregivers, the palliative care team or the hospice care team can play an important role in helping to meet the spiritual needs of those nearing the end of life. They can work to understand the individual’s spiritual wishes and needs. They can connect the individual with chaplains, counselors, religious leaders and resources that align with their faith or beliefs. By providing this kind of spiritual support, caregivers can help bring comfort, meaning and a sense of purpose during a person’s final days or weeks of life.
Finding support during end of life care is vital. When a terminal illness enters one’s life or a loved one passes, the need for guidance and comfort becomes apparent. However, it isn’t always clear where to turn. And professionals can provide valuable information, emotional support and practical assistance to make the end of life journey less lonely and more peaceful.
Connecting with others who truly understand what you are going through can help you feel less alone, give you hope and show you are not the first nor the last to face these challenges of life.
Practical Considerations for the Family members
Watching a loved one’s health deteriorate can be very difficult and upsetting. You may feel helpless at times not knowing how best to assist them. While certain aspects of their condition are beyond your control, there are still meaningful ways you can help ensure their comfort. Remember that medical professionals are available to offer guidance and support.
Here are tips for working with your parent’s health care team:
- Ask health care staff what you can do to help keep your loved one comfortable.
- Ask your parent’s doctor for any changes to look out for, so you know what to expect.
- Create a list of other questions you wish to ask the doctor.
- Make notes when you meet doctors or other members of the health care team.
- Find out who to contact with any follow-up queries you may have.
- Create a file of your parent’s medications and test results.
- Document new or upsetting symptoms your parents experiences or any side effects, noting it when and where they occur.
- Know who to contact in an emergency situation.
There are many ways to stay connected and support their health needs. Making regular phone calls is a wonderful start. During your chats, ask how they’re eating, whether they’re physically active and if they’re taking medications properly. If needed, gently offer suggestions for healthier habits. Offering to join video calls with their doctors can also help. You can take notes and ask questions your loved ones might forget. Any extra set of ears and a reminder list can be very useful!
If you can’t visit often, see if a friend or family member nearby can check in on them between your calls. Having that extra person there makes a big difference. If something doesn’t stick right away, keep encouraging them or try a different approach. Your love, care and reminders really do make a positive impact on their well-being. You being there for them is half the battle. Keep at it – you’re doing great helping them stay healthy!
Addressing the feelings of isolation
Addressing feelings of isolation experienced by patients is an important aspect of holistic healthcare. They can acknowledge the individual’s feelings of loneliness and seclusion, which can provide comfort and validation. Families can encourage social interaction by suggesting the patient joins groups with shared interests, volunteer activities, or partake in hobbies that allow for human connection.
Family may also assist patients in finding a sense of purpose to motivate them to engage with others again. Pursuing meaningful goals and tasks can give isolated individuals a renewed sense of value and usefulness.
Talking to the loved ones while providing care
Individuals value feeling involved in their care and having a positive experience during treatment. When families take time to speak with patients, they can help make that happen. By talking and listening, providers give patients a chance to share what matters most to them. Patients likely feel more informed about their condition and treatment options. They may feel more comfortable asking questions. Simple conversations can build trust between patients and providers. When patients trust their providers, they tend to follow treatment advice better. Expanding on patients’ stories also helps providers understand any social or psychological factors that could impact a patient’s health.
Staying with patient if the family is absent
Staying with patients who don’t have family or friends there can make them feel less abandoned and alone. The nurse’s presence provides reassurance, answers questions, and ensures the patient has someone to call for assistance if needed. Patients who feel cared for through such personalized attention tend to report less pain, anxiety and other symptoms that hinder the healing process. So remaining with patients who lack family or friend support allows nurses to fulfill their professional mission of providing not just physical care but emotional and psychological support that aids recovery and improves patient outcomes.
Understand the meaning of what patients says (the hidden meaning)
Families sometimes must delve deeply into patients’ statements to comprehend their requirements. This demands that families listen attentively and carefully to what patients and family members express, sometimes between the lines.
When someone states “I’m tired”, we need to inquire further to determine if the patient means physically fatigued or something else. Are they referring to death/dying focusing on comfort care and waiting on you to bring it up or are they just wanting to go to bed.
If your loved one says the same thing over and over again, it may be a sign they are wanting to discuss this further and beyond the current levels of discussion.
In general spending time with your loved one, encouraging them to remain active and to engage in regular conversation with you will go a long way in helping them live a longer, healthier and more productive life.