If you are going to talk to your parents about their health, it’s important that you do so in a way that makes it feel like a conversation rather than you telling them what to do!
Nobody likes to be told what to do at the best of times, and if you are getting older and already worrying about losing your autonomy, then feeling as though your child is telling you off definitely isn’t going to go down well.
Be sure to approach any conversation with sensitivity, and listen to what your parent has to say.
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Diet is an essential part of health for all of us, but did you know that our dietary needs can actually change as we get older?
As we age, our muscle mass decreases, and our digestion can slow down, meaning that we need fewer calories and more fiber.
As older adults are burning fewer calories, it becomes all the more important that they eat nutrient-rich foods that are also low in calories. Beneficial foods for seniors include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources such as fish. It’s also important to control portion size, as it can be easy to eat more than is needed.
If you want to help your parent to eat more healthy meals, a great way to do this is to prepare an extra portion for them when you are making your own dinner, and then pop it in the freezer so that they can reheat it whenever they like.
Visiting the doctors
As your parent gets older, it’s likely that they will be offered vaccinations against flu and other illnesses. They will also be offered check-ups periodically to help to identify signs of illness early.
These measures are important as if illnesses are caught early, then they are often easier to treat, and treatment is likely to be more successful.
As people age, the doctor can become a source of anxiety, so if you notice that your parent is dodging their doctor’s appointments rather than lecturing them on it, try to engage them in a discussion about what’s concerning them. You could even offer to go along with them for moral support.
Getting a good nights sleep
When people get older, it’s common for them to find it more difficult to sleep. People often find that they get up more often in the night or that they wake up earlier.
For some people, this might be fine; the amount of sleep that we need can change. However, if your parent is getting less sleep and they seem rundown as a result, there are some things that they can do to improve their sleep.
- Routine. If we go to bed at the same time every night, this helps our body to know when it’s time to wind down, which in turn helps us to sleep more soundly.
- Relaxing before bed. If we go to bed while still thinking about our day, it’s more difficult to get to sleep. It’s also more difficult to sleep if we have been looking at screens such as our television or phone. Taking an hour before bed to relax without screens by reading a book or listening to music is a great way to unwind and ensure better quality sleep. Some people find that relaxing by taking a warm bath is helpful, as the drop in temperature when they get out can help them to feel more sleepy.
- Don’t drink just before bed. Otherwise, you’ll have to get up to go to the bathroom. This is particularly true for alcohol, which also ruins your sleep quality.
- Exercise. This helps you to feel more tired, but try not to exercise within 3 hours before you go to bed, or this will keep you awake.
- Make the bedroom a sleep space. If you go to bed and can’t sleep, rather than lying there and getting frustrated, just get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. This helps your mind to associate your bed with relaxation.
Regularly socializing is good for all of us. It helps us to feel a sense of purpose because we feel as though we are part of a community, and it also helps to combat feelings of loneliness which can lead to health issues, both physical and mental.
It can be difficult for people to socialize as often as they would like as they get older. As people move away or become less mobile, it’s simply more difficult to keep in touch with friends. It can also be hard for seniors to find community groups and make new friends.
You can help your parents with this by offering transportation when they need it and encouraging them to use the internet to find local community groups for seniors or chat with their friends online. Encouraging your parent to learn to become confident using the internet is a great way to encourage them to socialize and maintain some independence.
Another way to ensure that your parent maintains a strong social life as they get older is to bear this in mind if you are ever thinking of assisted or independent living communities for them. Communities like Frontier Senior Living subscribe to the Montessori model, which prioritizes engagement, socialization, and inclusion, meaning that residents have access to community activities.
Exercise is important for all of us, and particularly for seniors. It’s beneficial for their physical health but also for their mental health.
Ideally, we should all be doing a combination of aerobic and strength-based exercises to keep ourselves in good condition.
You can encourage your parent to exercise by offering to go with them on a walk or perhaps signing up to attend a class with them. Things like swimming and yoga are excellent options because they strengthen the muscles at the same time as providing a cardiovascular workout.
The most important thing when it comes to exercise is finding something fun that your parent will want to keep doing. Dancing around your kitchen and singing into a hairbrush definitely counts!