Dental check-ups, medications, physicals – the list of a senior’s health needs go on. Not to mention, a caregiver’s health may suffer in the midst of putting a senior’s health first. How can you make yourself more aware of a senior’s health requirements, especially a senior with chronic illnesses or other serious health issues?
People who had good healthy habits when they were younger tend to become healthy seniors, but it is never too late. Good health habits can make a difference even to seniors who are prone to illness or have not made their health a priority in the past.
Consider these 10 tips for keeping up with the health needs of a parent or senior loved one:
1. Eat healthy.
The digestive system slows down with age, so high-fiber fruits, vegetables and whole grains are as important as ever. Because seniors are prone to dehydration, they should drink plenty of water to stay energized and sharp.
2. Focus on prevention.
Preventative care visits, including health screenings for cholesterol levels, colon cancer, heart problems and more, qualify for Medicare coverage. Seniors also need to get vaccinations that can help prevent influenza and pneumonia.
3. Get information on medication management.
Ask about and review the senior’s medications with their physician on a regular basis. Consider possible drug interactions and take note of any new symptoms (allergic reactions, drowsiness, loss of appetite and others) the senior shows after changing or starting medications.
4. Get some sleep.
Frequent waking and insomnia in the night are common among seniors. Turn the lights down in the evening to spur drowsiness and make sure the senior’s bedroom is comfortable, cool and quiet.
5. Remember mental health.
The Geriatric Mental Health Foundation recommends that seniors do crossword puzzles, read and write and try new hobbies to stimulate their minds and engage with the world around them. Activities like these can ward off a decline in mental health.
6. Screen for vision changes.
Seniors who wear glasses should have their prescription checked every year for changes and have their eyes screened for health issues. Having the right pair of glasses can reduce a senior’s chance of falling.
Time spent with family and grandchildren help seniors feel connected, especially if they have mobility issues. Those visits can also make seniors feel more upbeat, which is the best medicine at any age.
8. Stay physically active.
Exercise not only alleviates depression but improves energy and memory. An exercise program approved by a physician, long walks or short strolls can keep seniors healthier longer.
With their health under control, seniors can do more and stay active, which is important to their overall well-being. Happy, healthy seniors can still present a lot of care challenges, but they can also contribute more to their health, which can give caregivers a little less to worry about.
9. Take advantage of free physicals.
During the first 12 months on Medicare, seniors are offered free physicals. After that first year, they receive free annual wellness visits.
10. Visit the dentist every six months.
Our risk for cavities goes up with age. Plus, many mouth infections can be linked to serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. So seniors should see the dentist regularly.