It’s easy for the elderly to sink into feelings of isolation and despair, for a variety of reasons. Our bodies change over the years and what used to be easy or relatively easy, such as lifting heavier bags or objects around the house or garage, jogging across the street to the mailbox, bending over to pick up something small off the floor–all of these activities become harder and harder with age. Eventually, many seniors are forced to stop them altogether and that can be discouraging for many older Americans. Aging gracefully is a full-time job, with constant attention to details like diet and exercise in order to stay as healthy as possible. For those family caregivers who are engaged in taking care of an elderly parent, there are things they can watch for and be aware to do their part in keeping mom or dad more upbeat, more socially connected and with a better quality of life. Things to watch for include:
Impaired physical function. Physical therapy is an important part of this picture when the elder has decreased physical abilities from an injury or a fall, illness or chronic disease.
Malnutrition in the elderly is an especially important factor to be aware of because many times loss of appetite or decreased intake can be a passing phase in the elderly individual, depending on how they feel on a day-to-day basis. It’s important for caregivers, family or otherwise, to make an extra effort to encourage the loved one or client to eat what they can tolerate in circumstances like these. Preparing their favorite dishes at times like these is always a good idea.
Depression is often a difficult situation to recognize in the elderly because many older individuals interact less on a normal basis with their surroundings and tend to be more quiet and withdrawn, simply as a part of aging. Refusal to eat, avoiding eye contact, never smiling, short replies to questions and listlessness are all symptoms that could indicate depression. Follow-up with the senior’s medical team is the best action here.
Cognitive impairment is the sudden or gradual loss of normal mental behavior or reactions. Aging on a normal basis seems to involve at least some loss of mental abilities in most older individuals but in extreme cases, dementia or Alzheimer’s may be diagnosed and present significant challenges to caring for a loved one at home safely and effectively.
At AAging Better In-Home Care, we understand the connection between breaking the pattern of isolation and improving a senior’s ability to thrive. In-home care provided by trained and compassionate caregivers can help keep seniors active and mentally engaged in the following ways:
Socialization: Feelings of loneliness can lead to depression, particularly in older adults who cannot drive. Caregivers can either provide transportation or accompany the senior so that older adults can visit with friends and family and go to church, plays, or other outings. They can also be great companions themselves: playing a game of cards, working a puzzle together or even just sitting and chatting for awhile.
Creative encouragement: Too often, older adults lose interest in hobbies and creative endeavors they once enjoyed. Caregivers can help encourage them to participate in activities they enjoy, such as gardening or fishing, or even help them try new things, such as watercolor painting, clay sculpting, or waltzing. These activities keep older adults mentally, socially, and physically engaged and stimulated.
AAging Better In-Home Care employees are dedicated to helping seniors rediscover the joy in life and how fulfilling the “golden years” can actually be. We would be happy to discuss a Care Plan that would outline how in-home care by a caring and involved caregiver could help improve you or your loved one’s quality of life. Contact us online or call us at (208) 777-0308 in the Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls or Hayden areas; (208) 263-7889 in the Sandpoint, Bonners Ferry or Priest River areas; or (208) 784-1505in the Kellogg, Wallace or Pinehurst areas.