It happens slowly, so you might not notice right away. Then one day, maybe while you’re visiting for the holidays, you look at your mother and the lines on her face look deeper, more permanent. Or maybe you notice a slight limp in your father’s step where there used to be a spring. It’s in one of these tiny moments that you are taken by surprise by the realization that while you were busy growing up, your parents had begun to grow old. So goes the circle of life and it is now your turn to take care of them. For those now in the position of caring for their aging parents, here are four suggestions for how to help your parents live happier, healthier lifestyles as they approach their golden years.
Set Up Recurring Deliveries
As adults approach retirement age, mobility becomes an issue. Driving becomes more dangerous as the eyesight weakens and even moving around the home can be a challenge if a parent is developing osteoporosis. With delivery services, though, you can save your parents time and hassle. Fundamental necessities like medication refills and weekly groceries can be delivered directly to their door. If shopping for groceries has become a nuisance to them, helping your parents set up an account with an online grocery that delivers can also alleviate the stress and exertion of standing in line at a busy market. Smartphone apps like Instacart will save grocery lists and reorder them on command, and since some parents might feel that the sense of control over their own lives is threatened when you try to help them, performing their own shopping and ordering online may make them feel more independent.
Prepare Meals for Them
After getting the groceries to the house, you can also help them with meal preparation. Cooking can be a taxing activity involving chopping, shredding, grating, and lifting, so doing the heavy or tedious work in the kitchen for them will save them time and energy. If they are willing, talk to them about a recommended diet. An app like My Fitness Pal can make calories counting fun. For some, though, trying to lecture your parents about their eating habits can be an uphill battle, so a good way to ensure that they receive adequate nutrients is to prepare plenty of soups and smoothies. If you make blended dishes made from nutrient-rich foods like apples, blueberries, squash and lentils, they are more likely to eat them with less fuss. If you can get them to consume one smoothie and one bowl of soup a day, they can easily meet all the daily dietary requirements.
Encourage Physical Activity
Morning walks, daily stretched and Yoga are all appropriate exercises for aging adults. Since many individuals nearing retirement spend an excessive amount of time sitting, physical activity is beneficial in keeping their limbs limber and hearts healthy. Walking is one of the simplest forms of exercise and it gets your parents outdoors as well. Gifting each of them a FitBit could encourage interest in activities, and maybe even a little friendly competition.
Physical activity not only improves one’s disposition by combating feelings of depression, it boosts the body’s levels of strength, endurance and balance. It has also been linked to slowing the rate of cognitive decline as one ages. Fishing is an excellent physical activity for an elderly loved one as it encourages relaxation but can also burn up to 200 calories in an hour, improving cardiovascular health and offers the immune system a Vitamin D boost through being outdoors in the sun.
Advocate Social Activity
It is easy for isolation to set in as parents grow older and suffer from fatigue. With vision and hearing loss setting in, an inability to drive, and fewer friends to visit, your folks may decide to stay in more. But isolation can lead to depression and health complications, so discuss their social options with them. In addition to spending more time with them yourself, inquire about any community programs for seniors. The Workforce Development Aging & Community Services (WDAC) offer a services finder for seniors. Additionally, there are often local community centers, churches or synagogues that offer organized activities for the elderly. The more social they become, the more content they will feel.
It isn’t easy watching your parents age and become more limited in their capabilities, but as a caring and responsible child, you can make coping with aging easier for them. Simplifying tasks like cooking and shopping, monitoring their diet and encouraging both physical and social activeness can help ensure your folks with feel happier and healthier in their golden years.
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