No matter what our age is, when we make healthy choices, we are less vulnerable to illness. But it’s especially important for caregivers and older adults to be aware of the most critical preventative actions necessary to stay healthy and safe. Whether you are supporting an aging loved or are a professional provider, encouraging those healthy habits is part of your role as a caregiver.
Caregivers should practice healthy habits too. Here's what you need to know as a caretaker to promote wellness.
A well-balanced diet provides a wide array of nutrients the immune system needs to work properly. An immune-boosting diet is rich in plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains. Lean meat, fish, and dairy provide nutrients and are healthy in sufficient amounts along with plant-based foods. For instance, yogurt with live cultures has probiotics that promote immune health.
Unfortunately, the limited diets common among seniors put them at risk of micronutrient malnutrition. That's a formal way of saying someone doesn't get enough critical vitamins and minerals. Frequently, seniors who only want to eat their favorite foods have limited diets. Preparing the senior's favorite recipes in a new way can help. For example, the senior who normally won't eat vegetables may eat macaroni and cheese that has chopped broccoli as an ingredient.
Other seniors don't eat well because illness or injury makes it difficult for them to prepare meals. A professional home caregiver can cook healthy meals for seniors who live alone and need someone to handle this task.
Staying hydrated is an essential component of good nutrition. Older adults are at a greater risk for dehydration. A person's sense of thirst and the amount of water in the body naturally decrease with age. You may want to make handing your senior a bottle of water a part of your morning routine.
Seniors should consult their primary care physician before starting an exercise program. Engaging in regular physical activity strengthens the immune system. Regular exercise may also reduce the impact of aging on the immune system. You might be concerned your loved one is too frail to exercise. However, research has found exercise can help frail seniors regain strength and physical functions like climbing stairs.
Since any amount of exercise can benefit older adults, exercising for a few minutes a day is a fine way to start. The goal is for seniors to gradually extend the amount of time they exercise until they reach 150 minutes of physical activity per week. That translates to about 30 minutes a day for someone who exercises five days a week.
Cold and Flu Season Vigilance
Caregivers and seniors need to take additional precautions during the cold and flu season. Caregivers can disinfect high-touch surfaces like doorknobs and light switches daily. Frequent hand washing is essential. Then, there's the flu shot. Flu viruses are different from year to year. That's why an updated flu vaccine becomes available every year. Seniors and their caregivers should receive a flu shot each year. September and October are the best months to get the flu shot according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Help Seniors Stay Healthy
Helping an older adult stay healthy is a big job. If your other responsibilities prevent you from doing as much as you'd like for an older family member, contact us for more information. The Senior Helpers team serving Concord, Salisbury, Kannapolis, and the surrounding areas is standing by to help.