4 Ways To Help Your Aging Parent Live Their Best Life
Tip 1: Provide Emotional Support for Your Parent
Let’s face it, getting older can be scary and rather than brushing those fears aside, the best support you can offer is to listen, be patient and let them know you’re on their side. Common fears about getting older include:
- Loss of independence
- Declining health
- Running out of money
- Moving from home
- Losing loved ones
- Depending on others
- Not being able to drive
- Being isolated and lonely
- Falling or becoming disabled
Tip 2: Help Them Find Purpose
If your parent is like most people, work was a big part of who they were and in retirement they may feel a little lost. A great way to support their intellectual needs is to help them find their niche again. To start, sit down with them and talk about things they already enjoy doing, hobbies, causes important to them, fitness goals and so on to see how they may be able to expand on them. Also, ask them if there was anything they were passionate about in their youth that maybe they never got around to doing. Or, perhaps it’s simply time to start fresh and you can help them find local clubs or classes to join.
What’s more, the benefits go much deeper than finding something purposeful to do. Numerous studies have shown that having purpose in retirement not only offers physical and mental health benefits, it may also help reduce your risk for diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Tip 3: Keep Your Parent Connected
Of all the concerns you may have for your parent as they get older, their social life is likely low on the priority list. But it’s actually more important to their overall well being than you think. Social isolation – feeling detached physically or psychologically, or being disconnected from support groups of family, friends and community – has been called a “growing health epidemic” among older adults by the AARP Foundation. In fact, they equate the health risks of prolonged isolation to the dangers of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
To support your parent’s social needs you can keep them in touch with family and friends whether by helping them get together in-person, or by showing them how to use video chats and/or social media. Also, many of the tips listed above for finding purpose can double as ways to support social connections.
Tip 4: Support Their Physical Health
Physical wellbeing is about much more than keeping up with checkups at the doctor, although that’s important too! Also consider how you can support your parent’s safety, nutrition and fitness needs:
- Safety – At home, falls can be a big concern with nearly a third of older adults fall each year according to the CDC. To reduce the risk, remove tripping hazards, add handrails or grab bars and improve lighting. If your parent lives alone make sure they have a 24-hour emergency alert system just in case. If your parent still drives, it’s also a good idea to consider safe driving refresher courses from AAA or AARP; completion may also result in an auto insurance discount.
- Nutrition – The Alliance on Aging Research has found that malnutrition in older adults costs the United States $51.3 billion a year so it’s crucial to continue healthy eating habits. The National Institute on Aging offers resources such as healthy food shopping on a budget, nutrition requirements for older adults; even sample menus and shopping lists. If it’s difficult for your parent to shop and prepare meals each day, consider convenient meal delivery options.
- Fitness – A sedentary lifestyle can put your parent at greater risk for conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, Type 2 diabetes and even cognitive decline. Help them to get moving by following these guidelines from the National Institute on Aging: older adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week in sessions of at least 10 minutes duration across four categories of exercise: endurance, strength training, balance and flexibility.
If all this sounds like a lot to manage for you and your parent, quite frankly it is. But you don’t have to do this alone. There are other options like senior living which offers benefits such as:
- An environment that fosters independence, perhaps even more so than at home with just the right amount of support.
- A worry-free lifestyle with restaurant-style dining, housekeeping and laundry services along with spacious accommodations and amenities such as pools and fitness centers.
- Numerous opportunities to keep connected and to stay fulfilled monthly calendars filled with clubs, classes, events and outings.
- Senior living communities are designed specifically for retirees with safety features such as emergency alert systems, grab bars, ramps, transportation and generators as standard.
Senior living communities can also offer you and you parent one of the most invaluable benefits of all: peace of mind. You’ll know that they are safe, supported, and instead of their caregiver, you get to enjoy life alongside them as their daughter or son again.