Staying healthy, staying strong: seniors, age 65 and beyond
Most Americans can expect to lead active, fully engaged lives well beyond age 65. Make the most of your life by staying involved in your health care and making healthy lifestyle choices:
[check] Make your home a fall-free zone: Remove clutter, keep rooms well-lit, use nonskid backings on throw rugs and install a handle in your bathtub or shower.
[check] Don’t skip dosages or stop taking your prescriptions without talking first to your health care professional. Report any adverse side effects.
[check] Create a system to remind yourself to take medications at the right time.
[check] Bring a list of your medications, vitamins and nutritional supplements with you to the doctor.
[check] If someone you love has expressed concerns about your driving ability, honestly reconsider if you should continue to drive.
NUTRITION AND EXERCISE
[check] Try to keep your weight within the normal range according to your health care professional’s guidelines.
[check] Engage in low-impact exercise regularly, as approved by your doctor.
[check] Eat plenty of high-fiber foods including fruits, vegetables and whole grains, every day. Avoid high-fat junk food. Limit sweets and salt.
[check] Drink eight glasses of water a day, and more in hot weather.
[check] Be sure to get 1,200 mg of calcium per day (1,000 mg per day for women taking menopausal hormone therapy) and 400 to 800 international units (IU) daily of vitamin D (for calcium absorption) if you are a man or woman age 65 or older.
[check] Get extra calcium from these foods: low-fat or fat-free dairy products, pudding, almonds, sardines, broccoli and figs.
[check] Get a complete physical exam, including vision and hearing tests, once a year, and get dental checkups and cleanings twice a year or as often as your dentist recommends.
[check] Watch for signs of depression, such as prolonged sadness, thoughts of death or suicide, problems concentrating or sleeping or low energy. If you suspect you’re depressed, talk to your health care professional.
[check] Stay involved in a social network.
[check] Speak to your health care professional about a yearly flu vaccination and a pneumonia vaccination.
[check] If you haven’t done so already, quit smoking and cut back on alcohol. The older you are, the more problems these habits can cause.
Sources: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the National Osteoporosis Foundation
TIPS FOR CAREGIVERS
If you care for an elderly, chronically ill or disabled loved one, try to simplify your life and take time for yourself. Here are some ideas:
CARING FOR YOUR LOVED ONE
[check] Look into devices designed to enhance independence and safety, such as skid-free rugs, jar-opening aids and bathtub or shower bars.
[check] Upgrade your telephone: Keep cordless, easy-to-use phones with large digital displays within reach, and keep a list of emergency response numbers by the telephone.
[check] Buy comfortable, washable, easy-to-remove clothing to ease dressing routines and needs.
[check] Establish manageable routines that meet your loved one’s needs.
[check] Let all health care professionals, including your pharmacist, know which medications your loved one is taking. Periodically review all medications, including over-the-counter medicines, as well as vitamins and herbs.
[check] Know when and how to administer medication and what side effects to expect.
[check] Seek guidance on administering care. Hire a nurse or home-health aide, if necessary and if possible.
CARING FOR YOURSELF
[check] Exercise to stay physically fit.
[check] Join a support group, keep a journal, delegate responsibilities and continue your hobbies.
[check] Stay involved socially. Don’t abandon your religious or spiritual practices.
[check] Manage stress. Exercise, deep breathing, stretching and meditation can help.
[check] Get adequate sleep, take breaks and ask for and accept help.
[check] Investigate respite care, including adult daycare centers and short-term institutional care.
[check] Get regular medical checkups.
Sources: U.S. Department Health and Human Services and the National Women’s Health Resource Center
Memory loss and confusion were once considered a normal part of aging. Scientists now know that most people remain alert as they age, though recall may sometimes slow down.
One key to a better memory is staying active in mind and body. Making lists, using notes and calendars and putting frequently used things in the same place also help. Here are some additional memory-enhancing activities:
* Take a moment, pay attention and mentally note what you are doing.
* Turn off the TV or radio when trying to concentrate or focus on a task.
* Repeat to yourself what you want to remember.
* Divide lists or numbers into shorter, more easily recalled “chunks.”
* Review photos when you expect to see people you haven’t seen in a long time.
* Connect an interesting or absurd visual image to what you want to remember.
* Mentally associate things you want to remember with other meaningful things, such as a familiar name, song or poem.
HOW TO TELL IF MEMORY LOSS IS SERIOUS
Many people experience occasional memory lapses. While lapses sometimes signal a deeper problem, most do not. People who have serious changes in memory, personality and behavior may suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. See your doctor with any concerns about yourself or a loved one.
Sources: U.S. Administration on Aging; American Psychological Association; Third Age; and the National Institute on Aging
COPYRIGHT 2005 National Women’s Health Resource Center
COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group