We like to believe our parents can handle it all. Whether it’s a seasonal cold or a more serious health concern, they always seem to come out on top. But aging can take a toll on even the strongest of us. Weaker bones, thinner skin, and more fragile organs can make it difficult for our parents to keep up with their health as they used to.
Now is the time for you to step in and help your parents improve their health. Remember, you don’t have to wait unless something is wrong. Preventative care can go a long way in maintaining your parents’ health and happiness.
- Schedule Regular Checkups and Screenings
The most practical thing you can do for your parent’s health is to ensure they stay on top of their regular checkups and screenings. With age, we become more susceptible to specific health conditions like diabetes. Fortunately, early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent or manage these conditions.
Some screenings are only recommended for people over a certain age. For instance, men above 50 should get a prostate exam, while women over 50 should get a mammogram.
Living conditions can also influence which screenings your parents need. For instance, if your parents are in Illinois, ranked 7th in the nation for asbestos-related deaths, a low-dose CT scan can help ensure their lung health.
- Help Them Maintain a Healthy Weight
Aging causes weight gain. It’s because our bodies don’t respond to weight loss techniques like they used to. If you notice your parents carrying a few extra pounds, help them by suggesting healthy weight loss strategies.
One way to help your parents lose weight is by encouraging them to eat more protein and fewer carbohydrates. Protein-rich foods help promote satiety, so your parents will feel fuller longer. It can help them reduce their calorie intake and lose weight over time.
Promoting physical activity is also vital. Even if your parents are retired, there are still plenty of ways for them to get moving. Taking a brisk walk around the block or playing with the grandkids are great ways to stay active.
- Focus on Their Nutrient Intake
As we age, our nutrient needs change. For instance, seniors need more vitamin D and calcium to maintain strong bones. They also need more fiber to keep their digestive system functioning properly. Fiber also helps slow down the digestion of carbohydrates, which can help regulate blood sugar levels and prevent spikes in hunger.
Other essential nutrients for seniors include vitamins B6, B12, and folate. These nutrients are essential for cognitive health and energy levels.
You can help your parents get the nutrients they need by cooking meals together. Focus on recipes that are high in the nutrients they need and low in unhealthy fats and added sugars. You can also talk to their doctor about supplements that boost their nutrient intake.
- Discourage Unhealthy Habits
While you can’t control everything your parents do, you can discourage unhealthy habits that could impact their health. For instance, if they smoke, help them quit. Cigarette smoking is a prevalent cause of preventable death in the United States, so you must do everything possible to help your parents kick the habit. In addition, some prescription pills can help with nicotine withdrawal, so talk to their doctor about quitting methods.
You should also discourage excessive alcohol consumption. While a glass of wine with dinner is fine, drinking too much alcohol can lead to liver damage and other health problems. Suggest that your parents drink moderately or reduce their alcohol intake altogether. Try swapping out their favorite alcoholic beverage for a healthier option like kombucha or seltzer water with fruit.
- Encourage Social Interaction
Do your parents live alone? If so, they may be at risk for social isolation, which can harm their health. According to one study, social isolation can elevate the risk of premature death by 29%.
There are plenty of ways to encourage social interaction, even if your parents don’t live near family or friends. One way is to sign them up for social activities like art classes or book clubs. Or, they could volunteer for a local organization.
You can also help your parents stay connected to loved ones by setting up video calls or organizing group outings. Spending time with family and friends can help reduce stress and improve overall mental health. So, plan a yoga class with their friends or a day at the park with the grandkids.
- Promote Healthy Sleeping Habits
Parents are parents. They’ll always have something to worry about, whether it’s their children or grandchildren, their health, or their finances. But chronic stress can take a toll on their health. It may disrupt their sleep patterns and increase their risk for heart disease and other health problems. If you want them to wake up refreshed and energized, encourage them to practice healthy sleep habits.
Some tips for better sleep include:
- Establishing a regular sleep schedule
- Avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed
- Exercising regularly
- Creating a calming bedtime routine
Other scientifically-proven ways to improve sleep include sleeping in a cool room and using a white noise machine. You can also invest in a diffuser and lavender oil to promote relaxation.
- Motivate Them to Pursue Their Passions
There’s always a void left behind when we retire from our careers. For some, this can lead to boredom and a sense of purposelessness. According to one study, people with a compromised sense of purpose in life are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s important to encourage your parents to pursue their passions in retirement. It could mean taking up a new hobby, volunteering for a cause they’re passionate about, or learning a new skill. Retirement is the perfect time to do the things they love without the restraints of a full-time job.
Ask them what they’ve always wanted to do and brainstorm ways to make it happen. For example, if they’re interested in travel, help them plan a trip. If they want to learn a new language, sign them up for classes.
Caring for parents brings a sense of duty and love. It is an opportunity to show your parents how much you care for them while also helping them live healthier and happier lives. However, don’t forget to include them in decisions about their care. They should always have a say in what happens, as it’s their life. Ultimately, the goal is to help them age gracefully and enjoy their retirement years, not to take over their life.