This week is Self Care Week which aims to highlight the importance of self-care for life, including keeping fit and healthy through diet and exercise, managing medicines and knowing when to seek medical help. For the elderly, self-care can be more difficult due to reduced mobility, various common health complaints which can include impaired vision, hearing and memory problems. Helping the elderly in our lives to self-care, as well as helping them where they can’t help themselves is important, and there are some great ways you can encourage them to take care of themselves.
The elderly and self-care
There are many ways in which you can offer care and advice to older people to help them care for themselves. Whilst they may require additional healthcare needs or help carrying out certain tasks around the home, some other things you can to do encourage health amongst elderly and self-care include:
Encourage them to eat healthily
Older people can struggle to eat healthily, choosing meals which are convenient and often packed with salt and sugar – particularly when they live alone. It’s important that older people eat regularly to make sure they get the right foods to keep their weight up. If loss of appetite is a problem, switching to smaller meals throughout the day rather than three main meals could help. Make sure the meals are packed with protein and calcium by adding cheese, avocado and other ‘good fat’ foods to meals can help increase calorie intake without resorting to sugary foods. Healthier ready meals can be useful when cooking isn’t possible, whilst pre-prepared fruit and vegetables (either tinned, packaged or frozen) can reduce the effort required to make preparing meals easier.
Make sure they keep up with their medical checks
It’s important that older people go for regular eyesight and hearing tests as well as other medical checks (which may vary for men and women). People over 60 are entitled to a free NHS eye test every two years, and once a year for over 70s. For those who are unable to leave the house, there are options for home tests as well.
Make sure they note down the list of key contacts and keep them somewhere visible (the fridge is a good place), whilst also making sure you help them to note down appointment dates and times.
Help them to keep fit
A lack of exercise can aggravate some health problems, and can weaken bones too. It’s important to encourage older people to exercise, and by taking part with them, you can help them enjoy social activity too. From walking and swimming to simple strength exercises which can be done at home, there are plenty of ways to help older people stay fit. The NHS has a great range of exercises and demonstrations for older people and even some personal trainers can offer tailored programmes for older people.
Make sure they get their flu jab
The flu jab is important for helping to prevent flu in older people, who become more at risk at the age of 65. Flu can be serious for those with weakened immune systems or those who are suffering from other illnesses. Flu jab are available free for over 65s from their local GP, so make sure they book an appointment every year before the winter flu season hits.
Help them to stay warm
Low temperatures during the winter months make it more difficult for the body to resist infections and respiratory diseases. Blood pressure in older people can also suffer after returning from the cold, which is why keeping a home warm is vital during the winter months. It’s important to wrap up warm and to heat the home to 21 degrees in key living areas, and 18 degrees in the rest of the home. Closing the curtains, keeping the windows closed at night and checking carbon monoxide alarms should be done as standard to ensure the home is kept safe too. Age UK have plenty of useful tips for older people to stay warm during the winter, and there are grants available too for those who are struggling to pay their heating bills.
It is important to consider the elderly and self-care methods, especially during the winter period. Self-care is very important for older people, but sometimes this isn’t enough as their needs change. For more information about the help and care that is available to older people, the NHS Choices guide to care is a useful resource which will detail all the available options to ensure the best care for their health.