Tag Archives: Caring for self

It’s Never Too Late to Improve Health

With the average life expectancy constantly on the rise, maintaining one’s health later in life is becoming more important than ever. Taking measures now to improve the elderlys’ health will aid in preventing chronic disease and restoring vigor. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition outlines the following steps every elderly person should undertake to restore or maintain their health.

Body Changes with Aging

As people age they naturally undergo fundamental changes in their body composition. Elderly lose lean body mass, which consists primarily of muscle and bone, and they gain weight with age as their metabolic rate is reduced.  However, there are steps that can be taken to slow the effects of aging and even reverse these consequences. The elderly should consume high quality protein and whole grains with complex carbohydrates and high fiber, saturated fat should be limited. Watching one’s dietary intake is extremely important with the elderly as they have an increased risk of gaining excess weight, which can lead to additional health problems. 

Obesity plays a damaging effect on one’s health and aids in the development of several diseases in older adults.  Obesity can lead to elevated blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and certain forms of cancer. Treating an elderly individual’s obesity provides great benefits to those with a high risk of cardiovascular disease, those with osteoarthritis and individuals with respiratory problems. However, extreme weight loss may be due to a progressive or preexisting disease, and many elderly people tend to lose weight prior to their death.


Making exercise a daily part of life for the elderly is is important to their health. Regular physical activity decreases body weight, total body fat and body mass index while increasing muscle and bone mass. The three main areas the elderly should focus on are:

  1. Cardiovascular
  2. Weight-lifting small amounts of weight
  3. Flexibility through stretching

Combining these exercises will improve movement, mobility, balance and posture. As posture deteriorates it becomes increasingly more difficult to breath and losing ones balance may lead to an increase risk of falling. Exercise needs to become a way of life for the elderly, just as their diet becomes a part of their lifestyle.

Cancer Prevention

Diet, nutrition and lifestyle contribute to the development of cancer in 1/3 of all cases. The risk of cancer is reduced in the elderly who abide by healthy nutritional recommendations. It is never too late for elderly adults to make lifestyle changes through diet and exercise to aid in preventing cancer and living an overall healthier lifestyle.

Caregivers: Take Time Off, You Need It

Being a caregiver is unlike any other job, you cannot clock out at the end of your shift because your shifts last 24 hours a day, every day.

Caring for an elderly loved one is an enormous responsibility, it is time consuming and it requires unconditional love. It is easy to become consumed in your role and disregard your needs in favor of the needs of your care receiver. It is also easy burn out if you aren’t taking proper care or yourself, and your caregiving abilities will suffer. Every caregiver needs to embrace breaks and indulge themselves in much needed vacations.

After providing care to a loved one for an extended period of time, it is normal to long for the days prior to your caregiving role and the freedom and independence you once enjoyed. While this feeling might consume you with guilt, you are not alone. All caregivers experience guilt in leaving their loved one to enjoy R&R, but you have to realize you cannot perform your duties adequately without taking care of yourself.

Taking mini trips and vacations will allow you to re-energize, recharge and improve your care. Vacations and time away from your role as a caregiver helps to stave off burnout and increase quality of life. People who take regular time to relax are less likely to feel under-rested and overworked. You will have a better relationship with your care receiver if you are well rested and rejuvenated. You will also have time to evaluate your care with a clear mind when you are removed from the situation.

Going on vacation with a spouse and/or your children will also strengthen your bonds and help through the stress and hard times all of you experience while caring for your elderly loved one. This vacation doesn’t need to be a lengthy one but may be as simple as a weekend trip to nearby resort. The key is simply to get away to rejuvenate especially with the busy holiday season ahead and the added stress that can bring!

Making arrangements for your care receiver well before your trip will put your mind at ease and allow you to enjoy your much needed vacation. Many retirement homes provide respite placements so family members can have some relief from their caregiving duties. Visit nearby nursing homes to make sure the facility will be a good fit for your loved one.

Another alternative for care in your absence is in-home care services. Home help services typically visit your care receiver three times a day to aid in washing, dressing and eating. You may also want to get a family member to aid in looking after your elderly loved one. Leaving your loved one with a familiar person will put your mind at ease and also allow you to have complete access to them.

After you have determined which choice is best for you and your loved one, embrace the opportunity to get away and enjoy yourself. This vacation will restore your piece of mind and ultimately benefit both you and your care receiver.

Caregivers: Be Good to Yourself!

Most caregivers do not choose to fill the role, rather they are thrust into the position when loved ones can no longer fully care for themselves. Unfortunately, unlike other full time roles, caregivers aren’t given a manual upon taking over the position.

Being a caregiver can be stressful, physically demanding and time-consuming. It is easy to feel lost and  overwhelmed. Good caregivers must understand that in order to provide sufficient care to others, they have to tend to their own needs as well. Remaining emotionally and physically healthy is as important to the caregiver as it is to the person they are caring for.

Caregivers often overlook their own personal needs, believing their needs pale in comparison to the needs of the loved one they are caring for. In order for the caregiver’s help to be effective, caregivers need to treat themselves with the same compassion they are giving to their loved one.

It is important for primary caregivers to remember the following: 

  • Your loved one’s illness should not always take center stage.  Schedule afternoon activities and regular evenings out that are just for you. “You” time is invaluable. Your job is demanding, you work very hard and you deserve quality time for yourself.
  • Prioritize your health. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, even if it means you have to take naps during the day. Exercise should also be a daily part of your schedule. Physical activity not only benefits your physical health, but also gives you a chance to mentally re-energize and reflect.  Exercise and eating well should go hand-in-hand, eat nutritious meals and avoid overindulging in food or alcohol.
  • Stay Connected with Friends and Loved Ones. Your safety net and support group are imperative to your well-being. It is important to spend quality time with those you care about and maintain the supportive relationships you have cultivated over the years, they may be your best resource for stress relief.
  • Get assistance. You should not have to tackle everything alone, if someone offers to help you, accept their assistance. Activities that you were able to tackle by yourself before could be taken on by the occasional hired help including daily chores, errands or childcare. Family and friends are often willing to help, utilize this resource and assign them specific tasks.  
  • Talk to other Caregivers. You are not alone, millions of people are currently in the same situation as you. Talking with other caregivers will help you cope with common feelings of anger, isolation, fear, guilt and sadness. Ask your parent’s doctor to connect you with local support groups.
  • Pay attention to your mental health. Studies prove caregivers are at increased risk for depression and anxiety. If you are having difficulty coping with your emotions, consult your doctor or counselor.