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How Can Seniors Stay Healthy During the Pandemic?

COVID-19 has helped shift focus in several directions, towards health, safety, and staying connected to our community and loved ones. If we weren’t already aware of how important these ideas were, now we are! Taking a holistic approach to senior in home care, we’ll talk about how nutrition, health, and aging are all connected. Senior health during pandemic uncertainty is vitally important, read some practical tips on diet and exercise below!

It’s hard to deny the impact this global pandemic has had on a large scale, affecting our global economy, healthcare industries at large, and social customs that will likely forever be changed.

On a smaller scale, we can see and feel the impact of social distancing paired with quarantine; some being able to stay closer to family and loved ones than ever before and some feeling the immense weight of isolation and loneliness. Each experience is unique and has challenges of it’s own.

The Caring People philosophy has always centered around quality, compassion, and trust with a strong care for the communities we serve.

That’s why we started the Staying Connected webinar series, for our clients, caregivers, and our community. We’re so proud to be a clinical and support resource, providing tips on helpful topics like: COVID FAQ’sstaying healthy, and how to keep your day filled with meaning and purpose.

If you didn’t get a chance to join us, here are some actionable take-aways from our Staying Healthy series:

Staying Healthy

Making a plan is a key ingredient to the success of any objective, in this case, we’re talking about your health, mental and physical. Considering the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, “if you fail to plan, then you are planning to fail!” Your health plan should include ways to eat healthy, be active, stay hydrated, get enough sleep, and minimize your stress. Eating healthy can be tough, but we’ve got you covered:

  • Plan meals and snacks for the week
  • Create a grocery list based on planned meals
  • Meal prep for the week
  • 80/20 Rule
  • Plan a cheat meal

Whether it’s an all-day event with our favorite side dishes or a quick bite between meetings, food is the fuel that keeps us going. A well-balanced diet is important for each stage of our lives, but it is especially important for people over 60 years old.

According to a 2017 report by the National Resource Center on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Aging, nearly 60% of those 65 and over who are admitted to the hospital are considered malnourished. For those in long term care facilities the percentage is between 40% and 50%.

As we age, our ability to absorb important nutrients declines, making it difficult for our bodies to fight off infection and recover from injuries. This decline in absorption can contribute to fat loss and muscle loss which is difficult to regain.

We are no longer able to rebound after falls or heal from wounds like we did when we were younger. Losing muscle mass contributes to loss of strength, stamina and can make food shopping and preparation a challenge.

The simple task of opening a jar or bottle can now be too difficult for those with poor nutrition. Lacking social interaction, whether at home or in a facility can lead to isolation and feelings of depression. People who eat alone are less likely to prepare a healthy, visually appealing meal just for themselves.

Here are some simple steps that we can take to encourage people to get the most out of their meals:

  • As we age, our teeth and gums need extra care. Poor oral health can cause painful chewing which can lead to skipped meals. Encourage dental visits and daily oral care as well as regular dental check-ups.
  • Talk about food! For those in facilities, review what is on the menu, what was good and not so good. Get to know the nutritional staff and ask questions about how the food is prepared and the time of day the meals are served.
  • For those at home, a companion or home health aide can help with meal planning, shopping and meal preparation. Meals On Wheels provides food for homebound seniors who may have difficulty preparing food at home. For low-income seniors, apply for Snap Benefits and research food pantries. Most greenmarkets now accept food stamps for fresh produce.
  • Remind older people to drink water throughout the day. As we age, our urge to drink declines and we are more at risk for dehydration. You can make water taste better by infusing with your favorite fruit.

Looking to add some exercise into your daily routine? It’s easier than you think:

  • Go for a walk/run/hike
  • Bike ride
  • Park further away
  • Take the stairs
  • Yoga
  • Virtual workout options

Exercise contributes to your overall health; keeping your weight at a healthy level is important, but exercise can also help your mind and body in an incredible amount of ways. The U.S. National Library of Medicine has a wealth of resources, listed benefits, and recommendations on how to easily incorporate into your daily routine.

Benefits of Exercise

  • Reduce your risk of heart diseases
  • Help your body manage blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Help you quit smoking
  • Improve your mental health and mood
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • Reduce your risk of some cancers
  • Reduce your risk of falls
  • Improve your sleep

Even a small step in the right direction can be advantageous to your overall health and longevity. A first step could be to pick one item from the list and integrate it into your daily life, maybe choosing an additional item each month.

We can all benefit from exercise several times per week and regular integration into our normal routines, making staying active a priority. The senior community can especially benefit from this, too.

The National Institute on Aging has many helpful and instructional videos on how to exercise at home, testimonials of seniors who’ve benefited from exercise, and even videos of how to practice exercising safely.

Exercises for Seniors

  • Swimming – Who doesn’t love getting in the water? Feeling weightless, floating, and feeling more connected to our environment (even if you’re in a pool!), being in water can be the perfect exercise for seniors. Swimming also has many benefits to our loved ones, simply by keeping pressure off their joints.Seniors commonly experience arthritis and osteoporosis; the unlimited mobility of being in water will help relieve pressure from painful and sore joints. With a variety of low impact exercises that can be done with friends and family, too, exercising in a pool or calm body of water is a great way to support senior healthcare.
  • Yoga – If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, you know that your mind and body will feel refreshed, uplifted, and relaxed. Incorporating breathing techniques, a total body workout, balance, core stability, focus, and muscle strength, yoga has a plethora of benefits to senior health.A study done by the University of California-Los Angeles by the Department of Psychiatry suggests that meditation done in yoga may reduce the risk of developing dementia in senior citizens.
  • Walking – The more the merrier! Walking is a low impact activity that can be easily done with friends; staying social is important for maintaining cognitive functions and improves your mood. A simple, easy walk around your neighborhood or a local park in the morning can give you the boost you need to stay moving and active throughout the day. Plus, it’s always free!

Some of us can be intimated by kick-starting our health. We need to remember that our longevity isn’t just for us, it’s for our families, loved ones, and people that rely on us, maybe as a caregiver or just as a friend.

Our health should be priority just like brushing our teeth, spending time with loved ones, and even charging our phones. Charging the metaphorical “battery” in your body should be just as important as charging the battery in your smart phone.

Take a step today towards making your health a priority!

Missed our Staying Connected series? Watch them here!