Among the myriad of wonderful ideas available to caregivers for coping with the care of a loved one, some strategies that can influence the attitude of care recipients are often neglected. On strategy, simply put, is cultivating a more positive attitude towards aging. This can have a profound effect on the health of a care recipient.
Many elderly buy into the notion that they themselves are no longer useful and are a burden to others. As a result, the aging make little attempt to keep themselves healthy and active. After all, they are getting closer to the end of their lives and have no desire to try new things or to challenge themselves or to eat or exercise properly.
There is a great deal of research that demonstrates aging individuals can learn, retain memory and be actively involved in business and their community. A lack of physical exercise, social involvement and mental stimulation in older Americans often leads to deterioration of minds and their bodies. The older person's negative attitude towards aging becomes self-fulfilling.
Many studies show older people who are physically active have less joint pain, lower blood pressure, less depression, fewer heart attacks and a lower incidence of cancer. Proper nutrition also has the same affect on the aging process; it delays the progression of debilitating illness or disability. Recent research even suggest that weight loss and exercise can reverse the severity of diabetes.
Lack of social stimulation can also lead to poor mental health. Having an interest in something not only stimulates an older person's mind but also creates a better mental attitude which results often in better health. There is empirical evidence that using one's brain may prevent dementia in older age.
Here are some suggestions that might help caregivers improve the health of someone suffering from chronic medical afflictions, depression or debilitating physical challenges:
- If it is feasible, provide hobbies.
- If it is feasible, promote exercise adjusted to the care recipient's ability.
- When appropriate, talk about the natural process of aging. Encourage a sense of gratitude and fulfillment. Reflect on the aging’s accomplishments and history.
- Allow the care recipient to care for pets and plants even if he or she suffers from dementia. Nursing homes have demonstrated that Alzheimer's patients respond well to this therapy.
- Provide music or allow the care recipient to sing or play an instrument. Nursing homes have also shown this helps immensely with dementia patients.
- Encourage the care recipient to be responsible for his or her own health.
- Allow for interaction with grandchildren or small children.
- Provide the care recipient with challenging games or puzzles (sudoku, crosswords, trivia, card games, memory games etc.).
- Encourage the care recipient to read and write letters.
- Provide planned activities for the care recipient.
- Provide opportunities for volunteer work at home. (Many volunteer organizations can allow disabled folks at home to be involved through their computer and the Internet.).
- Provide special meals and formal table settings.
Adult Day Centers, Home Healthcare Professionals, Independent Living Communities, and Care Facilities also offer all the above activities on a daily basis. Feel free to reach out to members of the National Care Planning Council to learn more about support services for people receiving long term care.