A Guide to Optimal Health in Aged Care

CPD
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Published: 21 March 2017

As they age, older adults find themselves facing unique health challenges. Whether on their own or requiring in-home care services, by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, older adults can help prevent and control many of these issues, while improving their quality of life.

Optimal Health Guide

Health becomes a major focus as a person ages. The body ages and certain deficiencies appear. Though older adults may be free of disease, the natural ageing process can be quite challenging to overcome (Smith, Segal & White 2019).

Even so, a few simple things can be done to obtain and maintain optimal health.

Healthy Diet

Sticking to a healthy diet is a key component to maintaining health at any stage of life, but is especially important for older adults. A nutritious and balanced diet can help prevent common health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, obesity and many others.

People over 50 are recommended to choose from the following foods and portion sizes each day:

  • 1½ to 2 cups of fruit;
  • 2 to 3 cups of vegetables;
  • 5 to 8 ounces (140 to 226 grams) of grains;
  • 5 to 6½ ounces (140 to 184 grams) of protein;
  • 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat dairy; and
  • 5 to 7 teaspoons of oils.

(NIH 2019)

Reducing the intake of sodium, fats and sugars is recommended (Better Health Channel 2017).

Older adults with health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease may need to follow different dietary requirements as directed by their physicians.

Adequate Sleep

older woman sleeping

Getting the proper amount of sleep at night is important. Older adults should be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. Being well-rested helps in lowering health risks and maintaining energy levels throughout the day (NIH 2016).

Lack of sleep can cause depression, irritability and decreased cognitive functioning (Better Health Channel 2014).

While medications or other health issues can cause insomnia, there are things older adults can do to improve their sleeping habits. Sticking to a sleeping and waking schedule can help, as well as eliminating caffeine and other substances (Sleep Foundation 2015).

Fresh Air

A study found that older adults who spent time being active outdoors experienced a higher quality of life (2012).

By spending time outdoors, older adults are able to exercise, socialise with friends, meet new people and gain exposure to sunlight, which increases levels of Vitamin D (DSDC 2012).

Getting outside and into the fresh air can prevent sleep disorders and other health conditions. It also improves cognitive function and physical mobility (DSDC 2012).

Social Media

While social media is generally associated with younger generations, older adults can benefit immensely from social networking. A 2016 study from Michigan State University suggested that older adults who use social media and other social technologies have better physical and mental health outcomes than those that don’t.

Social media networking with family and friends prevents feelings of loneliness and depression by helping older adults feel more connected with the world around them. In the study, older adults who utilised social technology reported feeling more satisfied with life (Michigan State University 2016).

Brain Games

Research indicates that exercising the brain through playing ‘brain games’ such as Luminosity and Sodoku puzzles and participating in other activities that stretch cognitive abilities can improve the processing power of the brain (Weir 2014).

Compassion

Mental health is an important element of maintaining physical health. Therefore, it is imperative that caregivers treat older adults with patience, respect and understanding.

older woman talking to nurse happily

Additional Resources


References

Author

Portrait of LeaAnn Fritsch
LeaAnn Fritsch

LeaAnn’s diverse background includes health education, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, and teaching at George Mason University. It was her 10 years of in-home personal care for a Prince William County resident that sealed her passion for the healthcare field. In November 2015, LeaAnn joined the team at Visiting Angels to coordinate marketing efforts to grow our family of caregivers and care recipients. LeaAnn values integrity and honour in relationship building and loves to laugh along the way. See Educator Profile

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