Quality of life means living a well-rounded lifestyle. It means social interaction and physical activity that help maintain independence. Whether your parent lives in an assisted living facility or at home with the help of home health care workers, he or she needs enough mental, physical, and emotional stimulation to remain engaged in the process of living.
According to the National Institute on Aging, boredom and depression can lead to forgetfulness, and the American Academy of Family Physicians points to inactivity as one of the reasons many elderly fail to thrive.
How do you help keep your parents engaged?
Whether you’re taking care of parents at home or overseeing their care in a nursing home or assisted living facility, you need to make sure they are receiving enough stimulation to keep their bodies moving, brains active and spirits lifted. There are several ways to accomplish this, including:
- Encourage parents to listen to audiobooks
- Offer selections of their favorite music to keep brain cells stimulated
- Encourage elders to engage in exercise classes or day trips sponsored by community park and recreation departments
- Suggest your parents purchase a pet: it can be a cat, dog, bird, fish, turtle or hamster (limit pets to those your parents are capable of caring for)
- Encourage your parents to volunteer in various community activities or programs
Staying active, staying healthy
Studies have shown that fitness for seniors helps stave off range of motion and mobility issues. Exercise for seniors also encourages higher spirits and gets an individual into social environments that are good for stimulating interest in events, people and their own future. Special classes are often offered in local gyms for the 60+ crowds and are geared toward weight-bearing exercises and muscle strengthening. Benefits include lower risks of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis, among others.
Many senior citizens like to stay at home. That’s fine, but constant isolation isn’t. Nevertheless, there are ways to help stimulate interest for those in elderly home care. The telephone is a great resource for communication. If you don’t live nearby, engage the services of a friend or other family member who will make it a point to visit the elderly person at least several times a week, if not daily.
For elderly residents of a senior retirement community or those in assisted living homes, opportunities to take part in organized events, field trips and in-residence activities help stave off boredom and help keep older minds engaged in learning new things, sharing their skills with others, or developing new skills that will help with fine motor movement and coordination.
Keeping elderly parents interested in a variety of activities isn’t always easy. The most common reasons for the elderly not joining in such activities may include comments like:
- I don’t know anyone there; I feel uncomfortable.
- I can’t move very well.
- I’m afraid I’m going to fall if I move around too much.
- I’m comfortable here.
Family caregivers must be prepared to deal with such statements and find ways to get past them. Remind your parent that inactivity can lead to poor health issues and reduced mental capacity. Keeping the body, mind and spirit actively engaged is one of the best things you can do for your parent.
Encourage your parent to continually explore new options, to engage in interests, and to find new ways to stay stimulated and engaged. It can make a world of difference in health, attitude and quality of life.