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From the Neighborhood Press

Staying Active: helping a loved one

Family members are key to the health and vitality of aging seniors. Even if you have a loved one who is no longer capable of keeping up as once before, staying as active as possible can help an elderly loved one stay happy and healthier. There is even research supporting the idea that physical activity is vital for brain health. Let’s look at a few ways that you can help your family member lead a happy and fulfilling life just by some extra  encouragement to make them feel loved and happy.

First, connect with your senior’s caretakers and doctors and find out what physical activities are healthy and advantageous for your loved one. It’s important for everyone to be on the same page and working towards the same goals. Sometimes, little steps can add up and be surprisingly beneficial in the big picture. It’s important also to keep in touch with caregivers and medical providers when you notice physical or mental changes. If you spend enough time with your loved one, you can begin to recognize patterns, improvements or challenges they experience.

If your senior lives in an assisted living community or is involved in a memory care program, take some time to find out what the community offers residents to keep them interested and engaged. Many communities offer events and encourage seniors to connect in group sessions, over meals, or through exercise classes. Once you connect with caregivers and discover which opportunities would be beneficial for your senior, you can help encourage them to become active. For example, if the community schedules an event such as an ice cream social, you can find out if family members or friends are welcome and participate with your loved one. Bring the excitement to them! At this time with Covid-19 restrictions, this may not always be possible. Discuss with the assisted living staff and find out current restrictions and how you can be part of activities with your senior. Even if activities do not involve much physical exercise, they can be mentally stimulating and inspiring.

Try Long Distance!

If you are far away or if Covid-restrictions make it impossible for you to be part of your loved one’s life in person, much can be done from a distance. You can get in touch with your senior’s caregivers and find out how you can encourage them to take part in activities and events. Using technology like FaceTime or Skype, you can set up virtual “visits” with them on a regular basis! Ask your senior’s caregivers if they can assist with these long-distance visits.

It can be helpful to collaborate with your senior’s medical team and caregivers and write down a collection of physical exercises or activities that are prescribed for them. If you find your own ideas for exercise and physical activity, just make sure to run them by your loved one’s medical providers first. Much can be done out in the fresh air. Being outdoors can be refreshing to body and soul, especially now in the warmer weather. Try to be as consistent as possible in coming to visit and encouraging your senior to engage both mentally and physically as possible. As mentioned earlier, little steps can add up to become big ones! Some days can bring more progress than others, so never be discouraged. Every day is a new day!

One way to bring sparkle and inspiration into an elderly person’s life is through their grandchildren. Or even the family dog! Take grandpa on an outing to watch the children play in the park or playground. If you have a dog that is gentle and easy to be around, consider planning an outdoor puppy play session. Even if it means just sitting on a bench and petting the dog every now and then and watching him play. The sheer joy and energy that children and pets bring can bring may just give your senior that boost of energy they need to keep deciding to be active.

Once you’ve decided on how to be involved in keeping your loved one active, consider doing something together afterwards that is rewarding and fun for them. Bring some freshly baked cookies or a treat that grandma loves and share it while she relaxes in her favorite chair. If your loved one is still capable of going out and about, consider taking them out to their favorite restaurant. Perhaps establish a regular routine, adjusting as needed depending on how tired they are each day.

Staying active is key to a senior’s emotional and physical health. It is vital to work as a team with medical providers, caretakers and assisted living staff to ensure your senior’s needs are met. The love and encouragement a family member or friend gives can help your senior stay healthy and as active as possible!

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