Three Healthy Ways to Start the New Year

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With the new year’s arrival, it’s time for some new and positive habits. Here are three good habits to work on jointly with your senior parents.

Medications Check-Up. Whether our elderly parents live with us or on their own, it’s always good for us to keep a bit of an “eye” on them and their situation. Even those who are fiercely independent often appreciate knowing that there are “second eyes” to help them in matters of health safety in regard to medications. Caring.com’s Paula Spencer wrote an interesting article with questions to ask your aging parents or look into for them.

To her three excellent questions, I would add one more. Have any of their medications expired? If so, see if they would like assistance in discarding them. Be sure it is done in such a way as not to put children, pets, or the environment in danger. Pfizer has an excellent pamphlet that gives additional safety information regarding medications including how to safely discard medication on page 3.

Excercise. This is a vital component of healthy aging, for ourselves and for our parents. As much as is possible, we all need to be proactive at staying active. We might not all want to join Beatrice Maullin in pressing weights at 87 , however we do need to look for some way to stay limber. My favorite exercise is tennis. I don’t have the opportunity to do it often right now, but I know that when I am ready, my city offers many options for group play through the parks and recreation. Many cities also offer senior discounts, senior groups, and even lessons. Hmmm, second career anyone?

If swimming is more your forte, check around for heated swimming pools in your area. The YMCA and YWCA are good places to start. If any of you have a friend living in a retirement community with a heated pool, you might see if they are allowed to bring guests for small fees. Those pools are often warmer than most which is wonderful for those with arthritis or those who, like me, freeze easily.

There is always walking, of course, which can be done anywhere. If your elderly parent is doing the walking, it might be wise to ensure they are walking with a partner or they carry a cell phone with them in case of any emergency. This can be easier said than done, but is well worth the effort expended in peace of mind for you and them.

Eating healthily. It’s a good idea to monitor your aging relative’s refrigerator and cupboards. Look for both a good variety of healthy foods and that they are tossing food that is beyond the expiration date. Whether it’s Thanksgiving leftovers or January pot pies, food that is kept too long is unsafe, as I wrote about in Leftover Safety.

Also, when talking food with senior parents, make sure that they are storing food right after it is made. I had a good friend who didn’t like to overheat her refrigerator. She would leave the food out until it was cool before putting it in the freezer or fridge. As a result, she inadvertently contaminated a big pot of soup. Every few weeks, she would pull out a batch, eat it, and get sick. It took several months, and several expensive doctor visits to finally track down the problem. Needless to say, the rest of the soup went into the trash, and she now puts all food immediately into the fridge or freezer.

Hopefully, these ideas will lead to healthier elderly parents and healthier caregivers. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions to add to this list, please leave them in the comments section below.

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