Self-Care For Seniors
Updated: Jan 14
What is self-care?
When you hear the word self-care, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Do you picture yourself spending the day at the spa getting a massage, manicure, and pedicure? Do you prefer to stay at home, lighting some candles, and taking a bubble bath? Is drinking a protein shake and working out more up your alley. While all these things are great answers, there is so much more to taking care of yourself.
Self-care is a make-up of actions and decisions that mentally, emotionally, and physically benefit the person to maintain a healthy state. Environmental factors, lifestyle, hygiene, and nutrition are all factors that impact self-care. Self-care becomes more and more important as you age, especially for seniors. People aged 65 and older are encouraged to monitor and establish habits to maintain their physical and mental health.
How to Start Self-Care Habitats
Did you know that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to establish a habit?
Let’s back up to defining what a habit is. A habit is something that becomes second nature. Through repetition, the brain learns to act without thinking about it, becoming effortless and automatic.
To start creating healthy habits, ask yourself what does self-care means to you. Set goals and boundaries for yourself. A goal could be to do one thing a day to increase your self-care (go for a walk, eat a nutritional meal, get a good night's sleep, etc.). A boundary could be limiting the amount of time you spend doing something (video games, social media, time on your phone or watching tv, etc.)
Know your limitations. How much can you handle doing something before you get burnt out? Identify what you want to achieve and how you are going implement that into your daily routine.
Self-Care Tips for Seniors
As you get older, the body has a difficult time absorbing some of the key nutrients you need. Also, the daily calorie intake for seniors decreases. For these reasons, having a well-balanced and nutritional meal is important for seniors. They need to get the necessary vitamins and minerals. Maintaining a balanced diet, remembering to eat, and preparing meals can be difficult for seniors to manage by themselves. If your loved one is struggling with preparing meals, going grocery shopping, or having trouble eating, hiring in-home care can help. In-home caregivers can assist with preparing home-cooked meals that are not only delicious but will provide the daily recommended dose of vitamins and minerals.
The recommended daily consumption of water for adults is at least 7 cups (8 ounces). Research shows that hydration is vital for regulating body temperature, lubricating the joints, and delivering nutrients to cells. The body releases a signal to the brain to remind you to drink water. We call this trigger "thirst." Senior's natural sense of thirst will slowly diminish with age. It is important to remind seniors to drink water throughout the day to prevent dehydration.
You are never too old to exercise. Seniors aged 65 and older should get a minimum of 2.5 hours of exercise per week. The intensity of the workout is not the main focus, find something that you enjoy and will get your blood pumping. Note: the higher the intensity workout, the more endorphins are released. Exercises gentle on the body include going for walks, swimming, yoga, dancing, and gardening. Exercising is also a good excuse for seniors to engage in nature. Nature has proven to have calming effects on the mind. Caregivers can be a great source of motivation to get outdoors for a little bit each day.
Seniors should aim to get anywhere between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Seniors are at an increased chance of becoming depressed or risk falling if they don't get a good night's rest. A balanced meal and regular exercise can help improve quality of life and sleeping better. Staying active throughout the day will also help burn built-up energy. By the end of the day, you will feel tired and have an easier time falling asleep. Seniors should try to avoid napping during the day as this can negatively impact getting good sleep at night. This can be difficult to avoid for some people, so if you are going to take a nap, try to keep it short, about 30 minutes or so in the afternoon. Try not to take a nap too late in the day.
Everyone needs a little socialization in their life. It doesn't matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert. There is something about the human body designed to crave connection. Socialization comes with complications due to COVID-19, but there are some ways to get around that, thanks to technology. You can call someone, facetime, or connect via social media. When you have in-person meet-ups, practice social distancing and wear a mask. Social media makes it easy for you to join a group or club and meet new people. Start a new hobby or get back into a hobby that you have a passion for.
Taking up a relaxing hobby like reading a book, knitting or crochet, cooking or baking, jigsaw puzzles, puzzles, etc., can lower blood pressure, decrease heart rate, reduce anxiety and stress in seniors. Hobbies are great for seniors to escape or learn something new.
Why do seniors need self-care?
Some foods provide a natural remedy to counteract insomnia. Bananas, potatoes, almonds, any food that is rich in tryptophan is like taking melatonin. Here is a tip, when preparing meals or snacking throughout the day, try to eat as many colorful foods as possible. Eat fruits and vegetables every day. Substitute ingredients for something healthier. For example, almond butter instead of salt butter, dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate, or stevia instead of sugar.
Drinking water has many important attributes. The benefits of staying hydrated include improving mood, sleep, and fighting infections, balancing electrolytes, blood volume, and kidney function. Dehydration comes with risk for seniors, low blood pressure, weakness, confusion, dizziness, decreased function/efficiency in kidneys, urinary tract infection.
Exercise is great for self-care because it triggers a chemical in the human body called endorphins. Endorphins reduce the perception of pain and release a positive feeling throughout the body. This can lower the chances of developing depression, decrease anxiety, improve balance, and make you stronger.
Implementing acts of self-care become more important for seniors, especially during COVID-19. One of the best acts of self-care for seniors is socialization. Having a connection with people can help prevent seniors from feeling alone.
Did you know that about 27 - 28% of older adults aged 60 and older live alone in the United States?
Seniors should take this time for themselves. Art is a great hobby to indulge in because it activates the left and right brains. Art therapy is great for Seniors with Alzheimer's and dementia or other illnesses to express emotions and feelings. Other benefits include improving memory, decreasing stress and anxiety, alleviating pain, and physical exercise for the hands and arms.
Gardening is another great hobby for seniors offering both mental and physical benefits. Cooking can provide a sense of achievement for seniors. It can incentivize them as well to cook healthier meals and move around a little. There are plenty of other hobbies that would benefit seniors, puzzles, reading, playing an instrument, photography, etc. It's never too late and you are never too old to start something.
Risk of lack of self-care?
Using this word loosely, seniors are fragile and become more so as they age. They are at risk of developing mental and physical illnesses. These can be prevented by self-care. However, if self-care is not a priority, seniors are at a higher risk of additional health conditions.
A poor diet and lack of nutrition can lead to a weakened immune system, an increased risk of infections, muscle weakness, decreased bone mass, and poor wound healing.
Dehydration alone is dangerous and creates a domino effect for seniors. For many medications that seniors take, water is essential for them to work. Not having enough water can also lead to feeling light-headedness and dizziness, and can you guess what leads to? Falling.
Not getting enough exercise can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and obesity. It can also lead to restlessness, tight muscles, and unbalanced electrolytes.
Did you know about 31 million adults aged 50 or older get no physical activity beyond that of daily living?
I think you can guess what the downfalls are for seniors who don't engage in enough socialization. It can be mentally tolling. No one enjoys feeling alone and isolated, this can lead to depression and escalate other medical conditions.
The overall takeaway of this article is to express how important self-care is for seniors. There are many ways to help take better care of yourself to maintain a healthy status and quality of life. First, eat a healthy, well-balanced meal three times a day, followed by staying hydrated, and exercising. These are probably some of the most important for seniors. Sleep, socialization, and hobbies are also important for seniors.
This can be a lot for seniors to manage on their own every day. If you are a family caregiver taking care of a loved one, it might be time to seek outside support.