According to Betty Greaver, RN, LMT, it’s a common myth that aging means a person gains weight, has chronic pain and can’t continue living a productive life. Rather, Greaver says, and research shows, there are simple lifestyle changes that people can make in order to remain active and have the capacity to enjoy life to its fullest, no matter a person’s age.
Greaver has 49 years of nursing experience. During that time, she also gained 19 years of experience as a therapeutic massage therapist, and 10 years as a health coach. She combines these professional experiences and passions into her business, Healing Health Concepts, where she provides coaching, classes, and information for older adults and caregivers to help them achieve their best and most active life at any age.
Investing in Your Own Health
Family caregivers too often neglect their own health when taking care of a loved one. It’s important for family caregivers to take the time to invest in their physical and mental health because caregiving can take a financial, social and physical toll. In some cases, it may be possible for the family caregiver and his/her loved one to focus on achieving health and wellness goals together.
Greaver says that it’s important to pay attention to your health in the middle years so that you have optimum health in your later years. She recommends the following for people of all ages:
- Exercise and physical activity. While mild exercise has been shown to provide countless benefits, it’s important to just keep moving. If you haven’t engaged in a regular exercise routine, start by walking around your house or your block. If you have an indoor mall nearby, use that as a place to walk. Be sure to invest in a good pair of walking shoes and slowly build your stamina in order to prevent injury. Other ideas to increase movement: park the car at the far end of the parking lot, ask a friend to join you on walks for accountability, and make the most out of running errands and grocery shopping, using those opportunities to build walk time into your day.
- Remain socially active. Older adults and their family caregivers can easily become isolated. Stay involved with friends and in activities in your local community that take you out of the house. While social media enables us to easily stay in touch with friends and relatives that live out of the area, social media can also be isolating in that we aren’t interacting with people face-to-face.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Make the choice to eat a nutritionally, well-balanced diet of good clean foods. Eliminate processed food and fast food as much as possible, and if you can afford it, buy organic foods.
- Eliminate sugar. Eliminating sugar as much as possible from your diet can provide an almost instantaneous benefit. Sugar can lead to inflammation, which is an underlying cause in chronic diseases. By eliminating sugar, you can decrease inflammation and, in some cases, reduce the need for medications to manage chronic health conditions.
Three lifestyle changes that may be overlooked, but that are equally important in establishing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, are:
- Daily prayer/meditation/mindfulness. The American Heart Association and a number of recent research studies have shown the many benefits of daily prayer, meditation or mindfulness. In just eight weeks, studies have shown that 15 minutes of daily meditation, with a focus on deep breathing, provides health benefits. Meditation can be done anywhere in your home or at outdoor locations. YouTube provides some helpful tutorials that can help beginners get started.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Recent studies have suggested that there may be a link between poor sleep and an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. During sleep, our bodies and our minds heal and repair, and too little sleep can cut this work short. To help encourage a good night’s sleep, make sure you have a designated sleeping area that is dark, cool, and quiet, and eliminate electronics at least one hour before bed.
- Incorporate play, creativity and humor. Sometimes during our young adult and middle years, with the busyness of forging a career and raising families, we get out of the habit of engaging in activities that bring us joy. Think back to things you enjoyed doing or hobbies you had, but haven’t done in some time: board or card games, reading, puzzles, playing a musical instrument, or travel. Also consider activities that you’ve been interested in pursuing, but haven’t had the time to investigate and learn. Give yourself permission to look for, and engage in, opportunities that bring joy.
Greaver has seen firsthand in her health coaching business the many benefits people have when they make a commitment to a healthier, more active lifestyle. From a decrease in chronic pain to the elimination of prescription medications, Greaver knows how important it is for seniors to make healthy choices so that they can get the most out of life.
The Help Choose Home podcast series provides information and resources for families about senior home health options. Podcasts are hosted by Merrily Orsini, executive vice president of Axxess and president and CEO of corecubed, an award-winning home care marketing solutions agency.
Help Choose Home is a collaborative effort by the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC), Axxess, and corecubed to educate the public about the many benefits of the in-home care industry, which includes non-medical home care, private duty nursing care, medical home health, hospice, and other in-home health and wellness services.
If this episode has been helpful, be sure to leave a five-star review and share the podcast with your friends to help us in the national effort to help choose home! You can connect with Merrily Orsini on Twitter @MerrilyO.