If you are a distance caregiver who will be home with an older loved one during these holidays, it is a great chance to have great conversation and to do a caregiver check up with your older loved one. You may beneficially find it helpful to raise some questions in your catch-up conversation to get a clearer sense of how well your elder is caring for themselves. Try these:
1. How are you sleeping?
It is common knowledge that as we age, we simply need less sleep, but there is a real health difference between needing less sleep and actually suffering from insomnia. Consistent loss of sleep can be a real health risk in itself. Medical researchers find that as the hours of lost sleep pile up, blood pressure also rises. With rising pressure, there is rising inflammation or even weakening of blood vessel walls. People with genuine insomnia have twice the chance of suffering a stroke. Recommend end of day habits that will be less stimulating…like less television and more reading. It may be helpful to even suggest a white noise machine or some sound devices that mimic wave action or light rainfall to soothe your loved one to sleep.
2. Do you enjoy a good cup of coffee?
At the opposite end of the sleep continuum, don’t discourage your older loved one’s coffee during the day. At the same time you can encourage decaf or a switch to non-caffeinated teas after the lunch hour to avoid stimulation that can fuel sleeplessness. But coffee actually imparts measureable health benefits. It has been demonstrated to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even some forms of cancer.
3. Do you have a place for safe walking?
Walking just half an hour daily – or even six days out of seven – has had a demonstrably beneficial effect on reducing belly fat. And the effect is more than cosmetic. Walking or even jogging can reduce the middle and at the same time lower the risk of the three above: diabetes, heart disease and cancer. With any exercise, always encourage your loved one to consult their physician and to get comfortable and supportive footwear.
4. How are you feeling?
This sounds like a vague question, but it is a chance to talk about anything that has changed lately. Research shows that unusual chest or arm pain are common precursors for heart issues in men. In women, it is not so clear. In fact, fewer than a third of women report discomfort before a cardiac event. But nearly all women have symptoms like indigestion, pain, anxiety or other cues before a heart attack. Listen for what may be brushed off as “nothing.”
If you are a caregiver to an older loved one, enjoy family and the holiday, and take the conversational opportunity to make it a healthy holiday and new year.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.