5 Ways to Help Your Senior Patients Make Healthier Choices

Provider Educating Senior Patient

By Jason Lewis jason_lewis@strongwell.org

Older adults face more and more healthcare obstacles, from arthritis to heart disease to osteoporosis to dementia. Empowering seniors to take control of their lifestyle choices is an effective way to turn these obstacles into opportunities. Doctors can teach healthy decision-making to people who face unique health challenges by guiding seniors through their choices for physical and mental well-being. Not only does this provide support for chronic illnesses and pain, but it can be a powerful tool for preventative health. Here are five preventative healthcare tips you can start teaching to your clients right away.

#1 Medical Alert Tech

You cannot predict an emergency, but you can prepare for one. Monitoring your health with a medical alert system is an empowering precaution. There is a grounding peace of mind that comes with knowing help is a button-click away. For instance, for a senior with mobility challenges, a medical alert bracelet can call for help during a slip or fall. That substantially improves independence and response time. There are a lot of options out there, so encourage your patients to do their research on different services before choosing one. ConsumersAdvocate.org provides a lot of resources that can help seniors make a choice on technology that is right for them.

#2 Yoga

If your patients think yoga is only for people who can stand on their heads then it is definitely time to get them to think again. Yoga is for anyone looking to improve strength and flexibility in mind and body. Even a gentle stretching practice can make strides in easing muscle tension and reducing chronic pain. Explain to seniors that they can take command of their physical health by challenging their balance with poses like tree and dancer, building upper body strength with chaturanga or fire up the core with boat pose. All of these exercises have modifications so seniors can ease their way into a pose without risking injury.

#3 Gut Health

Help your clients understand that digestive system health can have an impact on the health of their entire body even your mental health! Adding fermented foods and possibly even a daily probiotic can restore balance to the healthy microorganisms that live in our guts. Seniors on certain daily medications or with dietary restrictions might notice changes in gut health ask your patients if they are bloated, gassy, uncomfortable, constipated, frequently nauseated or have skin irritations. These are all signs the microbiome of their gut might be out of sync. Remind them to always consult you or another physician before starting new diets or taking supplements to make sure there will be no unwanted side effects.

#4 Brain Games

Keeping the mind spry is essential to healthy aging, especially after retirement. The brain needs to be challenged and stimulated daily to ensure we can live independently, maintain healthy short and long-term memory and confidently make important decisions. That s where practicing brain games daily can help. Show your clients where they can access games like sudoku, jigsaw puzzles, word games and logic puzzles to help prolong or even prevent the onset of some cognitive disorders that often come with age, like dementia. Seniors can even play many of these games online, which can teach and improve technology skills. You can also encourage them to play these games in groups with friends, making these games a fun social activity, as well.

#5 Caring for a Pet

Growing older can sometimes be a lonely path. Seniors lose friends and family members who made a huge impact on their lives, which can deeply wound the heart. That s one of the reasons why senior isolation can have such a profoundly negative impact on physical and mental health. Caring for an animal can give seniors not only a companion to bond and spend time with, but also a daily meaning and purpose in life. Petting a dog has shown to reduce levels of stress and anxiety, while daily walks can give seniors the exercise they need, too. If a senior patient is considering a dog, it s important they understand the personality and energy levels of certain breeds before adopting.

Showing your patients options for healthy living can really embolden them to make decisions to help prolong their lives and make them happier. Encourage them to explore these options and then help them maintain these changes by keeping them accountable. It s never too late to help a senior start a healthy habit.