In 2008, 40% of all hospitalized adults were 65 years of age or older. Hospitalization is usually an indication that dramatic lifestyle changes are needed to maintain a healthy, independent life.
While it is impossible to prevent all accidents and illnesses, seniors and their loved ones can take steps now to help avoid hospitalization in the future.
1. Stay Active
Exercise is important for people of all ages, but it becomes even more important as we age. Seniors should speak with their doctors to determine the type and intensity of exercise that can safely be accomplished.
Walking is a great way to maintain mobility and balance. Exercises that incorporate strength, balance and coordination can help prevent falls. Strength training and cardiovascular exercise help seniors maintain flexibility and muscle mass as they age. Maintaining strength and coordination can also help seniors avoid injury.
Even seniors with injuries or limited mobility can incorporate exercise into their daily lives. A physiotherapist and supervised exercise time can help ensure that seniors get the exercise they need in a safe way.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
Just as exercise can help prevent injuries and falls, a healthy diet can help seniors avoid disease and illness.
Consuming anti-inflammatory foods, healthy fats, lean protein, leafy greens and fiber will help seniors maintain a healthy weight and a strong immune system.
Healthy foods will keep the mind sharp and help the body maintain optimal bone strength. Osteoporosis, which is the loss of bone density and bone tissue, is one of the leading causes of hip fracture in seniors. Consuming nutritious foods can help prevent the onset of osteoporosis.
3. Take Up Hobbies
Physical health is important, but many seniors overlook the significance of mental and emotional well-being.
Many seniors feel isolated and lonely as they age. After retirement, some feel that they have lost their purpose in life.
Finding a hobby or interest can renew feelings of purpose and help seniors connect with others. Hobbies can bring great joy, and some can also keep the mind sharp. From gardening to crafting, pottery and even yoga, there are so many hobbies that seniors can engage in.
4. Make the Home a Safer Place
Loved ones can take a more proactive approach to preventing hospitalization by making the home a safer place.
Take an honest assessment of the senior’s capabilities and make changes accordingly. Depending on the mobility level, major renovations may be required.
In many cases, simple changes can go a long way in preventing injuries and falls, such as:
- Replacing rugs that slip easily with non-slip rugs
- Installing ramps where necessary
- Tightening hand-railings
- Installing new light fixtures in low-lit rooms and hallways
- Removing clutter from stairways and hallways
- Installing grip bars in bathrooms
5. Manage Medication
Medication management is important for seniors. Talk to a doctor to make sure that your loved one is taking the right medications and the right dosages.
If a senior is experiencing side effects or symptoms from current medications, it may be time for a change.
6. Stay Social
Socialization is important for seniors. Spending time with friends and loved ones can help seniors maintain a positive outlook on life.
Positivity can stave off depression and anxiety while also helping seniors maintain the desire to lead a healthy life.
In addition to making seniors happy, spending time with loved ones will also keep the mind sharp.
Arrange regular visits and outings. Joining a senior center can also help seniors make new friends of their own age.
7. Find Fulfillment
Even with hobbies, some seniors still miss that feeling of fulfillment that came with raising a family and working.
But even in retirement, seniors can find purpose and fulfillment in their activities. Some volunteer their time. Others turn their hobbies into something that can help others. From teaching someone how to cook to knitting scarves for the needy, there are many ways seniors can find purpose in their daily activities.
Like with socialization and hobbies, finding fulfillment can help seniors avoid depression and anxiety, which can lead to health issues that may require hospitalization.
8. Arrange for Supervised Care
Sometimes, it’s just not safe for seniors to live alone. While we do our best to help our loved ones maintain their independence, round the clock care may be required.
Arranging for supervised care can help ensure the safety of your loved one and prevent hospitalization due to falls or other injuries.
9. Get Vision Check-Ups
As we age, our eyesight starts to deteriorate. And that deterioration can be even more dramatic if we had impaired vision in our younger years.
Regular vision check-ups can help seniors preserve and maintain their eyesight. Vision problems greatly increase the risk of a fall, which can lead to hospitalization. It’s important for seniors to have their eyesight checked every year.
10. Get Enough Sleep
A good night’s sleep is important for seniors. Studies have shown that getting less than six hours of shut-eye nearly doubles the risk of a heart attack and stroke.
Seniors should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep. Nearly half of all seniors have insomnia. Exercise and a healthy diet can help prevent this condition, but there may be another underlying medical condition that is causing sleep disruption. Chronic conditions like sleep apnea can be extremely detrimental to your health. If you suffer from this condition you should consult your doctor.
If your loved one is having trouble sleeping, talk to a doctor.
11. Adopt a Furry Friend
As we age, we tend to experience a lot of loss. We lose our friends and loved ones. We start losing our health. These events are a natural part of life, but some seniors struggle to cope with these losses.
Pets help many seniors stay healthy both physically and mentally. They serve as companions and can help keep seniors active. Talking the dog for a walk in the park each morning can give the senior a reason to get out of bed and keep moving.
Studies have also found that pets can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and lower the risk of a heart attack.
These 11 tips can help seniors avoid the hospital and continue enjoying a life of independence. While it is impossible to prevent all accidents and illnesses, taking a proactive approach to mental and physical health can help minimize the risk.
Allie has worked in care facilities for the last 15 years providing mobility and health care to seniors of all skill levels. She is passionate about senior advocacy and is and loves to spend her free time in the outdoors.