The Challenges of Aging: What Caregivers Should Know
Aging in place has been receiving a lot of attention lately, and it’s often a discussion older adults have with their family members. On the plus side, being in familiar surroundings and following the same old routine is comforting. But it’s also important to know that as we get older, our bodies change. Aging brings about physical and mental changes that often require special care. Understanding that the old routines might not work anymore, and knowing what to look out for, are essential for aging successfully anywhere.
“Older adults are much more susceptible to common illnesses, and those illnesses can sometimes cause complications, like pneumonia and sepsis, which can be life threatening,” explains John Mastronardi, executive director at The Nathaniel Witherell. “Vaccinations, like the shingles, COVID-19 and flu vaccines, are especially important for older adults.” Also critical for older adults are regular check-ups and annual screenings.
Nutrition is also vital to senior health. For those aging at home, it can be difficult to assess if people’s meals are balanced and if enough calories are being consumed daily.
“Weight gain or weight loss should be monitored closely,” advises Mastronardi. “Generally, seniors need enough lean protein to maintain muscle mass as well as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for fiber.”
The right diet is also important for good bone health. Since aging can impact our sense of balance which increases the risk of falls, seniors with fragile bones are at great risk for injury.
“At the Witherell, we encourage regular physical activity to help safeguard bone health. We ensure that every resident is eating a diet that’s rich in nutrients, and we carefully assess and monitor all residents to prevent falls,” Mastonardi says.
Beyond the physical necessities, older adults aging at home are also at risk for depression. Isolation, chronic long term health issues, and limits on mobility can weigh heavily on seniors, causing them to lose interest in daily life. For caregivers who are also dealing with their own families and careers, it can be overwhelming to keep tabs on the emotional well-being of a senior.
“For some families, the idea of seeking a higher level of care feels like they’re letting their loved one down,” says Mastronardi. “The opposite is true. By knowing that your loved one will receive exceptional person-centered care, you’re enhancing their quality of life.”
At the Witherell, nursing teams monitor every resident’s overall health and help in the management of chronic health issues to ease pain and prevent further complications. Therapeutic recreation specialists create a robust schedule of activities that engage residents physically and mentally. And, interaction with peers who are in the same life stage and who share hobbies, helps ease isolation and sparks interest.
“The Witherell is a resource for everyone in the community, whether you choose to age at home or make your home here,” says Mastronardi. “Our goal is to make the aging journey happy, healthy, and rewarding for everyone in the community. You may not need us today, but when and if you do, we’re here to help.”