Since January is International Quality of Life Month, it’s appropriate to consider exactly what constitutes a good quality of life for our senior loved ones. In Stanwood and elsewhere around the country, most people consider that the physical aspect of quality of life is the most important component of a fulfilling and meaningful life. However, senior home care professionals, and many medical experts as well, might tell you that the mental and emotional component of quality of life is at least as important, if not more so. Here are some reasons why that may be so.
Physical Quality of Life
There’s no question that it’s essential to keep senior loved ones as active as possible, so as to avoid any kind of rapid deterioration of physical health and well-being. Exercise has a number of benefits, including its impact on emotional well-being. Since regular exercise releases endorphins, the body’s feel-good hormones, it can keep a senior feeling good about themselves and can maintain their zest for life.
It also keeps them more involved in life as a participant, rather than as a mere observer. So the physical component of Quality of Life should never be minimized or overlooked, because it can literally provide the foundation of a happy and healthy life for a senior, and really for people of any age for that matter.
There are any number of reasons why depression might afflict an elderly person later in life. For instance, the loss of a spouse or of a number of long-term friends can send a senior into a tailspin which is difficult to recover from. Diminished physical capabilities or the presence of a prolonged illness can also be a huge vexation to the spirit, and trigger a deep depression.
There are more negative things that can trouble a senior and cause depression than there are for most younger people. Fighting this kind of depression may be crucial to a senior’s Quality of Life because when your elderly loved one is mired in depression, there isn’t much joy in their world, and nothing much will really matter to them.
Making them feel useful
One way you can contribute strongly to a senior’s mental Quality of Life is to involve them in activities that make them feel useful. Anyone who feels that they have no purpose or useful function in life will naturally begin to withdraw and isolate themselves. Losing social ties and not participating in life can cause a senior to slide down the slippery slope of mental wellness and lose interest in life.
There are so many ways that seniors can provide useful service, regardless of their physical condition, that every senior can be helped to have a purpose and to make a contribution. Shopping, meal preparations, light housework, folding laundry, and other household tasks can keep a senior involved and active in household life.
Staying mentally active
It’s very important for a senior to stay mentally active since it has been proven in many studies that lack of mental activity leads to depression and dementia much more often in seniors. There are all kinds of ways you can help your senior loved one stay mentally active and maintain good mental health. Help stimulate their minds by offering to solve crossword puzzles with them, encourage them to read books at their reading level, and give them an opportunity to write, perhaps about incidents from their past.
These might be enjoyable and rewarding for relatives to read, as being interesting situations that were not previously known or discussed. Anything that engages the mind and stimulates thought processes will be a great activity for a senior and may help significantly to ward off the symptoms of mental health disorders.
Staying connected to family, friends, and community
Any time a senior becomes isolated and lonely, there is a much greater chance they will have a shortened life or will be at greater risk for developing dementia. That’s why it’s so important to help your senior loved one stay active in the community and to maintain emotional ties with friends and family. As a caretaker, you can help avoid this by arranging for some of these individuals to visit, or to take your parent to see them whenever possible.
Providing transportation to senior centers or community centers where socializing can take place can be a very important idea as well. Having regular contact and social interaction with peers can be a huge boost to a senior’s sense of well-being and to their Quality of Life. Another great way to boost your elderly loved one’s mental engagement is to encourage them to take up a new hobby.
Help them to get started, and encourage them to keep at it, so that it becomes something they genuinely look forward to. Doing volunteer work in the community or at a local church can also give a senior a wonderful sense of purpose, and help them realize that they are still very important members of society.