For In-Home Care Professionals, Increased Emphasis on Brain Health
Our understanding of brain health has grown by giant leaps over the past few decades. Sophisticated new imaging technologies allow researchers to observe the working of the brain in ways that would have seemed like science fiction only a few years ago. This research has yielded new insight into how our brains change with age. Professional in-home caregivers have tailored senior care services accordingly, with increased emphasis on enhancing brain health for seniors.
Here are ways in-home care professionals are helping senior clients take positive steps to maintain the best possible brain health:
Managing health conditions—New studies show that brain health is closely interrelated with heart health, diabetes, blood pressure, even dental health and hearing loss. So it’s more important than ever for seniors to follow their healthcare provider’s advice. In-home caregivers provide transportation to the doctor and other healthcare appointments, and help clients comply with care recommendations.
Encouraging physical activity—More and more studies show that exercise helps preserve healthy brain function. This year a National Institute on Aging study showed that moderate aerobic exercise can actually increase the size of the brain area assocated with memory formation. No matter what their health condition, seniors should add more activity to their day. The presence of an in-home caregiver provides extra encouragement and confidence to help clients stick to the activity program their healthcare provider recommends.
Medication management—Prescription and non-prescription drugs help many seniors manage their health conditions. But overmedication and the side effects of some drugs can actually cloud the memory. Seniors should request that their healthcare provider or pharmacist review their prescriptions regularly. In-home caregivers help senior clients remember to take medications correctly and at the right time, and can transport clients to the pharmacy or pick up prescriptions. Caregivers are also alert to possible negative side-effects of drugs.
Providing “brain friendly” meals and snacks—We can choose foods that help protect our brains. The good news is, seniors who have been following a “heart smart” diet also benefit from the good-for-your-brain choices such as low-fat meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. In-home caregivers can plan meals that meet a senior’s nutritional and special diet requirements. They can do the grocery shopping and prepare delicious meals and healthy snacks.
Improving mental health—Geriatric mental health experts tell us that depression, stress and anxiety can cause harmful chemical changes in the brain. In-home caregivers help senior clients comply with their healthcare provider’s instructions for treating these conditions. Treatment might include medication, and a change in routine can be just as important. The caregiver’s presence and support reduces the feelings of loneliness and isolation that can lead to depression. Getting out of the house and spending more time with others provides a noticeable mood boost for most seniors.
Increasing mental stimulation—When it comes to brain health, “use it or lose it” isn’t just a cliché. Using our brains for mentally challenging activities encourages new connections between brain cells. You might say that the brain is like a muscle that can be strengthened! Watching TV and similar passive activities don’t offer the same benefits. In-home caregivers know how important it is to help clients seek out a variety of appropriate, mentally challenging activities. At home, they might enjoy a game of checkers, crafts, or listening to music. The caregiver can also provide transportation so clients can visit a garden, spend time with friends, or go to a museum.
Preventing falls—Did you know that seniors are at higher risk of brain injury, and that most of these injuries result from falls? Seniors and family caregivers should take steps to reduce the risk of falls. Using a home safety checklist, An in-home caregiver can take senior clients to fall reduction classes; help “fall-proof” the home by removing clutter; and provide physical assistance when clients need help walking, getting dressed, or moving between bed and chair.
When a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease
Many seniors retain a healthy memory and cognitive skills throughout most of life. But unfortunately, Alzheimer’s disease and similar conditions do become more common with age. Many families choose the support of in-home care to help their loved one remain safe at home for as long as possible. In each issue of Caring Right at Home, you will find information and resources for seniors and families who are dealing with the challenges of memory loss. Read on to learn about a new report updating consumers on the current state of research and understanding about Alzheimer’s disease.
Right at Home is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned, franchised providers of in-home care services.