Our understanding of the workings of the human brain has grown exponentially over past decades. Sophisticated new imaging technologies allow researchers to observe cerebral function in ways that would have seemed like science fiction only a few years ago! For in-home care professionals, new insights into how our brains change with age have helped personalize services which enhance cognitive health for senior clients.
Here are ways in-home care personnel help seniors take positive steps to maintain the best possible brain health:
- Managing health conditions – Studies continue to confirm that mental 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. Elderly care services at home include transportation to the doctor and other healthcare appointments, and support to help clients comply with care recommendations.
- Encouraging physical activity – Over the past decade, numerous studies showed that exercise helps preserve healthy brain function. And during 2010, researchers were even able to demonstrate that moderate aerobic exercise can increase the size of the brain area associated with memory development. No matter what their health condition, seniors should add more activity to their day. The presence of an in-home caregiver provides extra guidance 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 over medication 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 senior health caregivers help seniors remember to take medications correctly and at the right time, and can pick up prescriptions or transport clients to the pharmacy. Caregivers are also trained to be alert for negative reaction to 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 plan menus that meet a senior’s nutritional and special diet requirements. They can go grocery shopping and then prepare delicious meals and healthy snacks.
- Improving mental health – Geriatric mental health experts tell us that depression, stress and anxiety 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. The caregiver’s presence provides a noticeable mood boost for most senior clients.
- Increasing mental stimulation – When it comes to mental health, “use it or lose it” isn’t just a cliché. Mentally challenging pastimes encourage 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 etc.
- Preventing falls – Did you know that seniors are at higher risk of brain injury, and that most of these injuries result from falls? In-home caregivers 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.
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 Alzheimer’s home care to help their loved one remain safe at home for as long as possible. Choices will continue to offer information and resources for seniors and families who are dealing with the challenges of memory loss.