Self-care are all those actions that individuals perform to maintain and promote their health, voluntarily assuming responsibility for the care of their health, life and well-being.
These self – care actions have to be adapted at each stage of life; thus self-care is different in infants and young children than in young adults or the elderly. In the elderly, self-care should be aimed at maintaining, limiting and “smoothing” the general natural decline that the passage of time entails, in order to reach full and healthy aging.
In this article we will talk about some actions that should already be carried out at every stage of life, and others that are more specific to this stage. We are going to introduce these main axes of care:
Foods that can not be missing
As at any age, the recommended diet must be based on the healthiest, mainly the Mediterranean, but adapted to the peculiarities of the elderly. In aging, we find a decrease in saliva production and digestive tract movements, possible loss of teeth, and nutrient requirements vary in proportion due to changes in caloric expenditure and other needs.
Therefore, based on the Mediterranean diet, the diet of the elderly requires a slight increase in the proportion of proteins(mainly from fish and white meat and less from red meat). Also important is the contribution of fiber (fruit, vegetables, whole grains), especially taking into account the slowing down of bowel movements, which predisposes to constipation.
In addition, apart from the composition of the diet, in the diet of the elderly we must recommend that meals be at regular times, adjusting their texture to the state of the mouth and teeth, eating with enough time to avoid choking.
And, finally, it is important to also ensure hydration; Older people lose the feeling of thirst, so drinking water, infusions, juices… must be ensured throughout the day, even though they do not feel thirsty.
Tips for going to the bathroom
In the elderly, we usually find problems such as constipation and urinary incontinence, associated or not with weakness of the pelvic floor or prostate problems.
Being aware of these situations, we have already discussed the need to increase fiber intake, and to avoid sedentary lifestyle (movement of the body involves movement of the intestines). It also helps to keep a schedule to go to the bathroom to defecate.
Regarding urination, it is convenient to ensure easy access to the bathroom, as well as ensuring clothes that are easy to put on and take off when going to the bathroom. Older people should avoid going for a long time without urinating (it is better to go every three or four hours to avoid rushing later and risking an “accident”).
Learn to fall asleep and rest well
It is known that, as we get older, the structure of the dream changes, and our needs also. But this is not to say that insomnia has to be the norm.
- It is convenient to balance physical activity with rest, avoiding in any case excessive fatigue. Getting tired is not being sleepy. It is also recommended that naps do not exceed 30 minutes.
- They have to avoid heavy meals before bedtime and taking stimulants (coffee, colas, tea, chocolate) or alcohol. Mental excitement before going to sleep should also be avoided (TV shows, readings, social media, etc.)
- As far as possible, a routine must be respected when going to bed and getting up, and make sure that the environment is comfortable, well ventilated avoiding extreme temperatures, and isolated from external stimuli such as light and noise.
Get some exercise and avoid stupid falls
The exercise is important at all ages, but more so in the elderly. Physical activity keeps joints, bones and muscles in good condition, improving balance and reducing the risk of falls and injuries. However, the exercise should be adjusted to the situation in which the person is, avoiding exhaustion. And above all that it is a regular and pleasant activity to do.
The falls in the elderly constitute a significant risk for injuries and sequelae that may incur. In addition to maintaining physical activity that will help improve balance, it is important that the environment is also adapted: well lit, without loose elements on the floor (carpets, cables, etc.)
Take care of your hygiene and dental health
One of the best known signs of aging are changes in the skin: it becomes thinner, wrinkled, loses firmness and elasticity. That is, it becomes more fragile. Therefore, it is important to be more scrupulous with skin care in older people.
Body hygiene must be daily (better shower than bath) with warm water and using a small amount of soap (preferably neutral for the skin). Drying will be done without rubbing, insisting on the folds to avoid the accumulation of moisture. It is also advisable to apply moisturizing creams or lotions.
Taking care of your mouth is also important. Brushing after every meal (or at least twice a day) with a soft brush.
Hearing and sight
Another thing that seems to accompany old age is the decrease in visual and auditory acuity . Although on many occasions we cannot avoid it, we can keep eyes and ears in good condition
- Regarding the eyes, it is important, if you need lenses to correct refractive problems, that they are used properly and at the necessary times, as well as using adequate lighting when performing tasks such as reading, sewing crafts, etc.
- As for the ears, in case of hearing loss the necessary technical aids should be used. To detect changes in the decrease in hearing and visual acuity and detect possible complications in time, it is important to go to the ophthalmology, optometrist and ENT control at least once a year.
Exercise your memory
One of the main fears of the elderly and their environment is the loss of memory and cognitive abilities. While in some types of dementia we cannot do much to prevent them, in general terms it is advisable to keep a busy mind in a healthy body. This means that, in addition to maintaining an adjusted diet and physical activity, we also have to keep the brain active: having intellectual interests (even learning new things), a love of reading, hobbies and especially doing social activities will keep the mind active.
Social relationships and sex
At this point it is clear that maintaining social relationships will be the main thing to maintain a healthy life in old age. Helps maintain cognitive, mental and memory state in shape and maintains mood. This also helps to detect deterioration and health problems early.
Special mention here deserves sexuality in the third age. As we get older, sexual needs do not disappear, but change, placing more emphasis on aspects such as tenderness and caresses in sexual contacts, over other aspects, such as the power or frequency of these, which go to be limited by physical or health condition. We must eliminate prejudices and admit sex among older people.
What you should know…
- The meals should be left to regular hours, adjusting its texture to the state of the mouth and teeth, eating long enough to avoid choking.
- Falls in the elderly constitute an important risk, due to the injuries and consequences that they can entail. Being physically active will help, among other things, to improve balance.
- The personal hygiene must be daily (best shower bath) with warm soapy water (neutral) because the skin is more delicate. Drying will be done without rubbing, insisting on the folds to avoid the accumulation of moisture, and moisturizing creams or lotions will be applied.