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Caring for Parents, Keeping Them Healthy

Sound Body, Sound Mind

When caring for an older adult, it's important not to overlook routine care -- stuff that seems obvious but that may not be on your radar. Here is a rundown of what to keep in mind:

Everyone needs regular checkups. But some older adults (and young ones, too) reason that since they just saw the doctor last month about that sinus problem, they don't need to go again. A visit to the doctor for a specific problem, however, doesn't take the place of a complete checkup.

Make sure your parent is eating a balanced diet. Accompany him or her to the market to guide shopping choices, teach how to read labels, and discuss the importance of all the food groups, vitamins, fiber, and calcium.

ID jewelry with pertinent medical alert and contact information should be worn by all older adults. There is a huge variety of bracelets, pendants, and even watchbands available. One company that sells them is American Medical Identifications.

Know your mother's baseline -- what's "normal" for her. Some older adults have a lower normal body temperature than 98.6 degrees Farenheit, and others have had chronic problems throughout their lives. Be familiar with Mom's "default setting," and be aware of changes. Know that baselines change as a person ages. If, for instance, she goes through surgery, chances are she will come out of it with a new baseline.

Know your loved one's complete medical history and keep a record of it to be taken to doctor's appointments and checked often. Just as important is to know your own medical history, in case genetic issues arise or transplants or transfusions become necessary.

Unless told otherwise by your doctor, you should each be drinking eight glasses of water a day. Did you know that dehydration is a common cause of many disorders in older adults, including urinary tract infections and circulation problems? Make sure liquids are available all day long. How about an attractive thermos for the bedside or a water cooler in the living room and on the patio? Get one on casters so it can be moved from room to room.

Blood pressure is an issue among most older adults. Get a reliable sphygmomanometer (a blood pressure monitor) and teach your loved one -- and yourself -- to take blood pressure readings. Some pharmacies take blood pressure readings and teach you to do it yourself for free.

Local community service organizations such as the Kiwanis or Lions Club often offer free eye exams and eyeglasses to older adults who can't easily afford them. Your Area Agency on Aging will tell you what's available in your area.

Free dental care is available from local dental schools, and often, a low income is not even a requirement. Contact the dental college in your area.

WebMD Medical Reference

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