Caring for Parents, Keeping Them Healthy
Sleep and Older Adults continued...
Learn sleep techniques and teach them to your senior:
- Listen to your own breath and count breaths. Get comfortable, close your eyes, and begin breathing slowly but normally, then count each exhalation, either starting at one or counting back from one hundred.
- Practice progressive muscle relaxation by tensing and relaxing one limb at a time. Make a fist and clench your right arm, while keeping the left relaxed; then relax the right arm. Repeat with the left arm, then each leg.
- Use visualization techniques to picture yourself in a perfect, relaxing place, such as a quiet beach or lakeside.
- Try a tape or CD that will guide you through a relaxation exercise or visualization. There are many available. You can even make your own.
- Make up for lost sleep as soon as possible.
A baby monitor will alert you to any nighttime problems your parent may be having, and he will feel secure knowing that if he calls in the middle of the night, you will hear him. Show him how the monitor works.
If it's the bed that's keeping your father awake, consider getting a hospital bed. Medicare will pay for it if his doctor recommends it.
A foam "egg crate" mattress will help prevent bedsores and can be purchased from any medical supply house.
Rotate a new mattress once a month the first year and every season (four times a year) after that. A mattress should be replaced every eight to ten years.
If they sleep in the same bed but Mom needs a firm mattress and Dad prefers something softer, consider getting two single beds and moving them next to each other. You can use king- or queen-sized bedding, so it looks like one bed. This allows many couples to feel comfortable without giving up intimacy.
A clock with brightly illuminated numbers can keep someone awake. Use the dimmer on the clock if it has one, turn the clock to the wall, or get a new clock.
Some people have trouble sleeping because their biological clocks are waking them at weird times. To "reset" Dad's biological clock, have him get up in the morning at the time he's like to awaken each day and spend about ten minutes facing the sun.
If your mother grinds her teeth at night -- a common condition called bruxism -- talk to the dentist. Mom might need a mouth guard.
Keep familiar, favorite photos at the bedside to calm Mom in case she wakes up confused about where she is. If she travels or has to spend some time in the hospital, keep these same items at her bedside there for continuity.
Exercise and Older Adults
Nowhere is the saying, "use it or lose it," more meaningful than among older adults. Aside from its cardiovascular benefits, exercise combats depression and osteoporosis, reduces the risk of falling, cuts down on healing time when there are injuries and illnesses, and generally improves lifestyle. Encourage your grandmother to stick to a routine.