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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Caring for Parents, Keeping Them Healthy

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Sleep and Older Adults continued...

Remind your senior to go to the bathroom before going to sleep. If he gets up often at night to go to the bathroom, suggest that he doesn't drink any liquids for three or four hours before bedtime. On the other hand, don't skimp too much on fluids during the day because you want to cut down on bathroom visits. Older adults often become dehydrated, which leads to painful (but common) urinary tract infections.

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.

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