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Caring for Parents, Keeping Them Healthy

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Keep a diary of your parent's health progress.

If your loved one is running a temperature or experiencing any other condition that may require a doctor's care, keep hourly notes and temperature readings for later reference.

Wash your hands often when caring for your parents. Remind them to wash theirs, too.

Keep plenty of moisturizer around. Dry, chapped hands are especially common in winter. When you visit department stores, ask the people at the cosmetics counters for free samples, and keep these around the house to be used often.

Even natural supplements can sometimes be a bad mix with certain medications or cause side effects on their own. Ask your mom if she is taking anything like herbs or other supplements. Check them out with her doctor, no matter how harmless you believe they are.

Foot massagers are great for promoting blood circulation and avoiding cracked heals, which can sometimes split. This is especially important in people with diabetes.

A digital thermometer is easier to use than a mercury thermometer. Take temperatures using the armpit if your parent has breathing problems or is easily confused.

If Mom has breathing problems and uses an inhaler, keep several around your house and hers, in the car, and so forth.

Many trips to the bathroom may indicate a urinary tract infection, common among older people who don't always get the fluids they need. Consult a doctor immediately.

Consult a podiatrist immediately for corns, calluses, bunions, blisters, sores, and infections, or ingrown, hard, brittle, split, or discolored toenails. If your senior has problem feet, a weekly trip to a salon for a pedicure makes a great outing. Most salons have special discount days for older adults. Don't forget to ask about these.

Keep a checklist -- a "report card" -- and update it periodically to keep track of how your parent is doing with meal preparation, housework, mobility (in and out of the house), laundry, shopping, money issues, medications, bathing, dressing, and eating. These are key activities of daily living (ADLs), and difficulty with them indicates there may be trouble.

If your parent or parents live in a multilevel home but has problems with stairs, consider a chair lift. They are not inexpensive, but they can be cheaper than moving and will help keep your parent independent for a longer time. For someone who sits a lot, an ergonomic chair that offers greater lumbar support and adjustable features (chair height, armrest height, seat depth) can make a huge difference in overall health. Ergonomic chairs come in all kinds of models and varying prices. 

If an ergonomic chair is not an option, make sure your father's chair has an adjustable height feature, the seat depth is approximately two-thirds the length of his thighs and buttocks, the back is at least fourteen inches high, and the armrests are no more than nine inches high.

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