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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Caring for Parents, Keeping Them Healthy

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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.

Bad posture can complicate back problems and limit mobility. Is Mom walking as upright as she used to? Is Dad favoring one leg over the other for some reason? Sometimes the answer can be as simple as a new pair of shoes.

Osteoporosis is a serious problem for older women, leading to height changes and serious (sometimes deadly) fractures. Schedule your parent for a bone density test, and encourage weight-bearing exercise (walking, light weights, gardening). Make sure Mom gets plenty of calcium (the new "chocolate chew" supplements are delicious), and ask her doctor about hormone replacement therapy or other treatments.

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