Life is not for for the faint of heart!
We all have heard that expression and most family caregivers personally feel that emotion and deeply understand it’s complexity of meanings daily.
There really is no certainty in life except change.
Most people struggle with change and transitions throughout their lives. Events such as changing jobs, ending relationships, moving to a new location, going away to sleepover camp, having a child, sending your kids to college or any number of other life changing experiences.
Some changes in our lives are joyous but some are excruciating!
For our seniors, life transitions could be anticipated or unexpected, such as losing a loved one – whether a child, parent, grandparent or even a pet; losing a home due to financial reasons; losing independence whether functional, mobility or the ability to drive; undergoing surgery or receiving a terminal diagnosis; or needing to enter a facility.
For caregivers it could mean the loss of a job, taking over the care of your parents in your or their home, facing the reality of aging parents and now even your own mortality, having your own kids move out, having grandchildren or facing a health crisis for yourself or your spouse.
We can’t control all the things that happen in the lives of our seniors or ourselves. We can make plans to be prepared for the bumps in the road that life puts in our way. We often give you information about lifestyle changes you and your senior can make to improve health and successful aging such as these.
Lifestyle Changes for Healthy Aging
Making some of these health changes can help you and your senior handle transitions more easily.
- Stay physically and mentally active! Get moving every day in an activity that you love and stay engaged socially! Use the latest technology to keep your senior engaged in stimulating activities.
- Eat right! Make food choices that include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, a rainbow of nutrients and lower fat and calories to provide all essential nutrients
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Manage chronic disease processes by following your healthcare team’s treatment plan
- Get your immunizations, health screenings and preventive health care
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Wash your hands!
Strategies for Coping with Transitions
These lifestyle changes are not enough when faced with life’s passages for seniors and caregivers. We need to find strategies for coping with these transitions that will come without warning.
- Be aware that emotional responses to transitions are normal. We may become depressed or anxious when facing changes. Recognize your and your senior’s emotions and make a conscious effort to handle them instead of pushing the feelings away or shutting them off. It will be harder to overcome the flood of emotions if they are not dealt with appropriately. Your senior may need your help to handle changes especially grief associated with losing a loved one.
- Maintain a positive attitude. Remember that you have faced change before and overcome challenges and you are capable of doing it again and helping your senior through it.
- Get informed! Whatever challenges your senior and you must overcome, you will be able to stand tall with knowledge. Learn about any new diagnosis and treatment plan, take action to make as many preparations ahead of time such as advance directives, or learn a new skill or accommodation to overcome the new challenge.
- Get support from your network! (Check out our post on building an effective network) Seek out help from family, friends and professionals to help you help your senior face and overcome life transitions. There are times when we can’t do it alone! If you haven’t built your network, now is the time to pull that together so that when the time comes you will be ready to call in the troops. You may need professional help to deal with depression or to answer questions about making modifications necessary to improve the situation you and your senior face.
- Give yourself time to deal with the changes. Your senior and you should not expect changes in mood, health or home living arrangements to occur overnight. It takes time to uncover the right solutions and put them into action much less reap the rewards of your solutions.
Each transition offers your senior and family caregivers an opportunity to open a new door and experience new possibilities. Life passages are fraught with emotions and challenges but they can also lead to deeper family bonds, new friends and wider experiences. Look for the silver lining together!
We wish you success with your life passages!