Getting Older is Nothing to Fear

by | Sep 9, 2021

There have been scant few examples in popular culture of older adults living their lives to the fullest.[1] For every episode of The Golden Girls, which depicted mature women living full and vibrant lives in retirement, there are hundreds of examples of ageist stereotypes that cause us to fear a time when we should be enjoying the wisdom and experience we’ve accumulated over decades of life.[2]

But it doesn’t have to be that way – and as a clinician or staff member working in a skilled nursing facility, you can have a direct role in flipping that script for the residents under your care.

In September, as we recognize Healthy Aging Month – an annual celebration of the many ways we can make the most of all the years of our lives, let’s discuss a few ways you can protect and promote your residents’ well-being, no matter their age.

Proactivity = Independence

One way you can help your residents better enjoy the aging process is to give them opportunities to take a proactive role in managing their own healthcare.

As we get older, it’s easy to convince ourselves that many of the life changes we experience are just inevitable parts of the aging process – for example, disability, failing eyesight, hearing loss, and cognitive decline. But the truth is many things that are considered unavoidable consequences of aging can be slowed or prevented through proactive health maintenance.[3]

Regular preventative screenings and care are absolutely necessary to keep your residents active, engaged, and healthy – and to giving them a sense of autonomy and control over their daily lives. Regular screenings, including comprehensive vision, hearing, and dental check-ups, can identify health issues before they advance and allow you and your residents to address them quickly through early treatment plans.[4]

Don’t Fall for It

Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries in adults over the age of 65.[5] More than 25% of older adults will fall in a given year, and falling once makes it twice as likely that an older adult will fall again in the future.[6]

 

But you can easily reduce your residents’ likelihood of suffering a dangerous fall by helping them protect and preserve their sight and hearing. Seniors who suffer from vision impairments are at a higher risk of injury from falls, and vision loss can also cause changes in balance and stability. But research indicates that 80% of vision loss issues are preventable or treatable.[7] Additionally, older adults with untreated hearing loss are more prone to issues with falling.[8] But studies have shown that adults over the age of 66 who suffer from hearing loss are at lower risk of experiencing an injury from a fall when they use hearing aids.[9]

Help your residents avoid falls by making sure any impairment issues are identified and treated as soon as possible and be sure to talk to your residents and their friends and family about taking advantage of assistive devices that can help them see and hear better.

Healthy Weight Feels Great

Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet that includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats is important throughout our lifetime – and that doesn’t change as we get older.[10] As a caregiver for skilled nursing facility residents, you need to make sure everyone under your care is not only eating regularly but eating a wide variety of healthy foods. A regular and varied diet will give them the strength and energy they need while helping them maintain a healthy weight.

Be sure to keep an eye out for residents who aren’t eating as much as they should or may only be eating soft foods that don’t contain proper nutrients because fruits and vegetables are difficult for them to eat.[11] That may be a sign that they need a dental check-up.

Research has shown a direct connection between good oral health and overall health and well-being.[12] Poor oral health has been linked to diabetes and is recognized as a predictor of cardiovascular disease and premature mortality from all causes. And the loss of teeth, difficulty eating and/or swallowing, ill-fitting dentures or dental work that is in disrepair can lead to an inability to chew food, resulting in malnutrition, weakness, muscle loss, disability, and even mortality.[13] Making sure your residents get proper dental care will allow them to enjoy all the healthy foods they need each day.


[1] https://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=136216f5a926499aa7bb7fc3d5a13ca6

[2] https://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2017-10-18/ageism-in-top-tv-shows-may-affect-seniors-well-being

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/aging/pdf/cps-clinical-preventive-services.pdf

[4] https://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/faq.htm, https://www.rdhmag.com/patient-care/article/14202991/chronic-disease-management-and-care-coordination-expanding-the-dental-providers-role

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27656914/

[6] https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html

[7] https://www.mcknights.com/print-news/vision-loss-shown-to-trigger-seniors-anxiety-depression/

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3518403/

[9] https://www.hearinglife.com/hearing-blog/2019/healthy-aging-getting-better-at-getting-older

[10] https://medlineplus.gov/nutritionforolderadults.html

[11] https://health.usnews.com/wellness/aging-well/articles/2017-01-13/healthy-aging-oral-health-for-older-adults

[12] https://www.rdhmag.com/patient-care/article/14202991/chronic-disease-management-and-care-coordination-expanding-the-dental-providers-role

[13] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/poor-oral-health-linked-to-muscle-loss-and-diabetes#Annual-health-examination

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