May is Older Americans Month

The focus of celebration for Older Americans Month is the 2016 theme, “Blaze A Trail”. It is all about how older adults are taking charge of their health and making a positive impact in their lives and the lives of others.  

A life well-cared-for has an impact not just on the individual person, but their family, friends, and the components of their community that they touch. There are so many aspects of aging that we don’t have control over, but two of the biggest ways that we have a voice and efficacy in our well-being as we age is by investing in our health and planning around our long-term care goals. In fact, “70% of people turning age 65 can expect to use some form of long-term care during their lives and yet less than 1/3 of Americans 50+ have begun saving for long-term care”, according to LongTermCare.gov. As we are living longer, our social fabric is changing and the issue of aging will become more "mainstream". By actively approaching the topic of what it means to age well, the oldest generations among us are modeling how to think about and how to make important decisions. 

Investing in Health

While we might think that investing in our financial portfolio and savings accounts is the only way to prepare for a long life, taking charge of our health is another important way that we can make an investment. Taking charge of health may sound like an enormous task to some, but in reality, it is not so different from the discipline of saving money. It is the consistency of repeated actions that save money and it is the consistency of repeated positive choices that return our health investments with interest. Here are just 5 examples of small investments that help us get in the act of taking charge of our health:

  • Walk 30 minutes (nonconsecutive) a day/ 5 days a week
  • Stay well-hydrated
  • Cook at home to minimize inflated sugars and salt in processed foods
  • Seek medical attention for symptoms right away to address conditions before they develop into larger problems later
  • Get regular health screenings/test, especially for hereditary illnesses that run in your family

Planning Long-Term Care Goals

When it comes to planning for long-term care needs, it is complicated to know what type of care we’ll need, how much, and for how long. Some of the elements that impact the answers to those questions include:

  • History of chronic illnesses
  • Age
  • Behaviors/ habits that increase health risks
  • Strength/ stability (fall risks)
  • Home environment

As experts in the care of aging adults and chronically ill persons, Aging Life Care Professionals™ (Professional Geriatric Care Managers) have focused on not only helping seniors have a high quality of life, but empowering them to take charge of their health and care decisions as they age. This happens in numerous ways such as:

  • Helping seniors set up Advance Directives to think about and communicate their care wishes to family and healthcare professionals
  • Providing eldercare family coaching to help families and aging loved ones create a plan and have straight-forward conversations about their goals for the future
  • Coordinating healthcare including medication management, accompaniment to appointments, support working with doctors, adhering to special diets, and meeting health goals, etc.
  • Arranging appropriate services such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, in-home care, etc.
  • Researching appropriate living arrangements and assistance with aging in place safely
  • Educating clients and family on diseases and changing circumstances
  • Advising seniors and family on options in care and difficult decisions
  • Promoting healthy aging and quality of life by helping seniors engage in their community and create a social safety net.

Unfortunately, many times it is a crisis such as a fall or stroke that drives our attention toward planning and making healthcare and long-term care choices. When we are able to take charge of our planning and take charge of our health, time is suddenly on our side and more options become available. Let’s build long life that we can look forward to living.

For more information about Older Americans Month visit: http://www.acl.gov/olderamericansmonth

For more information about Aging Life Care, visit http://www.aginglifecare.org

Published on May 1, 2016.