"Quality of life” is a term that gets thrown around a lot in eldercare, but what do we really mean by it? Quality life is all about human flourishing (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) on a daily basis within the circumstances of our lives. As eldercare professionals, our work with clients and families begins with this simple question, “How well are you flourishing in your circumstances, and how can we support and increase the quality of your life?”
Life as a whole is comprised of many factors including, but not limited to:
- Physical Health
- Living Situation
- Marriage/ Significant Relationship
- Friends/ Social Life
- Self/ Identity
- Ability to do activities of daily living
Life changes demand our creativity as we meet new challenges, needs, and circumstances. Deepak Chopra says, “The most creative act you will undertake is the act of creating yourself.” While we may think that this is a one-time act, creating a life is an on-going process that we must always actively participate in at every level. Regardless of age, our quality of life is intimately connected to self-care over a long period of time. When looking at your own life or the life of an aging loved one it is important to think about the whole person. Here are four important elements of quality life for seniors and tips for how creativity can contribute.
Medical research has indicated that social isolation and physical activity are the two largest factors that will determine how well a person ages. Even something as simple as walking for 30 minutes a day reduces the risk of a multitude of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, depression, and much more. Greater muscle tone, stability and balance can also affect the level of independence, vitality, and longevity an individual enjoys. There is no pill that we have that can give us what walking can give us. Exercise need never be boring though. Be creative in how you work exercise into your daily life. Maybe it is through a dance class, yoga, social walking groups, or nature excursions. Whatever you do, find your own way so you will be consistent in your self-care. Not neglecting your diet and managing your chronic illnesses also will have a huge impact on the physical component of the quality of life you enjoy.
Care for the mind is as much a necessity as bathing or eating. Our brains are very much a muscle that we must use or lose. Music and visual arts can open up a door into a new engagement with life even if mobility is restricted and verbal and motor skills are reduced. The senses build a strong linked to memory, so the more emotion and senses are associated with an activity, the richer the experience will be. Encourage reminiscing by asking questions. For example, if you are baking together, ask if they ever baked with their grandparents or parents. (If your loved one has dementia, ask yes or no questions.) The arts can provide a chance to use both sides of the brain as people make meaning from their lives and honor their stories through things they create.
When we think of activities for the elderly, we usually think of group activities that are highly social. These are really important, but it is also important to find activities for the individual to connect with their memories and the life they have lived and who they are as individual people. This might be through having favorite books read to them, it could be through creating an iPod playlist of favorite music, it could be through painting or creating something that is an expression of what they are feeling in that moment. There are many tools that can help seniors, even those suffering from debilitating disease, connect with who they have been, what they have learned, and what they would like to be.
Regardless of if we hold religious beliefs or not, our identity is always in conversation with how we find purpose and make meaning throughout our lives. Dr. Bill Thomas, a geriatrician and creator of changingaging.com, asks the beautiful questions, “What if we are actually able to “come of age” not once but many times? What if we are meant to reimagine our lives again and again?” As we are living longer, our new found longevity really presents us with an opportunity to become new people as we age, try new things, engage in hobbies that may be very different from what we would have enjoyed and participated in during a different stage of our lives. Infusing our senior years with quality of life, may include creating a new life that is widely different from the way we spent our years in previous stages. Our society has a mistaken image of the life course where we think of our prime as the working years and once we hit 65 we retire, decline, and fade from society. But, this stereotype couldn’t be further from the exciting reality that we are living longer and with higher functionality. Reimagining what our aging society will look like in the future, will require our creativity and willingness to reimagine all stages of our lives and how we will spend them.
Care Management & Quality of Life
If you have a loved one who may need a jump start making changes and creating a life that meets their needs, give us a call. An RN or MSW Care Manager can provide a neutral assessment that takes a holistic look at the life of your aging loved one including the home environment, daily life, social engagement, medical needs, etc. and create a plan of care that will ensure their safety and quality of life. Our elite team of care managers and caregivers are passionate about helping seniors enjoy their longevity and live life to the fullest.
Published on March 29, 2013.