Healthy Aging Starts Early, But It’s Never Too Late!
It’s kind of ironic that I’m posting this on Mother’s Day. I can’t call my 94-year-old mom because she’s in a nursing home in Puerto Rico. I live in Phoenix and she doesn’t have a phone in her room. That particular home has visiting hours from Tuesday – Saturday, and I have to wait till one of her friends visits her to speak to her through their cell phones.
I was there from April 29 – May 5. I couldn’t stay longer due to obligations here in Phoenix. I went to get her settled in the nursing home.
“I never thought I’d end up like this!”
My heart broke every time I heard her say that as we prepared her to go from the hospital to a nursing home. She said it several times while I was there.
Looking back, her bedridden status was totally preventable.
It started before 2011. She had the awful habit of drinking cola instead of water when she was thirsty. As a result, she developed gallstones. (She had kidney stones a few years before.) Two surgeries later in 2011, to remove all the gallstones, she had a bad reaction to the double anesthesia and she became dizzy whenever she stood up. From then on, she had to use a walker to get around.
Fast forward to early 2018. Her godson kept trying to convince her that she shouldn’t be living by herself. (She had the option in 2011 to come back with me to Phoenix, but she wanted to stay in the house she grew up in Puerto Rico. Her passion was gardening.) He almost had her convinced, but stubborn as she is, she didn’t want to go.
Easter Sunday morning her friend from church came to give her communion and found her on the floor. She had broken her hip. We don’t know how long she was on the floor but every time she tried to move to reach her bed or desk, it hurt and she had no choice but to lay there helpless. Some time ago, we discussed her getting a “life alert” emergency system, but she never did. (Ironically again, I found a postcard ad for an emergency call system in the mail – a little late.)
Besides the broken hip, she had a kidney infection and problems with her stomach from eating spoiled food and general malnutrition. Since she was lying on her back waiting for hip surgery, she developed a blood clot in her leg and they couldn’t operate on her hip for several weeks. From lying on her back, she developed an ulcer in her lower back. She was in the hospital for a month.
Finally, we all agreed that she could no longer return to the house and live alone.
We got her settled in a nice nursing home where she’ll get physical therapy and a visiting nurse twice a week. She’s now on blood thinners, high blood pressure medicine and antibiotics. With physical therapy, she should be able to get around again with the walker, but she will never be able to live by herself. Whether she returns to the house with a live-in caregiver or she stays where she is, that hinges on how well she does with rehab and doing what the physical therapist prescribes.
She now shares a room with 2 other bedridden ladies and there’s no garden or even a window that looks outside. However, she is being well cared for and I’m at peace.
Now, mom has always been healthy. It was my dad that was a smoker and had health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure.
Here are some more surprising facts and statistics related to elderly falling:
- 87 percent of all fractures in the elderly are due to falls. Two-thirds of those who fall will do so again within six months.
- When an older person falls, his or her hospital stays are almost twice as long as those of older patients who are admitted for any other reason.
- Among people aged 65 to 69, one out of every 200 falls results in a hip fracture. That number increases to one out of every 10 for those aged 85 and older.
- One-fourth of seniors who fracture a hip from a fall will die within six months of the injury.
- Many falls do not result in injuries, yet 47 percent of non-injured seniors who fall cannot get up without assistance.
- For seniors who fall and are unable to get up on their own, the period of time spent immobile often affects their health outcomes. Muscle cell breakdown starts to occur within 30-60 minutes of compression due to falling. Dehydration, pressure sores, hypothermia, and pneumonia are other complications that may result.
Source: Comfort Keepers
How could her current, bedridden condition have been prevented?
Nutritionist Lorrie Karn contributes some sage advice:
Staying Flexible As You Age….
One of the biggest challenges older adults face is the loss of flexibility and balance. Aging alone does not have to determine if we will lose flexibility and/or balance. There are many things that can be done to slow this process, and ultimately extend quality of life.
Motion is lotion to the body. Remaining sedentary for lengthy periods of time makes fluidity of movement more challenging. Getting up and moving about at least once per hour will aid in the slowing of lost range of motion. Though barriers such as arthritis and other medical conditions may make movement more challenging, it does not devalue the importance of it.
Falling can often be the unfortunate slight for older adults. Many people like to put the blame on brittle bones. Consider taking a deeper look at the process, which may lead up to falling. In addition to rigidity, remaining sedentary may also contribute to muscle loss. When muscle loss occurs, and remaining muscles lose elasticity, the risk of falling increases. Tight muscles inhibit range of movement, again placing the individual at risk for developing balance issues, which may result in falling.
Coupled with whole food nutrition (we need those nutrients to feed the muscles), adding frequent bouts of stretching and general movement may aid in the decrease of falling and thus injury. Stretching should be conducted in such a way that flows with natural movement and be devoid of straining. Stretching a muscle group should include holding the stretch for 30-60 seconds to be most effective.
As valuable as whole food nutrition is, proper hydration is equally important. For individuals who have difficulty drinking plain water, adding ingredients to infuse the water (such as rosemary and lemon, or watermelon and lime) may entice the pallet to stay clear of soda, which actually dehydrates the body. When the body is dehydrated, individuals may become dizzy upon standing. Granted, there are many causes for dizziness, but proper nutrition and hydration certainly play an important role. With summer approaching, the need for hydration increases.
The take home message is, eat plenty of nutrient rich foods, get up at least once per hour, and move those muscles every day. We’re never too old to celebrate our bodies, and the movement it’s capable of!
Thank you, Lorrie, for those simple guidelines on healthy aging.
I’ll be 63 this year and for those of you who have been following my weight loss journey, I have to confess that I gained 10 pounds (after losing 40) with all the stress of my mom’s situation. And combined with traveling for a week to Puerto Rico, where rice is considered its own food group, I’m surprised I didn’t gain more!
I’m now under Lorrie’s guidance, back on the Ketogenic diet, trying to reverse what stress did to my system. I’ve lost 3 pounds since I’ve been back.
Lorri’s keeping me accountable by having me text her my weight every morning.
I’m getting up early (I’ve never been an early bird) to walk a mile at least 4-5 times a week. I take advantage of the early sunrise and the cool mornings. There’s no walking in the Phoenix heat later in the day. I do yoga stretches every night. 3-4 times a week I do strength-training exercises. Even with osteoarthritis and carpel tunnel, I manage to do them. No excuses!
I do not want to end up like my mother.
At the age of 63, it’s not too late for me to get and stay healthy and flexible. My next goal weight: 138 (I’m at 152 currently down from 155). That will take me under the 25 BMI.
Several recent studies reveal five “lifestyle-related low-risk factors”:
- Not smoking
- Moderate alcohol intake — that is, in the region of up to one 5-ounce glass of wine per day for women, or two for men
- Regular exercise, or half an hour or more per day of moderate to vigorous activity
- Healthful diet, or being in the top 40 percent of a recognized healthful eating index
- Normal weight, or having a body mass index (BMI) under 25 – check out the BMI calculator at the bottom of this page.
Source: Medical News Today