Elderly Health

How to take care of your elderly parents?

Aging is a natural process. Sir James Sterling Ross commented: You do not heal old age. You protect it, you promote it and you extend it”.

One day, our parents may not be able to drive, to climb stairs, or maybe not even change their own clothes or feed themselves. Our parents could one day be fine and then suddenly the next day need a great amount of care, so the more prepared  we are in advance, the less stressful this might be for our whole family. No one wants to think about their parents at the end of their days, much less talk about itEven so many of us never discuss with our parents about things like living arrangements in retirement, long-term care, inheritance, and funeral wishes. 

As painful as thinking about this might be, we need to prepare to help them be comfortable and safe in their last stages of their lives. Here are the things to consider.

1.   Health check up, Screening and Immunization:

  •  Periodical health check up for management of chronic diseases and screening for early detection of disease includes:
  •  Care of the problems due to ageing process as senile cataract, glaucoma, nerve deafness, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis affecting mobility, failure of special senses, and change in mental outlook.
  • Care of the problems associated with long term illness-certain chronic diseases are more frequent among the older people such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, accidents, disease of locomotors system, respiratory illnesses as chronic bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, diseases of genitourinary system.
  • Care for psychological problems

Recommended Immunisations:    

  • Immunisation recommendations are based on age, health status, location, risk factors and other factors therefore talk to healthcare professional to see which vaccine is needed.
  • Flu vaccine every year. 
  • Vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough and a tetanus booster if it has been more than 10 years since their last vaccine. 
  • If your parents are 60 or older, get a vaccine to prevent shingles. Even if they had shingles, you can still get the shingles vaccine to help prevent future occurrences of the disease. 

  • If your parents are 65 or older, get a pneumonia vaccine (also known as a pneumococcal vaccine). 

TO know more about adult immunization click here

1.Physical Activity in old age:

Regular exercise and physical activity can have a direct impact on your parent’s everyday life. The benefits they provide can help them to stay strong and fit enough to perform their daily activities, so promote them to get around and maintain their independence.

Some exercises and their benefits:

1. To enhance their endurance they may go for aerobic, activities like brisk walking or swimming, increase their breathing, heart rate and improve the health of their heart, lungs and circulatory system. Some easy house hold tasks can also help them in this regard:

  • push your grandchildren on the swings
  • work in the garden
  • rake leaves
  • play a sport

2. Strength exercises like lifting weights and using resistance bands can increase muscle strength. Lower-body strength exercises also will improve their balance. Increased muscle strength can maintain their ability to:

  •  Climb Stairs
  • Carry Groceries
  • Open Jars
  • Carry A Full Laundry Basket From The Basement To The Second Floor
  • Carry Your Smaller Grandchildren
  • Lift Bags Of Mulch In The Garden

3. Balance exercises like tai chi can improve their ability to control and maintain their body's position, whether they are moving or  still. Good balance is important to help them to prevent falls and avoid the disability that may result from falling. Improving their  balance can help them to:

  • Prevent falls
  • Stand on tiptoe to reach something on the top shelf
  • Walk up and down the stairs
  • Walk on an uneven sidewalk without falling

4. Flexibility or stretching exercises can help them to stay flexible and limber, which gives your parents more freedom of movement for their  regular physical activity as well as for   everyday activities. Stretching exercises can improve their flexibility but will not improve their endurance or strength. Improving their flexibility makes it easier for them to:

  • Look over your? shoulder to see what's behind you as you back the car out of the driveway
  • Make the bed
  • Bend over to tie your shoes
  • Reach for a food item on a kitchen shelf
  • Pull a sweater on over your head
  • Swing a golf club

General health related problems in Old age:

1. Balance Disorders 

So many times you find out that your parents may not able to walk properly not able to listen what are you saying or they may feel unsteady or dizzy, as if they are moving, spinning, or floating, even though you are standing still or lying down. Balance disorders can be caused by certain health conditions, medications, or a problem in the inner ear or the brain. 

TO know more about balance disorder click here


2. Problem with taste

Taste disorders can weaken or remove an early warning system that most of us take for granted. Taste helps us to detect spoiled food or liquids and for some people, the presence of ingredients to which they are allergic

Many of us take our sense of taste for granted, but a taste disorder can have a negative effect on our   health and quality of life. If your parents are having a problem with their sense of taste they need a doctor as soon as possible.

To know more about Taste disorder click here

3. Sleep and ageing 

Sleep pattern changes according to our age. Children and adolescents need more sleep than adults. Interestingly, older adults  need about the same amount of sleep as younger adults -- seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, many older adults often get less sleep than they need. One reason is that they often have more trouble falling asleep. A study of adults over 65 found that 13 percent of men and 36 percent of women take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep. This disorder is known as Insomnia.

TO know more about Insomnia click here----link

There are some more sleeping disorders like snoring problem, sleep apnea, movement disorder.

TO know more about sleeping disorder click here

4. Healthy meal plan for old Aged peoples:

What to eat?
To stay healthy and fit, it’s good if we choose a mix of nutrient-dense foods every day for our parents. Nutrient-dense foods are foods that have a lot of nutrients but relatively few calories. Look for foods that contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats.
Plan their meals and snacks to include:
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Grains, especially whole grains
  • Low-fat or fat-free dairy products
  • Seafood, lean poultry and meats, beans, eggs, and unsalted nuts
Benefits of Vegetables, Fruits, and Grains
Vegetables, fruits, and grains offer important vitamins and minerals to keep their body healthy. Most of these foods have little fat. They also have no cholesterol. Fruits, vegetables and grains are also a source of fibre, and eating more fibre may help with digestion and constipation and may lower cholesterol and blood sugar.
Eat a variety of colours and types of vegetables every day.
  • Broccoli, spinach, turnip and collard greens, and other dark leafy greens are good choices.
  • hey might also choose red and orange vegetables, such as tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, red peppers, or winter squash.
They may eat a variety of fruits every day according to their health status. To make sure they get the benefit of the natural fibre in fruits, choose whole or cut-up fruits more often than fruit juice. 
Any food made from wheat, rye, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain is a grain product. Grains fall into two main categories:

             Foods made from whole grains are a major source of energy and fibre.

When choosing grain foods, try to make at least half r grains in their diet as whole grains. In other words, at least half of the cereals, breads, crackers, and pastas they    eat should be made from whole grains. Include whole grains in their    diet every day.

Dairy Products:

Low-fat or fat-free dairy products you should add in their diet on daily basis. These products provide calcium and vitamin D to help maintain strong bones. They also provide protein and potassium. Low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese and yogurt are good options.

If they don't drink milk, be sure to have other products that contain the nutrients that milk provides. Some cereals and juices are fortified with extra calcium and vitamin D. Salmon, sardines and mackerel are good sources of vitamin D.

Some fats are safe to take:

Fats are a source of energy and help maintain healthy organs, skin and hair. Fats also help your body absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. It's okay to include some oils and fats in the foods you eat, but be aware that fat contains more than twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrates. Try to choose foods that are low in fat or fat free.

Some fats are better for them  than others. Choose polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats when possible. Sources of better fats include vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, canola, olive, safflower, and sunflower oils. Polyunsaturated fat is    in nuts, seeds, and fish. Walnuts, flaxseed and salmon are examples of foods with polyunsaturated fat.


Be sure that they consume plenty of water. You need to replace the fluids they lose every day. This may help prevent constipation and dehydration. Besides water, other good choices are unsweetened tea, low-fat or fat-free milk, and 100 percent fruit juice. You can also increase their intake of water by eating vegetables and fruits, which have high moisture content.

Wholesome foods provide a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients they need to stay healthy. Eating properly is the best way to get these nutrients. 

However, if you have concerns that they may not eating as well as they should, you should talk to your doctor about taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement for them .

What to avoid?
1.Avoid “Empty Calories”

Choosing foods and beverages that give them the most nutrients for the calories consumed is one way to eat well. At the same time, it's important to avoid "empty calories" -- foods and drinks that are high in calories but low in nutrients. Limit their intake of

  • Saturated Fats And Trans Fats2
  • Cholesterol 1
  • Sodium
  • Added Sugar
  • Refined Grains.
1. How Fats are harmful?

It’s a myth that fats are unhealthy, but their body needs a limited amount of certain kinds of fats. Fats in their diet give them energy and also help their body to absorb vitamins.

On the other hand, fat contains more than twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrates that’s why eating too many high-fat foods will likely add excess calories and lead to weight gain.

Excess weight increases r risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease or other health problems. Excess weight can also make it harder to control these diseases if  they already have them.

2. Some types of Solid food:

You should also avoid some kind of saturated fats which found in foods like beef, cheese, milk, butter, and ice cream and other frozen desserts in their diet plan. Trans fats are found in foods like margarine, crackers, icings, and French fries, as well as in many sweets such as cake, cookies, and doughnuts.

Not more than 10 percent of their  r total daily calories should come from saturated fats. Keep intake of Trans fats as low as possible. 

Tips to Limit Fat
  • Choose seafood, lean poultry (with the skin removed), or lean cuts of meat.
  • Trim off any extra fat before cooking.
  • Limit whole milk and whole dairy products.Use low-fat or fat-free dairy products and salad dressings.
  • Use non-stick pots and pans, and cook without added fat.
  • If you currently use butter or other saturated fats, switch to unsaturated vegetable oil or a non- fat cooking spray instead.
  • Broil, roast, bake, stir-fry, steam, microwave, or boil foods. Avoid frying them.
  • Season your foods with lemon juice, herbs, or spices instead of butter.
3. Salt intake:

Sodium is consumed in the diet as part of salt. Older adults should limit their sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams daily (about 2/3 of a teaspoon of salt). This helps to keep their blood pressure under control. Keeping their blood pressure under control we can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure and kidney disease.

Sodium is natural in some foods but most of the sodium we eat is added to foods by manufacturers. Restaurant foods also may be high in sodium. 

Tips to Limit Sodium (Salt)
  • Reading the Nutrition Facts labels to select products with low salt content
  • keeping the salt shaker off the table.
  • Replacing salt with herbs, spices, and low-sodium seasonings when you cook
  • Asking for low-sodium dishes and for sauces on the side when eating out.
4. Sugar Intake:

To help control their calorie intake, limit some foods and beverages like soft drinks and fruit drinks that are high in added sugars. Replace sweets and soft drinks with lower-calorie, nutrient-dense alternatives like fruits, vegetables and smaller portions of 100 % juices. Unsweetened tea, low-fat or fat-free milk or plain water also are good choices.

Be aware that some products are low in fat but high in added sugars. The Nutrition Facts label tells you the total amount of sugars in one serving of a product. However, added sugars are not listed separately on this label. 

4. Find out your parents needs and wishes:

Apart from health, it’s our duty to keep them happy and comfortable in old age. They are not able to perform their work them self so, now they are our responsibility. Ask their plans and wishes and try to fulfil them. Like:

  • Where they want to live?
  • What are their retirement plans?
  • What is their incomplete wish?
  • Are they comfortable?

If parents are living away from you, along with   your siblings you should   observe your parents' current health status and ability to live independently, so that you'll know if they need assistance now. Here are some warning signs, if you observe them, they may need HELP:

  • Poor eating habits – weight loss or no appetite – are they able to still cook for themselves? Do they stock their fridge with healthy food?
  • Poor hygiene – do they have body odour? Are they bathing and changing their clothes like they used to? Are they neglecting their nails and teeth?
  • Neglecting their home – is it not as clean as you remember?
  • Forgetfulness – a good indicator are scorched pots and pans, it shows they may be forgetting that dinner is cooking on the stove.? Are they losing money, paying bills twice, or hiding money?
  • Support system – Do they have a strong support system in town to lean on if they need help?
  • Mobility and driving – Are they still mobile? Can they get out of bed, up the stairs and into showers without slipping or falling? Can they still safely drive themselves to the grocery store, doctor appointments, etc…?
5. Support your parents emotionally

Remember your childhood, when you fall and your mother’s lap becomes your first  aid. When you lose your job and your dad support you and enlighten your path. When you do not have time to eat breakfast and your mother   still pressurise you to take at least a bite of parantha. There are so many uncountable moments that remind us how   much our parents love and care for us. This is the time when we not only take care them physically but also support them emotionally. Such asthey   are they staying at home alone, may they feel lonely.

Be supportive, as your parents will likely grieve through this process. This transition represents letting go of the home where they raised their family, saying goodbye to friends and neighbours and coming to terms with aging and mortality. 

You and your siblings too may grieve through this process similarly. Support each other. Love one another. Forgive freely as tempers may flare as an expression of grief. 

Additionally, the support of friends and extended family members is crucial. The facility to which your parents are moving may offer the services of a counsellor who can help you and your family cope with the transition at hand as well.

As with every other difficult life decision, the best thing you can do is get informed and communicate honestly with those involved—be brave, be strong, and be patient. And although the focus here is on giving your parents the best care, make sure you take care of yourself as well during this tough time.

External references:


  • PUBLISHED DATE : Nov 12, 2015
  • LAST UPDATED ON : Nov 16, 2015


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The content on this page has been supervised by the Nodal Officer, Project Director and Assistant Director (Medical) of Centre for Health Informatics. Relevant references are cited on each page.