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Help Improve the Health of Loved Ones During National Family Caregivers Month
posted 10.25.2016

By Vidya Raman-Tangella

National Family Caregivers Month is November, an ideal time to honor and thank caregivers who provide support to our nation’s aging or disabled loved ones.

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, nearly 34 million people nationwide provide unpaid care to a loved one 50 or older. Many caregivers would benefit from relevant resources that can help them provide the best care possible, but they often don’t know where to start.

To help all caregivers and the loved ones they support, here are some helpful tips:

Get Organized: Some public websites offer free resources for caregivers, including calendars, task-management tools and educational resources. Other websites feature online stores that offer products and local services for purchase that help support caregivers and their care recipients, including home-safety products, home-delivered meals, and specialty products such as simple and secure tablet computers.

Prevent Falls: Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for people 65 and older. Every 15 seconds, an older adult goes to the ER due to a fall-related injury, according to the National Council on Aging. “Fall-proof” your loved one’s home—where six out of 10 falls occur—by improving lighting, installing handrails and moving items to make them more accessible.

Improve Hearing Health: Maintaining hearing health is an important part of maintaining overall health. Research from Johns Hopkins shows that hearing loss is associated with a range of physical and mental health issues, including social isolation and dementia. Common signs of hearing loss include turning up the volume on the TV or radio to levels that others find too loud, having trouble hearing people on the phone, and difficulty following conversations in noisy environments. Have your loved one’s hearing tested annually, and encourage them to use hearing aids when recommended.

Encourage Exercise: Pursuing daily exercise is important as people age, so it’s a good idea to encourage loved ones to exercise regularly and incorporate balance, strength training and flexibility (if approved by a physician). Check with local community or senior centers, which often offer programs such as Tai Chi or Zumba. Daily walking also offers many health benefits, and is free and accessible for most people. According to numerous published studies, walking can help people prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes, strengthen bones, ward off depression, and improve balance and coordination.

Thank Your Caregiver: Whether the person drops in on a housebound neighbor once a week with cookies or tends to a loved one’s daily needs, all caregivers deserve a tremendous “thank you” for their time, energy and dedication. Showing gratitude to caregivers can be as simple as giving a gift certificate for a massage, a note of thanks or inspiring quote, or delivered flowers to their home or office.

By following the above tips, older Americans can live fuller and healthier lives, while helping caregivers to be more effective in delivering support. For more information, visit www.uhcforcaregivers.com.

Vidya Raman-Tangella, M.D., is head of UnitedHealthcare’s Innovation Center of Excellence.

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