Why would an assisted living business write a blog post on how to avoid a nursing home? Simple. We are here to take care of our residents. Ultimately it’s our job to find the healthiest ways of life for seniors. If older people are very healthy, they won’t need our services anymore. That’s our philosophy and we’ve had some success. Here’s an example of someone we sent home because he was too healthy to stay:
Age has a way of creeping up on all of us though. We need to fight it every day. And many people have. Check out this guy:
Take Control of Your Lifestyle to Avoid a Nursing Home
To avoid a nursing home, you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle in lots of different ways. Sitting around and hoping others will take care of you is not the way to avoid a nursing home. Even if it’s your family taking care of you.
Make a conscious decision to do what is necessary to avoid a nursing home. Then craft a plan to make it happen.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek advice from your family, friends, and the broader community. The internet is also a wonderful place for finding the latest research on what keeps people healthy into old age – just make sure you are going to reputable sites.
The other aspect of taking control is to start working to avoid a nursing home today! As in right now. The sooner you start implementing these changes, the better chance you have of staying healthy into your golden years. But don’t give up if you are older. People have made amazing transformations at many different ages. Check out this guy:
Here are 5 activities you can do to help you avoid a nursing home. If you are struggling to implement them, feel free to come talk to us. We have a personal trainer, a nutritionist who helps us prepare meals, and a functional medicine specialist who can advise you on how to improve your lifestyle.
#1 A Healthy Diet
You probably guessed this would be the #1 way to avoid a nursing home. That’s because it’s true. What you eat makes such a difference in the quality of your life. If you are older, it’s definitely time to start eating healthy.
Here are some tips of what to eat and what to avoid:
What To Eat
What did your Mom tell you? It was probably pretty close to what you should eat.
- Lots of vegetables are a great start
- Fruit is good as well.
- So is fish.
- Nuts and seeds are great snacks.
- Beans. Yum.
- Eggs. Double yum!
- Whey protein is a great way to help extend your telomeres (click on the link if you want to know all about telomeres) and improve aging. Telomeres are located at the end of your cell DNA strands. Recent research is showing that when you are born your Telomeres are at their longest length. As your cells age, the Telomeres shorten. When their length decreases to a certain point, you die of old age.
- Oils such as Coconut and MCT can reduce the chances of Alzheimers and Dementia. Trying cooking with them, using them as a dressing for salads or eating them raw.
Meat can have some good vitamins, but eat it in moderation. Try to eat grass-fed meat as much as possible. Keep red meat to a minimum. Your protein can come primarily from whey and vegetables. This man who retired from being a Thoracic Surgeon at Age 95 believes his active lifestyle is due to a primarily plant-based diet:
What Not to Eat
You can probably guess this list as well. It contains lots of stuff that tastes great, but is what puts people into a nursing home. One of the biggest sources of food that accelerates aging and reduces health is processed foods. All those additives are designed to get you hooked on processed foods. However they wreak havoc on your body – increasing insulin resistance and inflammation.
Insulin resistance is the precursor to many common age-related diseases such as diabetes and dementia. They are even calling Alzheimer’s more and more Type 3 Diabetes.
Besides processed foods, here are other foods to avoid:
- Sugar! If you crave something, it’s probably bad for you
- Trans fats – check labels to avoid these
- Dairy. Vegetables can give you plenty of calcium.
- Grains, including pastas and breads
- Sugary drinks – these include sodas, energy drinks and in many cases sports drinks
- Alcohol – A little in moderation if you must. But the real health benefits come from abstaining
Many of these foods are hidden in other foods, so you may want to become a label-reader when shopping at the grocery stores. A general rule of thumb is to shop on the outside aisles of a grocery store, rather than the inner aisles. Buy products that need to be refrigerated such as fruits, vegetables and fish. Avoid pantry products!
Our residents are enjoying lots of good food in our assisted living homes and feeling healthier because of it. Eating right will save a lot on expensive medications, give you more energy to enjoy life, and help you avoid a nursing home through your whole life.
Like eating right, you probably are not surprised that exercise made the list. Although healthy eating will help you avoid a nursing home a lot better than exercise, exercise can make a huge difference in the quality of your life as you become older.
Simply going for a walk each day can make a huge difference in your well-being. Here in Arizona, a walk will also allow you to raise your vitamin D levels through sun exposure. Obviously you don’t want to overdo it in the sun, but a 15 minute walk every day in the sunshine can really help.
There are also two exercise techniques that can make a BIG difference in your health as you age and help you avoid a nursing home.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
The words ‘High-Intensity’ and ‘elderly’ don’t normally go together. Sprinting and pushing yourself to your max seems like a young person’s game. Performing high intensity workouts in older people might seem at first like a good way to have a heart attack.
Of course it would be a good idea to check with a doctor before performing any workout. But you would be surprised at all the benefits of HIIT. You don’t need to set any world records doing HIIT. Just push yourself for short intervals – say 30 seconds or even less – to raise your heart rate substantially.
Don’t want to go to a track and do sprints? Try these 5 HIIT workouts seniors can have fun doing.
Don’t want to go to a track and do sprints? Try these 5 HIITworkouts seniors can have fun doing.
- The Treadmill– Warm up for 5 minutes with a walk or slow jog. Then do 4-6 repetitions of 20 seconds ‘sprinting’. Follow up each sprint with a 90 second cool down where you are just walking. Cool down with 5 minutes of walking.
- The Stationary Bike– Warm up for 5 minutes cycling lightly. Then do 4-6 repetitions of 20 seconds ‘sprinting’. Follow up each sprint with a 90 second cool down where you are just walking. Cool down with 2 minutes of cycling and 2 minutes of walking.
- The Dumbell Circuit– Start with vigorous arm swings to warm up. Then do four exercises consecutively without any rest with dumbells. For details on each exercise, click on the ‘5HIIT’ link above. The four exercises are:
- One-arm dumbbell row (10 reps each side)
- Wall Ball squats (12 reps)
- Standing dumbbell press (10 reps)
- Front plank (30 seconds or as long as possible)
Rest for 90 seconds after doing the 4 exercises. Repeat the circuit 3-5 times. Cool down with 5 minutes of walking.
- Swimming– Use whatever stroke you want to use in the workout to swim slowly for 5-10 minutes to warm up. Then do 4-6 one lap sprints as fast as you can go. Once you’ve sprinted each lap, slowly swim the lap back to the starting point to rest between each sprint.
- Boxing – Sure! Why not? By boxing we mean do a training workout. We don’t recommend actual fighting! Warm up with arm swings and light punches on a heavy bag. Then hit the bag hard for 30 seconds with all kinds of different punches. Rest for 60-90 seconds in between each 30 second session by walking around. Make sure you wear good gloves!
HIIT improves the well-being of older people (and youngsters too!) by:
- Increasing the production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) by over 700%. HGH promotes muscle growth and fat burning. As we age, the amount of HGH in our bodies decreases rapidly.
- Reduces age-related Telomere shortening – We discussed Telomeres up above when we talked about whey protein in nutrition. Recent research shows HIIT can actually reduce the rate your Telomeres shorten.
Without muscle mass, it becomes more and more difficult to perform regular daily tasks. Falling becomes a bigger danger. We see a lot of residents move into our assisted living homes after a fall occurred at home. To avoid falling (and to avoid a nursing home!), there is never an age that is too late for resistance or weight training. Here are some other reasons weight training is important as we all grow older:
- Improve the ability to do daily activities – want to pick up your grandchildren? Carry in the groceries by yourself? Go for long walks with your kids?
- Provide relief from joint pain and arthritis. Weight training strengthens the tendons and ligaments around joints. It takes pressure off the joints and eases their pain
- Lowers you blood sugar. Weight training will increase muscle mass which aids in more glucose control. Lowering your blood sugar decreases your diabetes and dementia risks
As usual, see a doctor before beginning any training program. Especially if you have not been exercising for a long time.
One interesting way for seniors to exercise is to perform very slow movements with weights. At least one doctor believes that one 10-15 minute slow weight exercise session can give you the same benefits as a 20 minute HIIT cardio session.
Want some inspiration for weight training at any age? This Grandma will help:
As people age it becomes more and more difficult to achieve a good night’s sleep. Worse yet if a family member has to wake up multiple times a night to take care of an aging relative.
And then they have to go to work in the morning.
Guess. What. They. Are. Thinking.
Yup. A nursing home will help.
Besides stopping family members from turning into zombies due to lack of sleep, between 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep has lots of benefits to help seniors avoid a nursing home:
- Improves the immune system
- Reduces the chance for dementia
- Prevents any accidents from waking up in the night and fumbling around in the dark
People of all ages often have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep. Lots of seniors do. Here are a few things they can try to improve the length and quality of their sleep:
- Exercise – Why do you think sleep is covered in this section. Your body will want time to recover from the exercise. Plus if you are in great shape, sleep comes more naturally.
- Remove blue light – Light coming from TVs and computers reduce the amount of Melatonin your body produces. Turning off these devices several hours before bed can really help. Or at least find some glasses that block the blue light.
- Make the Bedroom ‘Sleep Friendly’ – Remove any light such as bathroom lights or night lights to make the bedroom as dark as possible. Make sure pets are not jumping on the bed in the middle of the night. And keep those TVs out of the bedroom!
- Avoid Naps – Only if people are having trouble sleeping at night. If they are sleeping well at night, a nap may be wonderful!
- Talk to Your Doctor – Some medications may have side effects that prevent sleep. Let your doctor know if you have problems sleeping.
#3 Have a Sense of Purpose
We hear about it all the time in neighborhoods around us. Seniors just sitting in front of the TV all day because they have nothing to do. People sometimes lose their reasons to live as they age:
- Maybe they lose a spouse after a very long marriage.
- Or their friends start passing away.
- Or Retirement from their career leaves them with nothing to do
Whatever the reason, many families see their elder parents become listless and apathetic. They come to us because they want their parents to become more engaged and outgoing. In many cases assisted living homes can provide that social environment that helps to perk up adults.
Remember though, that this article is about how to avoid a nursing home or assisted living. That means an elderly person should find a purpose for living on their own. After all, eating right and exercising don’t do you any good if you don’t have a reason to put your body to good use.
Here’s some examples of people who put their body to good use:
Keeping an older person focused on a goal will do more than just make them more actives. Researchers are finding more and more health benefits for people who have a goal or purpose. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry found that people age better if they have a purpose in life.
Ideas for Creating a Purpose
Seniors should take a deep breath, look out the window at the wonderful world surrounding them, and start thinking about a purpose for their life (if they don’t know it already). Here are some ideas:
- Volunteer. Here’s a great website to find volunteer opportunities in your area. Just type in your town and hit enter. We had a resident in our Goodyear home who wanted to volunteer. So we went to the website and found 653 potential opportunities. From one of those opportunities, we also found a pet fostering service. We now help foster pets in our homes until the service can find a family who will give the pet a permanent home. As for the resident? She’s volunteering with the local government. She’s helping to get the word out on all the fun activities in the town.
- Research your family history. There are plenty of websites and resources to research your family. What a legacy you can provide for the rest of your family. We had a resident who found over 5,000 people linked to his family! He loved finding new people and showing them to us. We also have a blog post about researching a family tree.
- Become more tech savvy. Every day it seems like it becomes easier and easier for seniors to start a blog or website. Many of them can turn to their grandchildren for technical help. One lady started the ‘70Something‘ blog about 10 years ago (hint: it’s now the ’80Something’ blog, but she hasn’t changed the domain name). Seniors have such histories and stories to tell. Blogging or recording videos would be a great way to capture the histories.
- Start a small side hustle. One of our assisted living residents who became well enough to go home was a crack salesman. He is now talking to other people in the surrounding neighborhoods and helping to sell the benefits of our homes. We pay him a commission for every resident who joins us from him (we also pay any resident $1,000 if they refer another resident). Here are some other ways to earn a little extra money in retirement. Just being goofy can make you an internet sensation.
#4 Become More Social
As we age, it becomes harder and harder to get out and about. It is so much easier to sit at home by yourself in front of the TV. Here’s a hint for everyone whose family is pushing them to move into an assisted living home but doesn’t want to go:
If your family sees you having fun with lots of other people, they won’t feel the need to move you into a home.
I’m sure there are plenty of introverts out there who have spent their whole lives not being very social. Old age won’t make that easy to change.
Social Media for Seniors
Fortunately the internet has made it much easier for introverts. Not only can elderly people connect with family and friends through the internet. They can also reach out to other people with similar interests. Here are some ideas to help seniors become more social. Just think how impressed a family will be if Grandma or Grandpa becomes a social media sensation! Find a grandchild or other neighborhood kid who can help set them up for you:
- Many senior people may have lost a spouse or may otherwise be living alone. Is it time for some companionship? Especially some romantic companionship? Here is a website that has reviews of 10 free dating websites for seniors. Many of the sites also have articles about how to be safe with internet dating.
- Check out Meetup Groups. Once you set up an online profile, you can search for people to meet with similar interests in your area. I typed in ‘Seniors’ in the Surprise, AZ zip code near my assisted living homes. The search returned 60 meetup groups!
- Remember when neighbors talked to each other out in the street? Boy I miss those days. Fortunately someone else did enough to start a site called Next Door. The folks at Next Door are very careful about verifying your identity and address before they let you on the site. They are also very strict about solicitations. Once you have a profile though, you can chat with neighbors, receive recommendations on good local businesses, and enjoy each other’s company – even if it’s just virtually.
How Meeting People Helps You Avoid a Nursing Home
Many of the sites such as Meetup and Next Door are great for finding people in your area. Once you find them, go out and meet them in person. It’s good to meet at a public location first, before inviting anyone to your home. ESPECIALLY people you meet on the internet.
According to the National Institute a Health, studies of older adults show that the more seniors are isolated from other people, the higher the rates of
- Depression and
- Cognitive Decline
Show Family You Can Avoid a Nursing Home
All good reasons for families to put a senior in a nursing home or assisted living facility to increase socialization. Seniors can fight this this temptation from their relatives by being more social. Show them Grandma or Grandpa still has ‘it’ and you’ll be able to remain the King or Queen of your castle.
Part of socializing is being nice to your family members, even if you think they are a pain in the rear. It is usually the family that decides when someone is ready for a nursing home. Even if that deadbeat son-in-law is not the power of attorney for the parents care, he can still have an influence on the decisions maker.
If the senior in the family can remember to be as small a burden on the rest of the family as they can, the family will want to have them around the home. Some people just want the ‘cranky old man out of the house, and a nursing home may be the perfect alternative. Even if it is not said specifically.
#5 NEVER Stop Learning (but not for the reason you think)
People think that seniors should keep their minds engaged in order to fight off dementia. Doing crosswords, Sudoku, puzzles or challenging games are supposed to keep the mind sharp.
The latest research seems to suggest otherwise. According to studies done by the National Institute for Health and others, performing challenging tasks do not seem to have much effect on cognitive decline (dementia and Alzheimer’s). Factors that make a much bigger difference include:
- Genetics (runs in the family)
- Eating healthy (no sugar!)
- Sufficient sleep
- No smoking
- Treatment of mood or anxiety disorders
- Good vascular health
- Avoidance of head trauma
So just doing a favorite crossword will not avoid a nursing home if the other factors aren’t there.
It’s still good to do the crossword though – because you enjoy it. And that’s why it would be so great to continuing doing. And learning. Just because people retire doesn’t mean they can’t continue improving.
Think of that sense of accomplishment that comes from overcoming a challenge. It could be as simple as a crossword puzzle. Or something more challenging like learning a new language or a musical instrument. That feeling can be addictive, and do wonders for your mood regardless of your age.
School Enrollment will Help Avoid a Nursing Home
A family will definitely think Mom or Dad is fine if they are actively learning. Here are some ideas besides languages and instruments to stay engaged and improve your skills. It’s never too late. Check out this lady and when she received a degree from school:
Examples of Learning Opportunities
Here are some ideas for you:
- Go back to school! Are there college classes that you wish you took way back when? Or maybe they didn’t offer those classes when you were in school (computer classes for example). There’s no better time than the present for seniors to take a few classes. Check out the programs in all 50 states that offer discounts at colleges for seniors here.
- Don’t want to hang out with all those immature co-eds? Then check out all the opportunities online. There is a website called Open Culture that is constantly looking around the web to find free educational and cultural opportunities for people to learn online.
- Consider turning your hobby into a teaching opportunity. They say the best way to learn something is to have to teach it to others. Why not let others benefit from your vast knowledge? Put an ad on Craigslist or another local site volunteering to show people how to do something. As your reputation grows, you may even be able to start charging for it.
Have you always had fun doing something like the following? If you have to teach the subjects, you will probably bone up on them. That way you don’t embarrass yourself:
- Auto Repair
- Handyman work
You Gotta WANT to Avoid a Nursing Home
The bottom line is that age and time are working agains all of us. We have to work to fight it. That’s true of pretty much everything in life. And we would definitely like to fight along side of you.
If you, a friend or a family member is considering moving into assisted living or a nursing home, consider reaching out to us. We have lots of resources to help you avoid that decision and see if we can work with you to avoid a nursing home. If not, consider moving in with us for a while. Our nutritionist and personal trainer can work with you to make sure your stay is a temporary one. Several people have had success and the numbers are growing.
Let Us Help
A Paradise for Parents staff and our resources can answer all your questions. Don’t hesitate to give us a call at (623) 295-9890 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about the services we offer. You can also fill out an online form located on our homepage. We’d be happy to assist you in your search for an assisted living facility for your loved one.