Importance of Self-Care for Seniors
Importance of Self-Care for Aging Adults
The concept of self-care is about reinforcing healthy habits and routines across communities, families and generations. However, self-care doesn’t mean you have to take care of yourself by yourself, though—sometimes the best option is to ask for the assistance you need. Take time to think about what you can do to better your physical, mental and emotional health—and what things you’d rather have help with; doing so will ensure you stay healthy and happy as you age.
How can you care for yourself?
The International Self Care Foundation has established seven pillars of self-care you can use to evaluate your physical and mental health. These pillars help identify which areas of your well-being you may need to improve. Use them to guide your self-reflection as you consider the following questions.
1. Knowledge. Do I understand the health information given to me?
This is about having good health literacy skills so that you understand information you are given by healthcare professionals. It also means understanding your health insurance plan and what it provides you for such things as which hospitals are covered under your insurance, what doctors and specialists you’re able to see and how much a doctor’s visit will cost you. If you’re not sure what your medical plan covers, call your healthcare provider. They’ll be able to answer questions.
2. Self-awareness. Do I have up-to-date information about my physical health? What is my current emotional state?
Knowing basic information about your physical health—such as your Body Mass Index, cholesterol and blood pressure—can help you pinpoint which areas need improvement. If you don’t know this information, schedule a checkup with your primary care physician.
Also, check in with yourself regularly about your emotions. If you’re often feeling “down” or depressed, you may benefit from a professional therapist, social activity or group meetings with others who feel the same way to help you work through things in a supportive setting.
3. Physical activity. Do I get enough regular exercise each week?
Seniors should get at least 150 minutes of cardio activity every week. If you’re not exercising often, there are many things you can do to get active. Join a fitness class, create a personal workout routine or maybe ask a friend to go on daily walks with you.
4. Diet. Do I have a well-balanced diet?
As you age, your dietary needs change. Find out what you need to eat more of—or are eating too much of—and adjust your diet accordingly. If you’re not sure how to create a diet that fits your needs, schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss what dietary changes would be healthy for you.
5. Risk avoidance. Am I partaking in activities that are harming me?
Smoking and drinking alcohol are two activities we often think of as harmful—but we also need to consider how other choices can impact our well-being, like going outside without sunscreen, neglecting vaccines or driving without a seatbelt. Think carefully about what you do (or don’t do) on a regular basis that could put you at risk, and make an effort to change those habits.
6. Hygiene. Am I practicing cleanliness?
Hygiene is more than just showering, brushing our teeth and doing our laundry regularly. These are all necessary—especially dental health, which can affect other areas of physical well-being—but it’s also important to consider healthy habits throughout the day, such as rinsing food before eating it or simply washing our hands more often. These small precautions make a big difference in protecting ourselves against illness.
7. Responsibility. Am I using medications as directed?
When it comes to your prescription and non-prescription medications, it’s important that you use them responsibly. Pay attention to medication labels so you know exactly how much to take and be aware of potential side effects. If you have an adverse reaction to something, whether it’s new or old, be sure to see a doctor right away.
Take care of yourself and find support if you need it. Whether you get more exercise, seek out a therapist, or simply spend some extra time relaxing with friends, make the time to do what you need to be happier and healthier.