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One of the most difficult aspects of life is watching your parents get older. It isn’t easy to see the people that cared for you and provided for you for so many years start to develop the need for additional care. As their body declines, they may become more reliant on others to address their care needs. This might mean you playing a direct role in their care or helping find professional services that can help them.
A particularly challenging factor that aging adults face is cognitive decline. This organ is crucial to the continued functioning of the human body, and when it starts to deteriorate, life can become incredibly difficult.
Looking out for your aging parents often involves prioritizing their wellness, especially when it comes to their physical brain and mental health. Here are a few ways that you can support the brain health of your parents as they get older.
Art is a chance to express inner creativity. It can engage the mind in a truly inspiring way, letting you put your thoughts on paper, into a physical sculpture, or through another medium. Keeping the brain active is crucial to supporting longevity for aging adults, which is why art therapy is often used with Alzheimer’s patients. While your parents may not have Alzheimer’s, cognitive decline can occur at various levels in older adults. Encouraging them to engage with their artistic creativity can keep the neuron connections in their brain developing to delay the effects of aging and promote stronger brain health. It is also an activity that has emotional benefits, promoting mental acuity and health.
Ideally, you would support total body health for your parents by encouraging an all-around healthy diet. Balanced eating delivers vital nutrients to your body’s cells, including those in the brain. The more optimized your diet is with fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, and dairy, the more likely your body is to continue functioning well. You can specialize your parents’ diets further by focusing on leafy greens, walnuts, berries, fatty fish, and tea. These brain superfoods can promote long-term health for the brain. Additionally, a brain health supplement could also promote healthy brain aging.
Humans are meant to be in relationships with others. This is true of people no matter their age. Growing old can result in loneliness, especially when your parents have lost friends, family members, and their own parents. They still need connections with others to continue stimulating their brain and supporting mental health. If possible, encourage your aging parents to get involved with community groups or activities that include social interaction. Building relationships with new people can benefit their emotional state, preserving brain function and potentially delaying the effects of aging.
If your parents are not particularly active, now is the time to encourage them to change that. Exercise increases blood flow, which makes the delivery of nutrients to the brain easier. Plus, it can maintain the blood vessels and prevent high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems. However, sometimes older adults hesitate to exercise. You must help them find ways to work out that are safe for their more fragile bodies. Power-lifting is probably an activity that should be avoided, but low-impact activities like pickleball, swimming, dancing, and calisthenics can get the blood pumping and support long-term brain health.
Keeping the mind activated is key to preventing cognitive decline. Similar to the benefits of art therapy, hobbies can keep the mind engaged, as well as the hands, allowing the brain to maintain healthy neural connections. If you can help your aging parents find mentally-stimulating activities to partake in regularly, you will give them a better chance of putting off decline. Some of these activities could include knitting, woodworking, auto repair, drawing, painting, photography, or collecting antiques. Basically, if the activity makes your parents happy, then it can help stimulate positive emotions and brain activity, which is supporting their brain health. Encourage them to find new hobbies if they are not interested in old ones.
Be Prepared for Hard Conversations
The hardest part about caring for aging parents might be the conversations you have to have about their needs. It is tough to give up your independence, so it should come as no surprise if your parents want to continue with the way they have been living. But their needs are changing, and that means their lifestyle needs to reflect those changes. There may be hard conversations on the horizon about their living situation, especially if the cognitive decline is already occurring. The best approach is to be upfront and honest with them during these discussions. Show empathy and listen to their desires, but do not be afraid to be real with them either.