Sweet Dreams: Managing Sleep Changes in Seniors

Insomnia and the inability to stay asleep are common complaints of older adults. While it is not uncommon for older adults to sleep more lightly than they did when they were younger, they still need a good night’s sleep. Having insomnia or feeling sleepy throughout the day could be indicative of underlying problems.

Ensuring senior adults are actively involved in their own health and wellbeing is a priority for health professionals and policy makers. Many of the difficulties associated today with growing older are preventable or at least manageable. Adults can grow older and remain active by making choices that benefit their overall health.

If you are the caregiver for an older family member, you may need to help your loved one get ready for unexpected events. Since most people over the age of 50 report that they are not prepared for natural disasters, it may fall to families and healthcare providers to help older adults become proactive in their emergency plans. Our older population is most vulnerable at a time of crisis, so getting prepared today means a faster response time and less stress in the future.

There are over 1.5 million Canadians who have been diagnosed with Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and as many as 1.6 million more Canadians may have COPD but remain undiagnosed. It is the fourth leading cause of death in Canada and the leading cause of hospitals admisision for chronic medical conditions. COPD is a result of damage to the lungs, most commonly caused by smoking, and is usually a mix of two diseases, bronchitis and emphesyma, that affect the person’s ability to breathe.

Each year, one third of seniors aged 65 or older suffers a fall. While falling may seem a rather benign occurrence for most young and not-so-young people, the effects on older seniors can often be devastating financially and physically.

The importance of good nutrition spans the generations, but as we age, our dietary requirements change. Seniors need to concentrate on eating foods with a high nutrient density—that is, whole, natural, fresh foods that are packed with essential nutrients and fiber, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, healthy sources of protein and low-fat dairy products.

Food safety for seniors: each year about about 13 million Canadians become ill from eating foods contaminated by bacteria, viruses or parasites, Health Canada reports. However, safe food handling, preparation and storage practices can greatly decrease the risks of food-borne illness. These practices are particularly important for seniors.

A decline in grooming often indicates that a senior needs assistance due to a loss of physical dexterity or onset of conditions like Alzheimer’s that inhibit the ability to perform the activities of daily living. But it also can go much deeper, signaling depression and a loss of direction or interest in life.

The importance of exercise for seniors: many research studies prove that seniors can improve their health and extend their longevity and time of independent living by extending their arms and legs in regular physical activity.

Helping seniors stay safe and independent. By increasing seniors’ safety, they can not only experience better health and wellbeing but also stand a greater chance of living in their own homes independently for as long as possible. Two areas to consider are home and vehicle safety.

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