The good news: Americans are living longer and living more active lifestyles. Here are some of the most important things you can do to stay healthy, active and independent through the years. No matter how old you are, it is never too late to begin taking care of yourself.
See a Healthcare Provider Regularly
Visiting your health care provider regularly helps catch problems early, making them easier to treat. You can also find out about screening tests and immunizations you might need. You and your health care provider will decide together how often you should be seen.
Get Insurance Coverage
Having health insurance is essential. The Arizona State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) is a free health-benefits counseling service for Medicare beneficiaries and their families or caregivers. SHIP is an independent program funded by federal agencies and is not affiliated with the insurance industry. Call 602-542-4446 or statewide 1-800-432-4040.
Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) offers health insurance for individuals 65 and older. For those who qualify, there are no monthly premiums. Call 602-417-7200 or statewide 1-800-331-5090.
Take Care of Your Teeth
Over the past 50 years, there has been an improvement in the nation's oral health. Most middle-aged and older adults can expect to keep their natural teeth over their lifetime. Tooth loss is not a natural part of aging, it is caused by untreated mouth and gum disease. Taking prescription medications can cause dry mouth, which can also increase your risk of tooth decay. What else can you do to maintain good oral health? Check out these tips.
Regular check-ups allow your dentist to catch problems early. Stick to the schedule of visits your dentist recommends for you. Find a dentist or dental provider near you. Reduced Fee and Community Dental Clinics in Arizona
Use Chronic Disease Self Management Programs (CDSMP) Managing chronic conditions as we age is key. CDSMP workshops are free, evidenced based and designed to help people with chronic conditions live healthy lives and gain self-confidence in their ability to control their symptoms. Small-group, highly interactive workshops are six weeks long, meeting once a week for 2 ½ hours, and are facilitated by a pair of leaders, one or both of whom are non-health professionals with chronic diseases themselves.
What topics are covered in the Workshop?
- Dealing with difficult emotions, frustration, fatigue, pain, and isolation
- Managing symptoms
- Goal setting
- Problem solving
- Falls Prevention
- Understanding medications
- Making informed treatment decisions
- Increasing strength, stamina, and flexibility through better fitness
- How to communicate more effectively with family, friends, and health professionals
Workshops are designed to help people with ongoing health problems manage them more effectively. Anyone with a chronic condition such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, asthma, or any other on-going health problem should participate. Caregivers or family members who serve as caregivers are welcomed.
For a free class near you, visit http://azlwi.org/.
Alzheimer's and Dementia Related Diseases
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life.
What is Alzheimer's?
Alzheimer's is a fatal brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. It is the most common form of dementia.
Diagnosis & Treatment
If you or a loved one have concerns about memory loss or other symptoms of Alzheimer's or a related dementia, it is important to be evaluated by a physician.
There are medications available to help ease symptoms, but currently there is no cure.
Caregivers for Alzheimer's and Dementia Face Special Challenges
Though the care provided by family members of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is somewhat similar to the help provided by caregivers of people with other conditions, dementia caregivers tend to provide more extensive assistance. Family caregivers of people with dementia are more likely to assist with more activities of daily living. This responsibility can take an emotional, physical, and financial toll, but knowledge of available resources can help relieve the stress. Research shows that caregivers who access support activities regularly are healthier and better able to provide care.
Alzheimer’s Association Desert Southwest Chapter 24/7 Helpline: 1-800-272-3900
Arizona 24-HOUR Senior Help Line: 602-264-4357
Life Care Planning(Advance Directives) is about knowing what is most important to you and communicating how that affects your wishes for future health care. It is a consistent process for evaluating a person and disability in order to establish all of the needs dictated by the onset of that disability.
Life Care Planning is an important task for all of us, whether young or old, healthy or facing challenges. Through increased awareness and access to information, Arizonans of all ages can make their choices known about who will manage their medical affairs in the event of an emergency.
The Attorney General of Arizona offers the Life Care Planning forms, at no cost to you.
Good nutrition, especially in combination with regular physical activity, is key to maintaining a healthy weight and reducing your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. As you get older, it is important to understand how your nutrition needs to change.
Get Enough Calcium
Calcium can help to keep your bones strong and healthy to prevent fractures. The current recommendations are for men and women over age 50 to get 1200 mg of calcium and 400-600 IUs of vitamin D each day. Vitamin D allows the body use calcium properly. To help with getting enough calcium, read food labels when you go shopping.
Be Physically Active
Older adults need to be physically active in order to stay healthy and independent. Physical activity can help prevent heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. It can also help prevent falls and fractures. It is important to understand how much physical activity you need.
Falls Prevention (see Safety tab)
Drink Alcohol in Moderation
Drinking too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems or injuries. Most men should limit their use to two drinks per day. Most women should limit their use to one drink per day. One drink equals: one beer (12 oz.), or one glass of wine (5 oz.), or one shot of 80-proof hard liquor (1.5 oz) in a mixed drink. If you are concerned about your drinking, call the Crisis Response Network: 602-222-9444 (24 hours a day, every day).
Avoid Tobacco Use
It's never too late to quit smoking! No matter how old you are or how long you have been smoking, by quitting you can significantly lessen your risk of smoking-related illness and death. It is also important to avoid secondhand smoke. Call Arizona’s confidential and toll-free Tobacco Quitline, the ASHLine for support: 1800 55 66 222 ASHLine.org.
Be Social and Get Involved
Depression is not a natural result of aging. In older adults, depression is often caused by social isolation. Remember that your mental health and well-being are as important as your physical health. Have fun and do things that make you feel useful. Consider volunteering.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call for help:
Many falls are predictable and preventable. Comprehensive falls prevention has promise of reducing healthcare costs, maintaining independence and avoiding disability.
6 Steps to Prevent a Fall
- Find a good balance and exercise program. This will help to build balance, strength and flexibility.
- Talk to your health care provider about your risk of falling and any recent events.
- Regularly review your medications with your doctor and pharmacist. Make sure side effects aren’t increasing your risk of falling. Take medications only as directed.
- Get your vision and hearing checked annually and update your glasses. Your eyes and ears to key to keeping you upright.
- Keep your home safe. Remove tripping hazards, increase lighting, make stairs safe, and install grab bars in key areas.
- Enlist your family and friends in taking steps to stay safe.
Prevent Falls at Home
There are several things you can do to reduce your risk, and it starts at home. Reducing clutter and tripping hazards around your home will greatly reduce the risk of a fall. Showers and tubs without slip resistant mats, poorly lit rooms, cords and wires, and unsecured throw rugs can all increase your risk for a fall. It does not have to be expensive to create a safer home. Below is a list of ten things you can buy for less than $20 that will lower your risk for a fall.
- Shower or bathtub mat
- Grab Bars for your shower or tub
- Non-slip bathtub strips
- Velcro strips to secure electrical cords
- Non-slip safety grip pad for rugs
- Motion sensor sight light
- Slip resistant socks
- Non-slip tape (skid tape for stairs)
- Raised toilet seat
- Wheelchair seatbelt
Stay Safe in the Heat
The elderly population is vulnerable to the extremely hot sun and temperatures of Arizona. The temperatures within Arizona can reach above 100° F for almost half of the year and in the 105-110° F range during summer months. These levels of excessive heat can result in dehydration, exhaustion and even heat stroke. You can find heat safety tips here.
Avoid and Report Abuse
Elder mistreatment is a significant public health problem. Each year, hundreds of thousands of adults over the age of 60 are abused, neglected, or financially exploited. In the United States alone, over 500,000 older adults are believed to be abused or neglected each year. These statistics are likely an underestimate because many victims are unable or afraid to tell the police, family, or friends about the violence.
- Arizona Adult Protective Services
- TDD: 1-877-815-8390
Aging may mean more medications. Many medications and supplements can interfere with each other or may cause negative reactions when taken together or with certain foods or alcohol.
Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center - with any question you have about a medicine.
Common causes of poisoning from medications are:
- Accidental double dosing
- Wrong medication taken or given
- Incorrect doses
- Doses taken too close together
- Taking someone else's medication unintentionally