A strong immune system is an essential element of good health as it helps to fight off infections and illnesses. As we age, our immune system begins to debilitate and becomes incapacitated when responding to infections. This gradual decline of the immune system is known as immunosenescence.
Due to a weakened immune system, seniors are more susceptible to disease and illnesses ranging from cold and flu, to other more serious health conditions.
Regardless of challenges old age can pose to a senior’s immune system, if a senior is guided and helped to practise a healthy lifestyle; it can go a long way to help improve the senior’s immune system and prevent or fight against diseases.
Here are some healthy living strategies caregivers can employ to help improve a senior’s immune system:
- WASHING OF HANDS
As a caregiver, you should ensure that yours and your loved one’s hands are often and thoroughly washed. This can help prevent the spread of disease-causing germs from one person to another. Be sure to wash hands with soap and scrub for at least 20 seconds before rinsing with water.
- MAKE A NUTRITION PLAN
When caring for elderly loved ones, family members and caregivers should help them maintain a healthy diet and good eating habits. You should plan and prepare healthy meals for them. Their meal should contain the right proportion of nutrients needed to improve or manage their health conditions and to boost their immune system. A poor diet can lead to poor health conditions for the elderly ones. Therefore, caregivers should make sure their loved ones eat rightly.
Here are some key immune boosting foods for seniors:
Protein, such as seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, beans, and peas
Vitamin A, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, and spinach
Vitamin C, such as citrus foods, strawberries, and certain cereals
Vitamin E, such as almonds, hazelnuts, and peanut butter
Zinc, such as lean meats, poultry, milk, whole grain products, and beans
- HELP THEM GET VACCINATED
You should encourage your loved one to get vaccinated. For instance, the single best way to prevent coronavirus infection and the seasonal flu is to get vaccinated as seniors are more prone to contracting such viruses. Also, complications of such viruses, include hospitalization and death; and can be especially severe in seniors The senior flu shot is a vaccine developed specifically for adults age 65 and older. Seniors require stronger protection because their immune system weakens with age, so the flu shot helps their system fight the flu virus more effectively than the regular flu shot. You should also ensure that your loved ones avoid people who have a cold or the flu. If your loved ones must be around people who are sick, they should wear a medical face mask to protect themselves.
- ENCOURAGE THEM TO QUIT SMOKING
If your loved one smokes, you should advise him or her to quit smoking. This is because smoking harms the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight colds, the flu, and other viruses, including the coronavirus. It also reduces the amount of oxygen that the blood can circulate throughout the body, increases heart rate, and damages the cardiovascular system; increases risks of osteoporosis, and type 2 diabetes all of which can quickly collapse one’s immune system. Encourage your aging loved one to quit as soon as possible. If you need extra support, talk to your loved one’s doctor or a family member for more help.
- GETTING PLENTY OF SLEEP
Not getting enough sleep can hinder one’s immune system’s ability to respond to infection and inflammation. Sleep disorders can also lead to many chronic diseases and conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression.
Insomnia is one common sleep disorder among seniors. You should ensure that your loved ones get enough sleep to boost their immune system. You can help your loved one reduce the intake of caffeine, help fashion out a regular sleeping routine and be sure that your loved one’s bedroom is comfortable enough for sleep
- HELP THEM STAY SOCIALLY ENGAGED
Social disengagement affects the seniors negatively but social activities can help to improve their physical and mental health including improved immunity. Take your loved one out to spend time with family and friends and even attend events that can help maintain and improve their health conditions such as going to movies, art exhibitions, etc. as staying socially active helps them live longer, healthier and more fulfilled lives.
- HELP TO KEEP THEM ACTIVE
You should help to keep your loved ones active. Talk to the doctor to be sure of the type of activities that would be best for your loved one. Encourage your loved one to engage in exercise sessions according to the doctor’s recommendations. Take a walk with them so as not to let your loved one sit all day long.
- REDUCE STRESS LEVELS
Stress, in most cases, strains the immune system; leaving the body unprepared to fight off infection. This is why it’s very important to help one’s elderly loved ones to manage stress in order to strengthen their immune system. You can encourage your loved one to participate in enjoyable activities that promote relaxation, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises as these can have positive effects on one’s health.
- HELP THEM STAY HYDRATED
Dehydration in seniors can lead to many health issues. Helping them stay hydrated will in a great way help boost their immune system. Water helps the body absorb nutrients and minerals, and flush out body waste. You should ensure that your loved one takes in enough fluids to stay hydrated especially when it is hot outside.
The impact of aging on the physical and mental health conditions of seniors can not be overemphasized. The fact that the immune system diminishes with aging calls for serious concerns when caring for an elderly loved one. Family and caregivers should take the onus of helping their elderly loved ones stay healthy by helping to improve their lifestyle or talking to their family doctor and ask for help when needed.