Written by Sally Perkins
Retirement is meant to be a happy, enjoyable time; you can finally breathe, relax and take in everything life has to offer. No matter which activity you intend to pursue – whether it’s traveling, gardening, or anything else you enjoy – it’s important to be careful and stay safe, as accidents and injuries are quite frequent for older adults. In fact, every year millions of seniors visit the emergency room and 30% of those are there for some kind of injury. Injuries such as fractures, sprains, head trauma and dislocations are particularly common and can slow your life down. However, an injury doesn’t have to ruin your retirement; you can take some effective steps to make sure that you get back on your feet as quickly as possible and feel healthy again despite the injury.
Give Yourself Time
Common causes of injuries in older adults are falling but also car accidents. About 30%-50% of falls cause minor injuries such as bruises and abrasions, but 10% of these cause major injuries such as head trauma or hip fractures. Car accidents involving older citizens have also been increasing, with pedestrians as the majority of accident victims. These accidents also often cause head trauma and other serious injuries.
Recovering from serious injuries takes time and can be a challenging process, so make sure you get plenty of rest and do not force yourself to perform activities which are painful for you. Take it easy and get plenty of rest. In the meantime, you can take up a more sedentary activity, such as reading or writing. Surround yourself with people who care about you and can help you get through this difficult time.
Talk to Your Doctor
Many older adults don’t report falls and are reluctant to talk about pain levels following an accident, even if it’s as serious as a car accident. Remember that your doctor is here to help you and is crucial for your recovery.
Make sure to alert your doctor every time you feel pain, even if you think it’s minor and doesn’t need attention. Doctors today are trained to have an equal relationship with their partners; a good patient-doctor relationship is a partnership, which becomes stronger as you ask questions and tell your doctor when treatments aren’t working or when you’re experiencing pain.
Emotional Healing Is Just As Important
Accidents can leave you traumatized and dealing with the emotional aftermath is just as important as taking the right steps towards healing physically. Especially after major incidents such as car accidents, many patients have to deal with emotional trauma and grief, while also working on healing from a physical point of view.
This can put a lot of stress on a patient and also delay recovery. Talking to a specialized psychologist can help in your healing and help you process what happened. It can also be useful to get a legal opinion concerning the accident; this can help you ascertain your lack of responsibility for the accident and assist you in receiving compensation for your injuries, which can also help you put the traumatic incident behind you and start over.
Focus on Healthy Nutrition
Make sure you are eating enough healthy food to sustain your recovery, since food provides the necessary energy and nutrients you need in order to be healthy. Choose a variety of healthy, whole grain foods and also aim to eat plenty of leafy vegetables, fruit and lean protein.
Try to avoid empty calorie foods, such as cookies, fast food, soda and alcohol; these foods are high in calories but very low in nutritional value and will delay your recovery as they increase inflammation in the body. Take supplements if necessary: calcium and vitamin D are two essential nutrients which have been shown to be effective in recovering from fractures or trauma.
Exercise Is Crucial
As you get older, injuries take longer to heal because of elevated inflammation and hormonal changes. However, research as shown that seniors who exercise recover more quickly than those who don’t. Exercise can be intimidating, especially if you haven’t done it in a while, but it doesn’t have to be difficult or grueling! Moderate intensity walking is a popular choice, since it’s an activity which can be done easily by most older adults and it’s completely free. Other popular choices are yoga, swimming or other water based workouts such as aqua aerobics. Water based activities are easier on the joints and less tiring, but ultimately make sure you choose something you really enjoy.
Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program in order to exercise safely and effectively. Start slow and for short periods of time, then slowly build up to a more challenging routine.
As well as walking and eating healthy, focus on activities which require core stability and balance, such as standing on one leg. There are also specific yoga classes which cater to seniors, and will help you improve flexibility and balance.
Exercising will increase your strength, energy and balance, as well as reducing risk of injuries, especially those caused by falls. By working on these aspects and having effective patient-doctor communication, you will be able to maximize your recovery time and be fully independent again as quickly as possible.