Supporting from Afar: Kidney Disease

One of the reasons our team is so passionate about SkyBlue.com and the experience we want to create, is because of our own personal experiences. I have loved ones all over the United States, and many of them are aging parents or chosen parents. This means that health concerns come up from time to time – or even major events – and while I can’t drop my job or my family to go and help, I know I can send things that can be meaningful. As we grow our site and our blog, we’re going to offer a series of articles about various conditions and the things we have learned working to support from afar, with health care supplies, and with other ideas to help the whole person.

My first story is about my dad, who has a progressive kidney disease that strikes many older men. He has been living with this condition for years and while I felt pretty helpless, I knew there had to be some things I could do to help him cope and to support a healthy lifestyle.

I didn’t send any supplies – so you won’t find links within SkyBlue.com for this post – instead I focused on supporting my Dad where he was in his process.

Nourishing the Body and the Mind and the Spirit

The first thing that often springs to mind when I want to help someone is food. Sending prepared meals wasn’t really called for in this instance so I went online and started doing research on diets and habits to support good kidney function and cook books that were well reviewed that might offer some beneficial support. I started on the National Kidney Foundation Website, which has a great list of cookbooks for kidney patients in all stages of disease – including cookbooks for people who are on dialysis. Now, the downside to this list is that you can’t see which one is the most popular, so of course, I ended up on Amazon.com.  A simple search for “cookbooks, kidney” lead me to all of the options, with ratings.

A few great options were:

renal diet cookbook

Smoothies for Kidney Health

The Essential Kidney Disease Cookbook

My next thought was of my dad as a person – he is a poet and a person who enjoys walking in nature, bird watching and enjoying the outdoors on a fine day. I pictured him on one of those walks and wondered what I could send that might help him enjoy the moment and relax.

So I also looked around for a beautiful leather bound journal. I wanted to find something smaller, that could fit in the pocket of his cargo shorts but that would still give him the opportunity to jot down a poem, create a pencil drawing, or just write his thoughts in the moment. Now this might not be the gift for everyone, but I’m including it because I think we all need to put ourselves in the shoes of someone we care about to offer a really thoughtful gift.

In this case, I sent something along the lines of this pocket leather notebook from Rustico.com.

Leather Journal from Rustico.com

Finally, I wanted to find something to support his activity level. My dad is a great athlete – but kidney disease take a lot out of a person. So I thought it might be a good plan to send some yoga!

Yin Yoga has been a great source of relaxation and comfort to me, while also offering the health benefits of stretching and soothing strength training. It was easy enough to send along the Yin Yoga Website, but I also sent a Yin Yoga DVD and a yoga mat to encourage Dad to stay active while dealing with his condition.

Yin Yoga

By sending a couple of things to my Dad to support him, I hoped I was helping at least a little bit in his ongoing work through his condition.

What kinds of things have you done for your loved ones to help from afar?

The Benefits of Staying Active While Aging

active aging

So, you’re not as young as you used to be…

Your joints ache, your knees hurt, and you’re pretty sure your back will never be completely straight again. We understand—it happens to everyone! But just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you have to stop being active. In fact, regular exercise is a critical part of a healthy senior lifestyle.1
Read on to find out just how much good exercise can do for you—plus pointers on how to implement exercise into your everyday routine.

Benefits

While regular exercise is important for people of all ages, it can be particularly beneficial for seniors. Here are just a few of these benefits2:

  1. Helps reduce blood pressure & cholesterol
  2. Helps maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints
  3. Lowers risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer
  4. Better quality sleep
  5. Reduced cognitive decline
  6. Increased balance and coordination
  7. Increased stamina and muscle strength
  8. Improves mood & helps symptoms of anxiety & depression
  9. Helps control arthritic joint swelling and pain
  10. Increased sense of independence and confidence

What can you do?

So, what can you do to stay fit? Some of the most popular senior fitness activities are things you probably already do to some extent—things like walking, gardening, and yard work. Another great option for more structured physical activity is taking classes from a local gym or fitness club. Many community gyms, like the YMCA, offer a variety of senior fitness classes, including yoga, Zumba, swimming, and cycling.

A common misconception about exercising as a senior is that if it isn’t hurting, it isn’t working. This could not be more false! Physical activity does not need to be strenuous to achieve health benefits3. You don’t need to be out lifting massive weights or running sprints for hours like people in their 20s to stay healthy. Our exercise routines should change based on our age and physical capabilities. While your average 25-year-old might need to jog every day and do weight circuits to stay fit, you certainly don’t have to. As you get older, your body doesn’t require the same levels of exertion as it used to in order to stay healthy.

Here are some general guidelines to follow when planning your exercise routine:

  1. Go for a mix of aerobic and strength exercises for the best results.
  2. For aerobic activities…
    1. Aim for 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity per week (30 minutes per day).
    2. Chose aerobic activities that make your heart beat faster, but don’t cause shortness of breath, chest pain, or extreme discomfort.
  3. For strengthening activities…
    1. Do strengthening activities 2 days a week.
    2. Try using light hand weights or resistance bands to build strength.
  4. You can also try balance activities, like tai chi or yoga.

What Caregivers and Loved Ones Can Do

Tackling a new or unfamiliar experience like exercise can often seem daunting and unachievable, especially for seniors. Social support from both family and friends has constantly shown positive results related to senior physical activity4. Simply offering to take a walk with them, helping them do yard work, or inviting them to attend a class at your local gym can help seniors build healthy habits in a familiar, social environment.

Keep in Mind…

Older adults should consult with a physician to make sure their exercise plan works for their body and lifestyle.5

Don’t let your Age
hold you back from an Active
life!

Additional Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Physical Activity and Health: Older Adults,” a Report by the Surgeon General.
AARP’s “Senior Fitness and Active Lifestyles.”
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ “Stay Active As You Get Older: Quick Tips,” a Healthfinder publication
National Institute on Aging’s “Go4Life” initiative.
National Institute on Aging’s “Real-Life Benefits of Exercise and Physical Activity,” a Go4Life publication.

1. [https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/sgr/olderad.htm]

2. [Note: benefits may or may not manifest themselves in every individual. Benefits may manifest themselves to different extents in different individuals. It is not guaranteed that every benefit will be manifest in every individual]

3. [https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/sgr/olderad.htm]

4. [Ibid]

5. [Ibid]