Evolution of a Society
I started working in long term care facilities, or nursing homes, many years ago. At that time almost all of our residents were elderly people with medical problems. In recent years I worked in two other nursing homes and guess what. A large number of the residents were relatively young, but obese, so obese that they simply could not care for themselves at home. I work in a different environment now, assisted living, where our residents do not have medical problems significant enough to require skilled nursing care. I do not have a single young, obese resident. When a young person becomes morbidly obese they may just skip over assisted living and go straight to a nursing home if their medical problems skyrocket out of control to the point that they require skilled nursing care. Even if you maintain good health into old age, if you are morbidly obese, the day is most likely coming that a nursing home is your only option. Simple tasks of daily living become all but impossible for the morbidly obese if they have medical problems that are even slightly debilitating. Excess weight can make the difference in remaining in your home for your golden years or living in a nursing home. While I do believe that nursing homes are a blessing for those that need them, if I had to choose, I would always choose to live in my home.
The Simple Things
There has been a ill-informed mindset for many years that advanced age always means dependency on others for your personal needs. This is not true. We have accepted this as the norm and it simply is not. We become debilitated by our choices more than anything else. We decide what we will eat and how much exercise and sleep that we get. We may have some genetics that work against us, but even those can be managed in a positive manner. I have known Type 1 diabetics who managed their diabetes well, taking only minimum amounts of insulin. I have also known Type 2 diabetics who managed their diabetes so well with good nutrition and exercise that they took no medications whatsoever. I have also personally known diabetics who ate cake frosting by the tub and spent a lot of their life in ICU. If the latter group lives to old age, they will almost certainly develop medical problems that will make it necessary to live in a nursing home. Some of these people are very young and some of them will be young when they arrive in their home away from home, a long-term care facility. As the amputations begin and mobility begins to slip away, the simple act of taking a shower will require assistance or even complete care. Going to the bathroom may become treacherous, putting the individual at great risk for falls, so even that previously private moment will require someone else to accomplish and that last shred of pride can be taken away. While caregivers are supposed to always protect an individuals dignity, the mere act of requiring help in the bathroom is humbling, to say the least. If you require assistance, then you may not be able to stay in the bathroom alone for your bowel movement. At least you won’t be lonely, right?
In the year 2000, the percentage of those entering American nursing homes who were moderately to severely obese was 14.7 percent. In 2010, it was 25 percent. In 2018, 28 percent. The most significant increase was among women and the most severely obese residents were among the youngest. The most severely obese residents also suffered more chronic medical conditions. Special equipment is required to handle some of these residents which adds to medical costs. Things that we never consider are routine requirements for the morbidly obese. They even need longer needles and larger blood pressure cuffs. Obesity is expensive. About 30-40 referrals are usually involved in placement for the morbidly obese.
I’ve heard it said that all we’ve got is time. I’ve also heard that time will pass either way. In this context, I take that to mean that as time passes, we will make choices that will create our bodies and lives. So, if we create a bit of our bodies and our lives every day then let’s create something good. I’ll never forget when I first began lifting heavy weights with David training me. I asked him, “How long will “it” take?” … (let that soak in a minute…) He kindly responded, “The rest of your life.” and it will. Every day, living my life at my optimum, healthiest level to build muscle and health will be a lifetime project. Time will pass. I intend to be independent until the day I die at a very old age. That is a goal.
We write at length about avoiding empty calories, which are fattening, nutritional bombs. They pack on the pounds and do not repair your body or provide the nutrients that you need. David wrote an article entitled Obese Yet Malnourished that describes this type of eating. It’s deadly. You will starve and develop all kinds of illness if you live this way. Eat nutrient dense food and be healthy. This is just whole foods, nothing magical. Eat meat and vegetables and avoid added sugars. Simple.
Go to your doctor and get approved to exercise. He can also tell you what exercise is best for you. If you sit on your behind for the rest of your life, there will be way too much behind and not nearly enough life.
Find a way to get some sleep. You can tell if you’re getting enough. When you’re rested, life makes more sense, even the hard times, and you are better able to get through those times. In the good times, you will be able to enjoy them. You will find yourself smiling more and things will just be easier. Catch some ZZZ’s.
With all the troubles that can confront us, this is a tough one. The best way to destress is to have good health habits. They will make you stronger and more confident. Confidence is necessary to get through the hard times. You will have a feeling of control that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Even if you can’t control whatever is bothering you, you can think well enough to make strategic plans when you are well-rested. Exercise changes your chemistry to naturally center you in difficult times.
The Rest of Your Life
If you are reading this and you are overweight, with your doctor’s approval, lose the weight. Your mobility and overall health is at risk. In order to remain independent and self-sufficient, you must be healthy. Do you really want to live in a nursing home and depend on others for your most personal needs? I have discovered that life really does get better with age. The trick to that is simply that YOU have to get better with age. When you get better, life gets better. Start today, it’s the first day of the rest of your life.