Encouraging independence for your aging loved one is important because being independent helps our physical and emotional wellbeing. Feeling helpless and unable to do what you want can likely lead to feelings of hopelessness and a decreased will to keep on living. Being able to take care of daily tasks yourself can help lead to feelings of pride and accomplishment. Being “able” to do things is often taken for granted for healthy individuals who do not live with a disability. As we get older, our body changes and becomes less able to move like it used to. If you have an elderly loved one with a degenerative neurological disease, your abilities to accomplish tasks on your own can be severely impacted depending on how severe the mental illness is. For degenerative neurological disorders, you can help your loved one in the early stages, but it may become harder for them to do things on their own as their illness gets worse. Fortunately, family caregivers can help their loved one remain independent for longer.
If you take care of an aging loved one, you may notice that they are resistant to your help and might say that they can perform a certain task. This feeling of “able-ness” is important for their wellbeing as much as it is for your own. And even if your loved one can only do simple things, like fold laundry or store away silverware, performing these acts can help your loved one’s morale and confidence.
What Does Independence Mean?
Independence varies from person to person and from context to context. Each aging individual will have their different range of capabilities. For example, your loved one may not be able to cook a five-course meal for an entire family (maybe they still can!), but maybe they can make a series of phone calls and book doctor’s appointments. As a caregiver, try paying close attention to what they can and can’t do and then determine a series of activities you can leave to your loved to do on their own. Sometimes, the choice might be easy and you may notice your loved one is capable of doing a lot. Other times, they may need a lot of extra help.
What You Can Do to Help Your Loved One Stay Independent
These are some activities that can help encourage your loved one to stay independent. Be sure to keep your loved one’s current level of health in mind.
Encourage physical activity: Exercise, when approved by a doctor, can help your muscles get stronger and your mind become sharper. Walking or doing some light resistance training can help your body stay strong. Additionally, doing aerobic activities like swimming or brisk walking can help improve cardiovascular performance and improve heart health.
Socializing: Humans are, by their very nature, social beings. Therefore, to survive means to interact with others. Aging can often isolate individuals by limiting the kinds of things one can do and the environments in which one exists. As a result, people can become lonely and sad. To avoid depression and feelings of hopelessness, your loved one should continue socializing with friends and family..
Working around the house: Ask your loved one to help them with easy chores around the house like folding the laundry, cleaning dishes, or reorganizing east-to-lift objects. These activities are especially good for individuals with Alzheimer’s or other related dementias because they are safe in the comfort of their living spaces.
Safe-proof the house: Take a moment to think about how your loved one could live more comfortably in their (or your) home. Make sure that everything they need is in an accessible place. And make sure that rooms are well-lit and that hazards are removed.
Prepare for emergencies: One fear that many people have about their aging loved one is “What if something happens when I am not there?” Fortunately, there are personal emergency response systems (PERS) that allow your loved one to contact emergency responders at the push of a button.
Support: Lastly, be there for your loved one when they need you. This means not just being there physically but responding to their emotional needs, as well. Responding to your loved one’s emotional needs can make a huge difference in their attitude and outlook on life. It is therefore important to be a good listener, even if some conversations can be hard.
If you have any questions, please call ElderCare at Home at 888-285-0093 or visit our website.