Regardless of our age, we all strive for and enjoy independence. From the beginning, we are taught how to care for ourselves. Success, happiness and other life accomplishments are often the result of doing things on our own. Independence is instilled in us when we are young, and the desire to be independent simply does not diminish with age. Independence often becomes more important to seniors.
The Importance of Independence
It is imperative to encourage independence in seniors, but also to interact with them in ways that provide the opportunity for elders to maintain a better quality of life for themselves. By participating in activities with your elderly loved one, you show that you care and your caregiving helps to improve their health. Research has shown that keeping seniors mentally, socially, physically, and emotionally engaged can help them maintain better cognitive function, stay healthier and live independently longer. As seniors age, daily interaction is essential to their happiness and health.
When caring for a loved one, don’t get into the habit of doing things “for” them, but rather, “with” them. Seniors may need your assistance, but doing everything for them is not the answer and does not promote a better quality of life. Encourage elderly loved ones to help with tasks they are able to do, such as folding laundry and writing a grocery list. Play a card game, do a cross-word puzzle, read the paper together or consider taking a walk. Shopping together provides another form of exercise and the chance to do something together. Gardening activities are fun and provide a sense of accomplishment.
The importance of being independent is twofold for seniors. Independence is often the only thing seniors may feel they can control as certain aspects of their life change with age. Furthermore, maintaining independence promotes a healthy sense of achievement creating a great sense of self-worth and well-being. Often, seniors are able to live independently in their home with little or no help at all. Others need assistance due to physical or mental limitations that accompany aging. We help seniors remain independent for as long as possible. Our in-home caregivers assist elderly clients with activities of daily living, such as light housekeeping, grocery shopping, cooking and other activities that allow them to lead independent lives, safely in the comfort of their own home.
As industry experts, we believe that in order to maintain true levels of independence, it is very important for elderly clients to be involved in their own care. When assisting clients, our caregivers do not simply perform all duties for senior clients in their care. Rather, our caregivers involve senior clients in daily activities and duties depending on the client’s capabilities. This promotes a healthy sense of independence.
At this age, when someone tells you that, “Communication is a two way street,” it probably makes your eyes roll. Unfortunately, when caring for a loved one, it is easy to overlook their wishes. Family caregivers, especially adult children, often do not know what their parents wishes are for daily care.
When we receive inquisitive looks going through the details of a care plan, we see how family caregivers might not have considered the situation or they realize they simply do not know the answer. Most of us don’t even think about what we would want to do if we were faced with no longer being able to drive or even cook, let alone considering our loved one’s wishes in those scenarios.
The good news is that it is never too late to have a conversation. Here are some pointers:
- The best time to deal with care is before problems arise. Planning for care might sound like a tough topic to bring up, but the flipside is worse. Waiting too long to discuss care is a surefire way to create a complex, stressful scenario.
- The next best time to deal with care is when everyone is together and relaxed. In a calm environment, it will be easier to ask serious questions and then listen to serious answers.
- Keep listening. When talking with loved ones, it is easy to jump to conclusions and make assumptions. Ask what might seem to be an obvious question just to make sure you are clear.
- Resistance to care is normal. One attempt is normally not enough. Try again. If all else fails, a good home caregiver will find a way of subtly weaving into your loved one’s routines.
- When a loved one has Alzheimer’s or Dementia, it is easy to write off their personal decisions as something the illness has caused. With these conditions, talking to your loved one at the right time is crucial. Keep trying.
- Your loved one might say some things you don’t agree with, but that isn’t a good reason to discount them. If health or safety is at risk, you need to talk about these issues with other family members and you should also include a professional to assist so that everyone has guidance and can reach agreement.
- Trained counselors are good for more than guiding family members along an unwalked path. They can make the entire process of caregiving easier for both family members and care receivers.
After you’ve exhausted all of the possible questions that can be asked, in a calm environment and possibly with others around, voicing your preferences is welcome. You are part of the process too. Your loved one’s wants, wishes and opinions come first, but if you aren’t in agreement, that should also be a consideration. If you would like help learning your loved one’s wishes, we would be glad to help you through the process.