The Importance of Independence in Seniors

July 3, 2021 | BY PHS Staff

We hope your summer has been going well as you balance your work and family with the care needs of your elderly loved one. As we reflect back on our summer and 4th of July in particular, we are reminded of how very important it is to not lose sight of the need for independence in our seniors.

It can be easy to jump into the role of caregiver and strip our aging parents of the liberties they have enjoyed their whole lives. From driving on their own to cooking for themselves, it can be terrifying on their part to give up these privileges, turning over control to their adult children or other caregivers.

Yes, senior care services in Hanover can provide a helping hand and assistance where they need it most, but it’s important for your loved one to retain a bit of their independence and self-esteem in the process. Be sensitive to their emotions when having discussions about taking their keys away, or when bathing them. It isn’t easy to give up your freedom after decades of being on their own, and it’s even harder to give up that control to their children in the ultimate role reversal.

Our dignity and identity are often tied to our independence. But as advancing age and health concerns affect your loved one’s ability to handle tasks they mastered long ago, and still enjoy doing, the feeling that their life is worth living may fade, points out AgingCare. One big responsibility as a family caregiver is to encourage activities that boost our loved one’s feelings of self-worth while at the same time prioritizing their safety.

It can be a fine line to walk, that’s for sure, but almost always, it’s best to encourage more self reliance than less. With people turning 65 every eight seconds in this country, the population of people age 85 and older (which doubled in the past 30 years) is expected to almost triple to 14 million people by 2040. More compassion is needed.

Encourage Their Hobbies

Perhaps your mom has always loved to cook and hold large family gatherings. Maybe your dad always enjoyed puttering around the garage and fixing things around the house, or firing up the grill at barbecues. Like many of us, our identity is tied to our hobbies. We love doing them and we love seeing others happy. When those are taken away by well-meaning caregivers concerned for their safety, the light in their lives can go out.

Of course you don’t want to allow your dad to continue using a power saw in the interest of safety, but basic tools like a hammer and nails aren’t likely to cause grave injury. If your mom has been forgetting to shut off the stove after cooking, you don’t have to ban her from the kitchen. Simply check up on her when she’s done to make sure the stove is off.

Compromise is key. Don’t limit activities that give them a sense of liberty unless you truly have no choice. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to demand your parents give up an activity they enjoy in the interest of keeping them safe. However, the personal emotional loss of a ceased activity outweighs the safety risk in many situations.

It’s important to put safety measures in place and remove dangerous equipment when necessary, working together to adapt their activities so they pose less of a risk.

Another component of this is to make it a point to regularly celebrate what your loved one can still accomplish. Give them praise, but avoid going overboard. This is an adult you’re talking to, not a kid. They can pick up on condescending tones. Set them up with senior home care services at the level they need, not an across-the-board takeover of every single task.

Key to protecting their dignity and independence is taking a step back every so often to remember that the person before you was once just like you: full of hope, promise, and able to hop in the car whenever they chose, to attend any event or appointment on the schedule. You will be in their position one day and will want your children or caregivers to give you the same shot at independence.

Contact Preferred HealthStaff

Looking to secure at home care for your senior loved one who wants to retain a bit of independence? We get it. Let our caregivers provide the help they need while giving them their space. Just contact us toll free at 866-943-9791 or in Fairfield 717-642-8500.