Staying Independent: How to Support an Older Adult’s Independence

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Older adults may face more and more limitations as they age, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to give up their independence. In fact, research shows that it’s something they want to retain as much as possible.

If you are their caregiver, this may create unique challenges for you. Primary among them are disagreements about their lifestyle choices. It won’t be surprising if they insist on doing things the way they used to despite constraints. Even with your good intentions, it could be easy to overlook that transitioning to this new phase in their lives is not easy for them, hence their need to assert their independence.

Should you find yourself in this scenario, know that it is possible to give them the amount of care they need without making them completely dependent on you and other people.

Here are some of the most practical ways you can do this.

Let Them Make Choices

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It helps to put yourself in an older adult’s shoes. The changes happening to their minds and bodies can make them feel out of control, which is a scary experience for most. As such, you must honor their choices. It could be something as simple as changing their fashion sense to something more drastic, like returning to their home in Ohio. Perhaps they want to try an assisted-living home where they can safely mingle with people their age.

Whatever it is, remember that they still have the right to make their own choices. As a caregiver, it’s your job to give your loved ones as much caution and support as they need. Depriving them of these choices could strain your relationship and negatively impact their health.

Make Essentials Accessible

Small everyday choices are empowering. Even the act of choosing their own clothes and removing them from the wardrobe can boost their sense of control.

If their current wardrobe isn’t accessible to them, consider replacing it. Opt for a low-lying shelf where all of their shirts, pants, and dresses can easily be removed from the pile. The same applies to the rest of the house. Some older adults may still want to prepare their own food, so all the ingredients must be within their reach. Instead of placing food in the pantry cabinet, why not use the bottom drawers instead? Consider a kitchen trolley, too. With the large array of furniture and amenities in the market today, you’ll surely find something to help you achieve this.

Install Voice Activated Gadgets

Smart devices enable older adults to assert their independence for much longer. When you equip them with voice-activated gadgets, it’ll be easier for them to find a way around their blurring vision and decreased mobility, among others.

You can outfit their house with tools that lock and unlock their doors, control lighting, operate the thermostat, make calls, and set reminders for them. It’s similar to giving them an extra pair of helping hands without making them feel too dependent.

Invest in Home Improvements

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As your loved ones explore what they can and can no longer do, you should make home improvements that cater to them. A grab bar in the toilet is a perfect example of this, as slip and fall incidents are common among older adults. If you foresee that they’ll be needing wheelchairs in the future, have a contractor widen the entryways in the house. A ramp, too, will be an added convenience that you will not regret.

The bedroom is one of the places that demand more attention. You might be surprised at how replacing their old bed with an adjustable bed can significantly improve their sleep. Since finding a comfortable position gets harder with old age, they’ll benefit from a bed that you can raise and lower at their convenience.

Don’t forget your doorknobs, too. The traditional round doorknob necessitates a twisting motion that could hurt older adults with joint pain. A lever-style doorknob, on the other hand, requires less effort and is more suitable for them.

Keep Communication Open

Let them know that you support their independence. This will make it easier to keep the communication open between you. Instead of struggling for control, you can share your ideas and speed up the process of finding solutions. They’ll also feel more at ease sharing their observations and hardships, which then allows you to offer your support.

This kind of open dialogue helps prevent mental health issues like depression, too. You’ll enjoy better peace of mind knowing that your loved ones are happy and content despite the personal struggles they may be facing.

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