We all want to care for our loved ones as they get older but it’s also important to implement ways to help seniors retain their independence. Seniors who are capable of living alone want to stay in their homes and want to feel they have control over their lives. Some seniors accept they need help to retain this freedom while others will have to have it forced on them – discreetly! Here are some ways to help seniors retain their independence.
Cell phones are a great way to keep in touch and one of the key ways to help seniors retain their independence. This way if they need anything they can just call up the person or service they might require, and if they don’t have the number they can use the free directory service available on the network. This way they don’t have to feel as if they are always relying on other family members to help them. Don’t forget, there are phones available with large buttons and large text to make them easier for seniors to use.
A big part of helping seniors keep their independence is to help them follow a routine they can rely on. If they have always gone to the library on a Friday, allow them to keep things the same as much as possible. There is comfort in routine and familiarity, and keeping things the same means they can feel safe and grounded and much less anxious as they get older.
Just because a family member is getting older doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a full social life. They have worked hard their entire lives, bringing up their families, making sure everyone around them had everything, so this is really their time to spend doing things they love with their family and friends. The first sign of getting old before your time is when you no longer want to go anywhere and meet up with friends, so all social events should be encouraged. If you find your mum, dad, or other elderly acquaintance seems to be spending more time at home or alone, find them interesting clubs to join or ways to help them make new friends.
One of the most important ways to help seniors keep their independence is to ensure they are able to get around without relying on family and friends to always be available to give lifts. If older people can’t or no longer feel up to driving, a driving service for seniors, or a driver if you can afford it, should be arranged so that your senior family member still feels as if they are in control of their own lives. If they have to rely on you or other family members for lifts, do not begrudge it or show outward signs of it being a hassle.
Exercise is the Holy Grail of keeping going and staying independent, and for seniors it is very easy to skip a few days and suddenly it's 5 months since anything active has been done. Encouraging, arranging or volunteering to be a walking, tennis or yoga partner will help the senior person in your life stay active, healthy and keep their independent streak alive and well. Even if it’s just walking for half an hour together three times a week, playing golf or bowls – make sure they have a partner to join them.
When seniors start to slow down and often eat meals on their own, it becomes a serious amount of effort to cook proper meals, especially if there is only one of you. Arranging precooked meals to be delivered or getting the family together to encourage Granny or Granddad to share meals will go a long way in keeping seniors healthy and independent of relying on people and extra health care. Often grandparents feel as if they are imposing and would rather spend an evening on their own than ask family if they can join them. For older men who have perhaps relied on a woman’s cooking for most of their lives, book them on a cooking course aimed at seniors – not only will they learn to look after themselves in the kitchen but it’s a great way for them to meet people in a similar situation.
Taking away the responsibility of a senior being able to pay their own bills will immediately make them feel as if they are reliant on others. If they are still able to do these kinds of tasks without assistance, it can be quite humiliating, even if well meant, for a family member or close friend to take over these small tasks. Independence is the same as confidence, and well-meaning people can quickly strip seniors of the chance to be able to do things for themselves. Help older family members to keep their independence by letting them pay their own bills and manage their own accounts. Teach them Internet banking, or help them set up direct debits.
The fundamental underpinning of the ways to help seniors retain their independence is forethought. Imagine how you will feel when you get older and feel as if you’re losing control or are having that control or power to do simple lifestyle things taken away from you. The best help is respectful help – independent seniors don’t need babying – they need assistance. Are you a carer for a senior in your family? Do you have any advice to pass on?
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