Losing independence is one of the top fears of aging adults. It seems as if one day, you cannot wait to drive, and the next day, you need help with some of the physical, social, or emotional aspects of your life.
Losing independence is not inevitable. You can prevent or at least delay dependence on others. Here are tips on how to help your aging parent not lose independence.
Stay Strong and Healthy
The longer your parent can stay physically fit and mentally sharp, the better his odds are of not having to rely on others. You can be pro-active about your loved one’s well-being by encouraging him to:
- Be physically active. Taking a walk every day will alleviate the stiffness of arthritis, help circulation and digestion and strengthen the cardiovascular system.
- Cut back on bad habits. It is not reasonable to expect a person in her seventies or eighties to suddenly make a sea change and quit behaviors she has had for the last 50 years. However, cutting back a little at a time on unhealthy habits, can make a difference in her health.
- Minimize the junk food. While a treat now and then is enjoyable, your aging parent needs the antioxidants, vitamins, calcium, protein, and other nutrients of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy, fish, poultry and lean meats. A good diet will nourish his immune system to avoid disease and help him maintain strong bones that will not fracture as easily.
- Be a lifetime learner. Learning something new every day, can help stave off mental decline. Reading and doing puzzles can keep her alert.
- Be social. When people disconnect from others, their physical and mental health can suffer. To keep your aging parent’s mood, cognitive abilities, happiness and physical health at their optimum, help him stay involved in activities with others. You can support this effort by transporting social functions and finding activities that might interest him.
Build a Team
Having a little help at home is preferable to moving into a nursing home, if aging in place at home is safe and appropriate for your loved one. Although she will not be independent when utilizing helpers, she will have far more control over her life, than if she lived in a long-term care facility.
Have a frank but compassionate talk with your parent to explore the tasks with which he could use a little assistance. You might have to ask probing questions, but the momentary awkwardness will turn into peace of mind when you know your parent is not neglected. Areas to discuss include:
- Housekeeping and meal preparation
- Personal care, like bathing, dressing and grooming
- Medical care, including keeping medications on schedule
- Managing financial matters. While only 20 percent of American expect to need help handling their financial matters when they get older, financial experts think most seniors need help managing their finances, like making sense of medical bills and insurance statements.
- Home maintenance and yard work
What to Do for Your Aging Parent Who Has Already Lost Some Independence
If your parent needs assistance with everyday tasks, is withdrawing from social activities, or is confused, it is natural he might feel angry, frustrated, depressed or afraid. Unfortunately, these emotions can cause people to avoid him just when he needs their help.
Try to be patient. Ask how she is feeling, then listen to her response. Be considerate when you make suggestions, and do not treat her like a child or an inconvenience. Go for a walk with her or take her to visit a friend. If you find yourself physically or emotionally exhausted from meeting your own responsibilities and helping your parent, step back for a moment. Find a relative or friend who can help with your parent. Check on respite care from social services agencies.
Always consult with an elder law attorney in your area. Your state’s regulations might differ from the general law covered in this article.
Consumer Affairs. “How to deal with a loss of independence.” (accessed July 5, 2018) https://www.consumeraffairs.com/health/loss-of-independence.html
U.S. News & World Report. “10 Worries Older Americans Face.” (accessed July 3, 2018) https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/on-retirement/2015/07/20/10-worries-older-americans-face