Freedom – Senior Independence
Freedom – Senior Independence
How the tides turn over the years! When your children were just learning to speak, they would turn to you and emphatically say, ‘I do it!’ Then, you saw a whole other phase toward independence as those same children went through their teenage years. Now, your children are trying to tell you what you can and cannot do. All the while you want nothing more than to take care of yourself and keep your own independence.
During this time of year when we celebrate the freedoms we cherish in America, we at Greystone Health believe it is the perfect opportunity to reflect on how senior adults should be able to enjoy their own independence for as long as safely and humanly possible.
According to a recent study published in The Journals of Gerontology, on days when older adults had more control over their lives, they felt significantly younger. The reality is that ‘feeling younger’ is synonymous with being healthy both of body and mind, as well as having the ability to care for themselves and their living quarters. However, oftentimes common health issues and challenges can create a barrier to the freedoms they’ve known throughout their lives.
Much like children, older adults want as much independence as possible, but many are feeling like their independence is disappearing. In general, one of the first freedoms taken away is driving. Vision problems, memory loss, slower reaction times, loss of flexibility, and other health issues can make it unsafe to drive. Although this is not a decision that should be made lightly, it’s important for all family members in the decision-making process to remember the safety of the person driving as well as everyone else on the road.
By taking away the keys, you’re also taking away an older person’s freedom to go where they want, when they want. This can be a very scary loss, since many older adults have been driving themselves everywhere for around half a century. As you work through this transition together, remember to provide simple and clear alternatives, so that they realize that even though they themselves can’t drive, they still have easy ways to go where and when they want.
The second huge freedom that can be taken away is living in their own home. Very possibly the same home they’ve lived in for most of their adult lives or at least several decades. This is probably the home where they watched their children grow into adults; and enjoyed so many firsts and happy times together. Most older adults don’t want to leave the place they love, their own personal oasis, for both practical and sentimental reasons.
When possible, aging in place is the most desirable option and is most associated with holding on to independence. Sometimes this is easily attainable with a few adjustments to the house and/or with the support of a professional caregiver or senior companion. There are a variety of ways to help increase the likelihood of senior independence, including providing a safety alert system, having meals delivered, and hiring people for lawn maintenance and house cleaning. Make sure to do a home safety check and make preparations that include additional safety equipment, such as non-slip rugs, shower/tub railings, grab bars at doors with a step, increased lighting, electric-powered recliners, step stools, and so on.
Depending upon your older adult’s needs, you can generally get full- or part-time help to allow them to stay in the comfort of their own home, while still getting needed assistance. For example, Greystone offers a wide variety of home health services we tailor to meet each individual’s needs. From wound care to a home safety and fall prevention program to personal home care, Greystone Health offers a full spectrum of Home Care Services, to help older adults remain in their own homes. In addition, for older adults who do not have clinical needs, but could use some assistance with daily activities, our Private Duty service helps with everything from hygiene assistance to grocery shopping. These types of services allow older adults to thrive in the comfort and freedom of their own home for much longer than they could on their own.
Many children of older adults tend to think that since their parents took care of them as children, now it’s their turn to care for their parents as older adults. While that is true to a point, it does not mean that children should give up their careers and forgo their own family. Take time to discuss the best options for your loved one. Depending upon what works best for the family, having some sort of at-home care may be the best choice for everyone involved. Professional care can also help to keep the balance and normalcy in family relationships. Besides, most older adults are less likely to get into a battle of the wills with a professional in-home care worker than a family member. It’s a win-win for everybody involved.
Aging in place gives older adults the best of both worlds: living independently in their own home, while still having the ability to make their own choices. Plus, they can enjoy the flexibility that comes with the support of family, friends and trusted companions. This lifestyle empowers older adults to remain self-sufficient and independent in their own familiar, comfortable and safe space, while giving them a meaningful sense of purpose. These older adults also have increased happiness, feel more fulfilled and have a greater sense of personal satisfaction. Even if they need some professional in-home care, they are still able to maintain a sense of control over their lives.
There are some older adults who prefer to move away from their long-time residence and have neighbors around who are in a similar age bracket. In this case, transitioning to a senior living community can be a good option. Other older adults may prefer an assisted living facility or benefit from a memory care community. These days, many of these communities and facilities have in increased emphasis on patient-centered care that provides greater freedoms allowing older adults to choose what is best for them. Even if you’re having to choose a long-term care facility, make sure your older adult is as much a part of the process in deciding what is right for them as possible.
For some, it may provide even more independence to live in an assisted living facility. Not only can this option offer the ability for older adults to be free from feeling trapped and isolated in their own home, but it also provides opportunities to make new friends and be in a group of other older adults. In addition, they’re free from having to worry about housework, lawn care, home repairs and daily chores, and have more opportunities to have time for the hobbies, activities and socializing they choose.
Ensuring older adults have a sense of autonomy can bring about more happiness, decrease stress and lead to a more fulfilling life. The most important thing is to figure out the lifestyle that will work best for you and your older loved ones. Independence is best found in realizing that when you wake up each day, you can choose to do what you would like. That’s the freedom of living your life to the fullest.
Your Greystone Health family wishes you a safe and happy Independence Day!