|Help your aging parents hold on to independence
Caregivers are required to do many things to help the people in their care. That’s just part of the territory; still, it’s a good idea to occasionally stop and ask yourself, “Are some of the things I do making my loved one more dependent than necessary?”
It can be a tough call. Sometimes, caregivers may not really know whether letting Mother struggle with that jar lid is helping her retain her independence or is forcing her into a situation that may prove frustrating. There are a few questions caregivers can ask to determine whether they may be doing too much for those they tend to and thereby promoting unnecessary dependence.
Things to ask yourself:
• Am I doing something simply because it’s just easier and faster for me to do it?
• Have I stopped to think about whether it’s better for me to do this rather than for my loved one to do it?
• What reasons do I have for assuming the one I care for cannot do this?
• Has my patient asked me to do this for him or her?
• Has the doctor advised me to do it?
• Is my loved one’s health or safety likely to be impacted if he or she tries to do this?
Caregivers don’t always have the time to stop and think through these things while performing their many daily chores; however, it’s a good idea to spend some time every day reviewing your decisions to see whether there may be things you are doing that your loved one may be capable of doing on his or her own.
Every patient is different, and every patient’s needs and capabilities change over time. No single approach is going to work all the time, but here are a few things you can try to help encourage those you care for to retain their independence:
• Share the decision making: If your loved one is capable of deciding what to wear or when to go to the store, let him or her make those decisions. If you feel he or she needs some guidance, offer limited help. For example, if you know the weather requires long sleeves, pull out several appropriate options and let your patient make the final choice.
• Assign tasks: Find things that are within your patient’s capabilities and give him or her ownership. If Dad can water the plants, let that be his job. Gardening tasks can be rewarding responsibilities for your aging parents. If your wife can walk the dog, let her take him out as needed. Caregivers can let aging parents help plan dinner or fold the laundry.
• Don’t expect perfection: We all make mistakes. Sometimes, we learn from them, sometimes we don’t, but mistakes will happen. As long as your loved one is not in the position to make mistakes that can cause harm or damage, don’t worry that he or she may make less-than-perfect decisions. Whether he or she makes the right decision or does well, let your patient know you are pleased with the effort.
• Design for success: Try to troubleshoot things that might interfere with the successful completion of a task: tools that are too high to reach, paths that are likely to cause a stumble, etc. If a task is complicated, find a way to break it down so that it’s easier to accomplish.
Caregivers can help their loved ones maintain independence by respecting their abilities and allowing them to perform tasks and functions that match those abilities. There’s even a bonus for the caregiver: it means fewer things to have to do alone.
Julie Ann Anderson is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park; mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors and caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.