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Helpful ways to encourage continued independence as your loved ones move through their older years.

We all want to remain independent as we grow older. I am sure that you will be able to think of at least one person that you have met or know that is an inspiration in that respect. You may have found yourself thinking “I hope I am like that when I get older, I hope I can still do all they things they do, continuing to live my life as I please”. There is so much support out their today, letting us know that independence is achievable, even when we face challenges that are sometimes unexpected.

Maintaining independence as we grow older is so important on many levels, not just for the individual concerned, but also for our wider social network of family and friends. It is wonderful to see your loved one continue to thrive, no matter what challenges may come along. Ultimately, we all want to remain ourselves and our friends and family do too. There is so much joy in seeing the ones you love happy.

Independence is wonderful for your mental health, it instils confidence in one’s abilities and is a real reminder that you still have authority over your own life, you write the script, you play your role, just as you always have. We feel strong and empowered that we still have the tools to face each day.

Independence is a freedom like no other and something that we often take for granted, as a given, certainly when we are younger. We only get reminded that it is not finite when our life circumstances change. For those growing older it may be a change in our health, the loss of a partner/family member or being socially isolated geographically from family and friends. Sometimes there is more than one reason for the loss of independence and individuals can feel adrift, wishing for a previous life that they feel is no longer available for them. This is a real grief and should be treated as so with great sensitivity, patience, and empathy. Regaining independence can be a slow and often stressful process. And emotionally difficult to watch someone you love, move through. But it is also important to remember that all is not lost. Regaining independence is achievable, with a little help.

So, with this in mind we have put together some useful tips to help you assist your loved one in taking back their independence.

Allowing loved ones to make their own choices

You can help your loved one by continuing to support them in making their own decisions about how they choose to live their life on a day-to-day basis. Here are some examples below:

Home Help Support
Offer your time to assist with researching the types of support packages available for your loved ones and encourage them to decide which would be most beneficial for them. You could offer your support by being on hand when your loved one meets their perspective support providers so that they have someone to advocate for them if they decide they need that bit of extra reassurance.

 

Meals
Eating a good meal is integral to our health and wellbeing. Being able to continue to choose what we would like to eat, and drink is so important and another clear mark of staying independent. There are many companies that provide a “meals on wheels service”, which again your loved one can independently choose from on a weekly or monthly basis. If they have a companion or a carer who will be making meals for them, there is an opportunity to assist by encouraging your loved one to think about what food they would like, they can then discuss this with those supporting them. Or you could discuss a meal plan for the week and assist with meal prep until they are confident enough to make a meal independently.

 

Safety in and around the home
We can remain independent if we feel safe and secure within the home that we occupy. As we get older, we may need to make some adaptions to future proof the home. An Occupational Therapist can assess what type of support is needed.

  • Stair lift
  • Assistance alarm
  • Handrails
  • Walking aids
  • Digital clocks that clearly show the date and time
  • Adapted telephones for sight impairments
  • Bathroom, handrails, seats for showering, toilet seat extension, revocations to a wet room
  • Sleeping, modified, or raised bed, bed rails. If your loved one has had a fall, you could move the furniture to make the room more accessible to minimise the risk of another.

Adaptions in the home are one of the most vital for independence. As a general it is good to make the living environment as accessible and comfortable as possible. Having a tidy or clear out is all well and good but make sure that your loved one makes the decisions about what goes and what stays, it is their home, and possessions hold precious memories no matter how insignificant you may think they are. If they are likely to forget where things are, labels and images can really help.

 

Making mental and physical health a priority
When our mental and physical health remains a priority, we don’t lose what we have. You can help by assisting with the following:

  • Ensuring they are aware of which medications they must take (a dosset box will ensure they can be taken independently)
  • Attending medical appointments, using a calendar or diary as a reminder
  • Encouraging exercise if physio has been prescribed
  • Listening and keeping a note of any low mood or changes in mental outlook

 

Keeping up with interests
Hobbies or interests help us to maintain our identity. Often, they give us immense joy and can be a great way of having some structure to our week. Having something to look forward to break things up. If it is a hobby such as sewing or art that can be done at home, help by ensuring that they have everything they need, and a space cleared to continue with their interest. If it is a weekly class, can they get there? If you cannot take them, could they employ a companion that could?

 

Using positive words, seeing support as a positive, no matter what it is
Whatever the challenge that has minimised your loved one’s independence, it is helpful to remain positive. Using positive motivational words and focusing on “I can” instead of “I can’t” will make a very big difference to the way we view and overcome what is in front of us. For example, your loved one may no longer be able to walk as far as they used to and have been given a walking aid or chair that they find hard to accept. We can approach this positively by saying, “It’s a nice day, now that we have a chair to help you get around more freely, we could go out and do something that you haven’t done for a while. Now we have the freedom to go a little further, do more with our day. I think this is a good thing”. If we focus on the positive aspect of how such changes enable us and bring greater opportunities, we reframe our perspective on what we once saw as a negative, which then becomes a positive, we begin to think about what we can do, not what we can’t.

Rounding up, whatever the challenge, independence as we grow older is something we can keep hold of. We may need to rethink the way we live our life; we may need adaptions and support and there will be a period of acceptance but once we embrace the change we can move forward and enjoy our life.

If your loved one requires assistance in keeping their independence, The Bespoke Life and our team of companions are here for you.