We all want our parents to live as independently as possible for as long as possible. Yet, even when your loved one is in full health, the aging process can naturally slow them down and make everyday tasks more difficult. Combatting aging’s decrease in strength and energy is the key to helping older adults remain independent from aging’s limitations.
“In order for older adults to truly remain independent, I believe they first need to change their definition of what it means,” says Nancy Clanton, Community Relations Director at Tuscan Gardens® of Venetia Bay, a senior living community in Venice, FL. “Rather than viewing independence as purely the state of living on your own and taking care of your own needs, true independence should be a state of mind – one that focuses on your quality of life and doing what needs done in order to live the life you want. With this perspective, even those who reside in a senior living community can still feel like they’re living life on their own terms.”
Encouraging your loved one to maintain a holistic view of independence can indeed keep them living on their own, but more importantly, it will promote a healthy sense of self that will stay with them no matter what life brings.
Four Factors that Influence Independence
When it comes to maintaining independence, four aspects of our daily lives play a vital role in how we view our well-being and, in turn, our independence from limiting circumstances. Consider these four factors from the perspective of your older loved one:
Physical Well-Being – This one may seem obvious; studies show that staying as healthy as possible can likely keep your loved one living on their own longer. Exercising to maintain muscle strength, heart and lung health, balance and flexibility reduces the risk of serious falls and potentially dangerous injuries. Eating well gives the body what it needs to stay healthy. While diet and exercise aren’t guarantees of a carefree life, they certainly help reduce the worries of disabilities and illness that can keep us from living how we choose.
Mental Well-Being – Staying mentally active is just as important for older adults as being physically active. Without a career to focus on, older adults will likely turn to hobbies in order to keep their brains busy. Yet, many seniors can fall into a habit of not challenging their minds, letting the TV run all day or taking long naps in the afternoon. A mentally stimulated senior will likely feel more youthful and more capable of performing the tasks she needs to accomplish, as well as pursuing the hobbies that make her feel alive.
Social Well-Being – Isolation and loneliness multiplies the risk of mortality, let alone depression and other health risks. Having social connections helps older adults avoid sliding down the slope of isolation, helping them feel like they belong to a community and something greater than themselves. Friendships are vital in maintaining good health and thus independence.
Emotional Well-Being – Being emotionally fulfilled gives older adults the inspiration and energy they need to stay well. When they have a sense of purpose, it’s easier to get up, go out and get things done. Because this sense of fulfillment often influences the choices we make, emotional health may actually be the keystone of living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining independence long-term.
Translating Independence into Your Caregiving Style
It’s good to be aware of what influences independence, but this knowledge does nothing if you don’t apply it to how you care for your loved one. Just as older adults need to change their perspective, their caregivers need to as well.
You can encourage independence in your loved one by changing how you view your caregiving role. Instead of viewing your role as task-oriented, consider it to be engagement-oriented. In other words, stop viewing caregiving as doing things for your loved one, and start viewing it as doing things with your loved one. Always encourage your loved one to do what they can for themselves. Even if they need your help or support, you can still find a way to promote their independence somehow within the task. Choose activities that are stimulating and meaningful, always keeping in mind how total well-being can lead to a higher quality of life.
Changing your perspective on your caregiving role may take time and practice, but it’s worth the effort to help your loved one feel independent and fulfilled. In the meantime, Dr. Geeta Nayyar from Femwell Group Health, Inc. shares some practical ideas that you can do right now to help your loved one maintain their health and independence:
- Have items delivered – Arrange for your loved one’s groceries to be delivered to their house each week. Another good idea is to have their medication delivered by mail to reduce trips to the pharmacy.
- Make the home safe – To reduce the risk of falls and injuries, help your loved one make their home as safe as possible. Remove tripping hazards and install grab bars in the bathroom, if necessary. Install a home security system so they don’t have to worry about their personal safety, if they live on their own.
- Be proactive with their health – Encourage your loved one to stay as healthy as possible. Offer to join an exercise class with them, or help them learn to cook new, healthier meals. If they are recovering from an injury or surgery, help them with their physical therapy exercises and encourage them to build healthy habits.
- Make arrangements – If your loved one isn’t likely to take initiative to engage socially, arrange visits with family members for them, or host lunches or dinners at your house. Come up with new ideas for how to spend your time together that will encourage their creativity and promote daily ambition.
- Invest in security – If you are concerned about your loved one’s health as they live on their own, invest in an emergency response system that they can wear at home. Some are even equipped with GPS tracking, so if your loved one has a health emergency while they’re out, either you or first responders won’t have trouble finding their location.
Encouragement for a Healthy Senior Lifestyle
“At Tuscan Gardens, we believe in supporting seniors and their families in every way we can,” says Clanton. “If you would like to talk about ways to encourage independence in your loved one, contact our senior living experts.
“Independence is a state of mind, not necessarily a stage of life. Our mission is to help seniors maintain a sense of independence no matter what their circumstances.”
The Art of Living
At Tuscan Gardens® of Venetia Bay, we’ve mastered the art of living. We’ve perfected the balance of personalized support and an uplifting lifestyle, helping our residents experience independence, joy and meaning every day.
Offering supportive independent living, assisted living and memory care services for families in Venice, Florida, Tuscan Gardens of Venetia Bay was founded with one simple, yet profound goal – to create a community worthy of our parents. In all we do, we are guided by the principles of family, culture and engagement, working to represent the remarkable way of life our families deserve.
Luxury, intimacy, opportunity, passion and beauty combine to create what the Italians call sprezzatura – a culture of effortless elegance. The essence of our community is made up not only of mere aesthetics, but an artfully designed lifestyle to bring out the best of what each day has to offer. From dedicated care that respects residents’ individuality and dignity to a lifestyle that nurtures their love of life, Tuscan Gardens was built to be more than just a residence, but a place to call home.