There are parts of aging that we don’t like to talk about, including the loss of independence that many older people face. It’s difficult to see our senior loved ones struggle with things that used to come easy to them, but it’s even harder for them as they have to face the idea that they can no longer take care of themselves alone.
Helping a loved one accept their new situation often involves a conversation about moving to a place where they can receive aid for the things they can no longer do themselves. With bleak images of nursing homes often popping into mind, this option is incredibly unappealing to many seniors. However, a perfect balance between independence and assistance for your senior loved one can be found in assisted living.
What Does Loss of Independence Look Like?
Losing independence looks different in each senior as they age, but there are three main ways elderly people begin to notice a loss of independence.
- Physical—As seniors age they lose strength and mobility, making housekeeping chores, getting out of bed, walking around their residence, bathing, and dressing difficult to do alone.
- Mental—Losing cognitive function makes it difficult for seniors to remember appointments, medication schedules, when they last ate, and other personal care tasks.
- Social—When a senior can no longer drive or move easily, they often find themselves isolated and unable to engage socially with others, which can have long-term effects on their mental health.
As a result of losing independence, seniors can feel depressed, angry, guilty, ashamed, or afraid. Seniors can also become confused about why they are losing their independence and either act out or isolate—neither of which are healthy reactions.
The most common of these feelings is depression, which can often go unnoticed in seniors. It’s important to get your loved one help if they are showing signs of depression, which include:
- Loss of interest in socializing and activities that used to interest them
- Changes in weight & appetite
- Lack of motivation
- Neglecting personal care (bathing, dressing, taking medications)
- Decline in cognitive functions
Another common reaction is extreme guilt or shame. Seniors can feel like their inability to care for themselves is their fault, or they might feel ashamed that they need help in parts of their life that they had control over when they were younger.
Every senior is going to react differently, so be aware of the different types of feelings that your loved one might exhibit during this difficult period in their life, and work with them to address the negative feelings that they have.
What Can You Do?
The best thing you can do for a loved one struggling through the process of accepting their loss of independence is to be patient. Your loved one may not understand their own feelings, so don’t add to their stress with your frustrations. Keeping a level head and remaining calm can go a long way.
Visit with your loved one regularly and encourage them to ask for help when they need it so you can understand what their needs are. Offer rides to get them out of their house or apartment and to places where they can socialize with others. If you are working as a temporary caregiver, remember to take your own health into consideration so you don’t burnout, causing more difficulty.
Another one of the best things you can do is encourage your loved one to move to a community that can give them both the help they need and encourage their own independence.
Assisted Living and Senior Independence
Assisted living can be a great solution for seniors who need help in certain areas of their lives, but want to maintain their independence as well. Most communities create a plan with your loved one to provide needed services, but allow independence in the other areas of your family member’s life. Common services include:
- Medication management
- Meals and snacks
- Help with mobility and movement
- Bathing, dressing, and personal grooming
- Housekeeping and laundry
- Medical services for different levels of care needs
In addition to assistance with these types of tasks, assisted living communities also provide socialization opportunities that your loved one wouldn’t find with in-home care or a family caregiver. Rather than remain confined to a single room, assisted living communities are designed to get seniors interacting with each other and participating in fun activities.
Communities like Vista Springs are designed with independence and luxury in mind, and we look forward to giving your senior loved one every opportunity to maintain control over their lives while offering assistance with the things they do need help with. Click the link below to learn more about what makes Vista Springs different, or subscribe to our blog to get the latest information on all things assisted living!