Promoting Independence for Loved Ones
In this article, you can find more information about how caregivers are keeping their loved ones safe.
As a family caregiver, it’s natural to worry about your loved ones when you’re not around. They need you. But in the desire to always protect them, it’s easy to deprive them of the degrees of independence they are capable of and want.
Before caregiving became necessary, Mom and Dad had lived all of their adult lives on their own. And they still want to be adults, who can care for themselves, to whatever degree, even needing help now and then. Your parents’ role was to take care of you. They were the problem-solvers. Now that you are taking care of them, the role reversal is challenging for both of you.
Maybe while growing up, you thought your parents were a little overprotective. There were things you wanted to do without supervision and without somebody saying no all the time. It was frustrating. Well, what comes around…
Now, you’re the one hovering. So many things can go wrong, and maybe they can’t be depended upon to make the “right” choice. At least in your eyes. Maybe Mom doesn’t want to stick to the prepared meals meant to keep her healthy. Maybe Dad wants to go for walks around the neighborhood, and that’s not safe. He could fall. Maybe they both insist on living at home by themselves. And all that’s not going to happen on your watch.
Time to back up and breathe. Family caregivers can’t put loved ones in a bubble, no matter how hard they try. It’s impossible to completely protect them and dictate every moment of their lives. Within reasonable boundaries, aging loved ones still deserve the ability to live life as they wish. They can’t be protected every moment.
Perhaps finding a regular walking partner for your father would help. He might be willing to limit his excursions to when he has a companion and can enjoy the chance to have conversations with them. Or your parents might accept letting a paid caregiver come in and help them out with chores and meal preparation in the evenings or several times a week. That would help assure you that they’re in good hands and someone would be checking on them.
Sometimes it can help to put the need on you: “I need someone to assist you so that I don’t worry. I cannot work when I worry about you at home. I worry because I love you - you taught me that. I want to be your daughter/son. You cared for others all your life, now it’s time for you to be on the receiving end.”
Degrees of Care
As adults, we enjoy our autonomy and our ability to make simple choices for ourselves each day, and it’s easy to assume that it will last forever. But it doesn’t. People age, their capabilities change, and they might not be able to function completely independently any more.
That doesn’t mean they don’t want to be as independent as possible. Nobody wants to lose control of their lives. The thought of a complete loss of independence can be just as scary for aging loved ones as the family caregivers who are scared for their safety. Understanding this, it’s important to have an open dialogue and listen to what the loved ones have to say about the degree of help they want.
As a caregiver, you can help provide them with the tools to give them as much independence as possible. This could mean changes like accident-proofing their bathroom, having a sit-down, walk-in shower installed or adding assistance bars near the toilets. It could also mean hiring a home care professional to visit two or three nights a week just to help out.
Have the discussion around making these changes to help maintain their independence. “Mom, I’d like to remove these throw rugs. I don’t want you to fall and get hurt. That would prevent you from staying home and independent. I know that’s what you want, and I want that for you. Can we agree to make your home safe?”
Keep an Eye Out
Allowing older adults the independence they deserve is good for them emotionally. It can help stave off depression and also keep them mentally sharper. That said, keep an eye out for what they’re not telling you. Perhaps they need more support than they thought. Keep in communication, listen to them, and be ready to step up the support as needed.
Older adults are still adults. Valuing and encouraging independence in their lives will benefit everyone. They’ll be happier, and your relationship will grow stronger knowing there is mutual trust. It will also give you more space in your own life. Caregiver burnout is real, and by trying to do everything and be everything, you can risk your own health. So, value the independence of your loved ones and your own independence from having to take charge of every moment of their loves.
Author: Carol Nelson
Date Published: July 14th, 2021