When you have elderly parents, you want to do everything you can to protect them. You want to remove all risk and wrap them in a theoretical bubble wrap, just like they wanted to do to you when you were a child. That said, keep in mind that the best thing you can do is let them live independently, giving them as much control over their life as possible.
Why Independence is Important for Seniors
Assisted living facilities and nursing homes are more advanced and comfortable than ever. The best homes are like hotels, but instead of bell boys and cleaners, there are doctors and skilled nursing staff.
However, the idea that these places are dull, lifeless, and depressing remains a constant in the minds of every senior. As a result, their biggest fear is not that they will be bedridden or suffer a debilitating fall, but that they will end up in one of these facilities.
Seniors who enter these facilities are more likely to develop depression. In fact, research suggests that as many as half of all patients suffer from depression.
We also know that the rates of depression and loneliness increase in retired individuals. It seems counterintuitive, as they have more time on their hands, but without a job to go to, they may struggle to fill their days and lose the sense of purpose that kept them strong for so long.
It makes sense. Imagine how you would feel if you lost your job, couldn’t even cook for yourself, and spent your days surrounded by patients and nurses. You might enjoy taking a break from the chaos of work while other people wait on you hand and foot, but that novelty will pass and eventually you’ll get tired, bored, and lonely.
Independence is very important, and seniors should be encouraged to cling onto it for as long as they can. Whether that means living their life 100% independently or being encouraged to dress and feed themselves, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they have as much independence as their mobility will allow.
How to Help Seniors Live Independently
You can make a series of changes around the home to help a senior live independently. Not all of these will work, however, and you will have to consider what is reasonable when accounting for their health and mobility.
Install Mobility Aids
The mobility industry is huge and it’s getting bigger every year. There are numerous products designed to secure the home and create a safer living environment for elderly and disabled individuals.
These range from simple grab bars and handrails, which support a user as they navigate the home, for walk-in bathtubs and showers, which make bathing easier and safer.
The cost of these products can vary significantly, but there is usually something to suit every budget. For instance, if a walk-in bathtub is too expensive, there are transfer seats, step stools, and other cheaper solutions.
Provide Necessary Living Aids
A simple dressing stick can help a person with limited mobility to pull zippers, take clothes from the closet, and even wear/remove socks. Sock assists serve a similar purpose, and these aren’t the only essential living aids.
Smart home devices, smartwatches, canes, lift chairs, fall detectors, and a host of other living aids are available to help seniors live independently. They’ll gain the ability to dress themselves, cook and prepare food, and activate lighting, heating, and entertainment options with a simple voice command or smartphone swipe.
While it seems logical that more movement equates to a greater risk of trips and falls, the opposite is usually true. The less active they are, the less their body can withstand, and the more withdrawn they become.
Exercise improves the body and mind. Without it, they may neglect their personal hygiene and nutrition needs, falling into a trap of stagnation.
Encourage activity by asking them to adhere to regimes of walking, stretching, or exercise classes.
Look into Meal Delivery Services
Depending on the senior’s mobility, they may not have the means to buy groceries and cook meals for themselves. Numerous services can help with this.
At the most basic level, you have grocery delivery services, allowing them to choose the food and essentials they want and have them delivered to their home. These services have been available for a while, but with every passing year, they get faster, cheaper, and cover a wider area.
At the next level, there are services like Hello Fresh and Sun Basket, which ship ingredient boxes multiple times a week. These boxes contain exact amounts of ingredients needed for a healthy meal, as well as instructions on how to cook it. However, these services are best suited for households of 2 or 4 people and at around $10 per serving, they are not cost-effective for every meal of the day.
Readymade meal services ship pre-made meals that are delivered frozen and can be heated in the oven or microwave. They are often cheaper than ingredient boxes and tend to be shipped in bulk, containing enough to supply the user with several meals a day.
The alternative is to sign up for Meals on Wheels, where freshly prepared meals will be delivered every day. This program works on a sliding scale, with a price that changes depending on the needs and budget of the customer.
Encourage Regular Communication
Loneliness is a serious problem among seniors. Loved ones die, friends pass, family members move away. To ensure your loved one remains strong and happy, encourage regular social interactions.
Schedule a regular visit, book them into classes and community events, and connect them to their nearest and dearest via social networks and instant messaging apps.
Look into Homecare Services
Independence and homecare services can co-exist. These services are provided by professional companies that help with basic activities of daily living, including cleaning, laundry, and home maintenance.
It takes some of the pressure off the homeowner and allows them to focus on feeding themselves, cleaning themselves, and maintaining their sanity.