It’s easy to get swept up in the day-to-day tasks of caregiving for an older adult you love. There is so much to be done, and often it’s just much easier and a lot more efficient to do it all on your own, letting a senior loved one relax. After all, our elders have taken care of things for a lifetime; haven't they earned a break? The truth, however, is that aging with dignity is particularly important to our wellbeing. It helps give a sense of purpose and meaning in life. And even though ensuring safety is, of course, paramount, there are ways to empower a loved one in your care to remain in control as much as possible. For example:
Work together on tasks. While standing at the sink and scouring pots and pans may be unsafe or difficult for a senior, maybe she or he can sit at the table and dry them. The senior might not be in the position to bake a cake from beginning to end but can mix ingredients while you reminisce about recipes made through the years. It may take a little thought, but it’s valuable to determine approaches to alter tasks to incorporate the senior’s assistance whenever possible.
Permit decision-making. Watch for opportunities to ask for the senior’s input, allowing him or her to remain in control. Rather than presuming he or she will want a ham sandwich for lunch, ask. Before automatically accompanying a loved one into the doctor’s office for an exam, ask if she or he would like you there. Having a say in even the most basic decisions can make a significant difference in self-esteem.
Establish safety with respect. Safety is, of course, paramount, but there are ways to make sure a senior remains safe without overstepping boundaries. Medical alert systems, for example, are a good strategy to encourage independence in older adults while providing them with the means to call easily for help when needed.
Partner with trained caregivers from an agency. Some seniors balk at the idea of their adult children helping them with personal care needs, such as using the toilet or taking a bath. A professional care provider, who is skilled and experienced in being able to help older adults maintain dignity while staying safe, can be a more agreeable solution.