As caregivers our primary goal is to help our seniors maintain quality of life for themselves and encourage independence. Seniors want to remain independent. We have to respect that by helping them maintain their sense of independence and self-worth. And allow them to do whatever tasks they’re still capable of. Keeping our elders involved in their self-care is vital. It makes for a happier, healthier, more confident senior and they will appreciate you more for it.
Too often we feel rushed and in a hurry to complete the task at hand that we end up completing tasks “for” our seniors instead of “with” them. It may seem quicker and more efficient to do something yourself, but taking that task away from an individual can make them question their abilities. Seniors are great at getting stuff done (they’ve had some experience!) but sometimes their bodies or minds may not fully cooperate with them due to health problems. That’s where we need to step in and assist them, but also make sure that we are allowing them to partake however they can. If we do everything for elders they will lose all sense of independence and lose practice on the things that they can do.
A senior may struggle with some activities of daily living and may do great with others. Be mindful of this. Observing and learning what their struggles are is important in order to provide assistance only where they need it. An older person may be able to dress his or herself, but could need help with managing zippers and buttons or being able to put socks and shoes on.
If you’re making meals for a senior, encourage them to be involved. In some cases it may not be safe for them to cook anymore but there are other ways for seniors to feel involved! Have your elderly loved one wash vegetables and help chop if they can. Sit down and chat with them. Don’t make them feel rushed, otherwise they could hurt themselves. After meals, if they are up for it, ask them to help you dry the dishes and put them away. It’s the feeling of involvement that is important, not necessarily the activity itself.
A good care giver adjusts activities as necessary, based on a senior’s interests and abilities. You should help them focus on what they can do rather than what they can’t. Always be patient and allow plenty of time to complete tasks. Care givers should encourage and let seniors help with things that you know they can do! Let them write the grocery list and have them grab groceries off the store shelves. Have them help with sorting laundry to wash, or even folding laundry. True care giving goes far beyond helping seniors to complete daily tasks; it’s also about being involved in things that will help them keep a healthy body and spirit.
Being independent for a senior is a matter of enjoying life more, as well as avoiding the depression that may come from feeling they can no longer do things on their own. Offer praise for a job well done! It’s reassuring and encouraging. Even if they can’t complete the full task, carrying out a few of the steps, especially the final step, can give them a sense of achievement. Care givers play a huge role in keeping their elderly loved ones independent. As long as we remain personal assistants, and not personal doers, we can help ensure that our aging population maintains the quality of life that they deserve.