When your elderly loved ones show the very first signs of aging, it’s tempting to swoop in and take everything over. While this urge is understandable, try to resist it. Helping your elderly loved ones maintain independence is essential for their well-being. Here are nine tips to help the elderly people in your life maintain independence as they age:
Make their home safe for aging in place.
One of the best things that you can do to help your elderly loved ones maintain independence is to help them age in place in their home. Since most homes are not built with the elderly in mind, you will probably need to make some modifications to make it safe. These modifications could include installing grab bars in the bathroom, building a wheelchair ramp outside and even installing a stair lift. In some cases, it might be more cost effective to move them into a more suitable house than renovating their current one, so make sure that you run the numbers before making a decision.
Encourage social connections.
Staying connected with the family is super important, but elderly people also need to build social connections with other friends. If your loved ones don’t already have a lot of friends around their age, encourage them to get involved with senior community groups and classes in your area. These are great ways to connect with people of similar ages and interests while getting out of the house and trying new activities for the elderly.
Promote regular exercise.
Regular exercise, even if they are wheelchair-bound, is key for promoting health, longevity and mobility as they age. Talk with your loved ones about what sorts of exercises their doctor has recommended and how they can incorporate them into their daily routine. Seniors exercise classes can be a great way to encourage them to get moving while making friends. If they are resistant to the idea of going to the gym or an exercise class, set them up with at-home videos and equipment so they can work out in the comfort of their own home.
Help them stay mobile.
Transportation can become a struggle once your elderly loved one is no longer able to drive themselves, leading many elderly people to become housebound. Explore transportation alternatives with your loved one, whether that is taking public transit, calling for an Uber or cab or having a relative drive them around. Getting them out of the house is critical — not just for doctors’ appointments and haircuts but also for maintaining a sense of well-being and independence.
Support day-to-day activities.
Many older adults really struggle with not being able to do daily activities such as bathing, dressing and feeding themselves. What you might not know is that many different innovations exist that make it possible for seniors to continue their activities with some level of independence. For example, easy to put on clothing for the elderly, such as house dresses for seniors, enables them to continue dressing themselves even with limited range of motion. Door knob grips make it possible for people with arthritis in their hands to keep opening doors without assistance. Small changes such as these will make a big difference in helping them to maintain independence.
Familiarize them with technology.
Technology is becoming more and more ingrained in life with each passing year, and learning how to operate it is essential to maintaining independence for longer. Unfortunately, many older adults struggle to wrap their minds around many technological advancements that can help them, including voice-activated lights and medical alert systems. Making an effort to act as their tech support and familiarize them with this technology can make a big difference in their independence in the long run.
Talk with them about financial management.
Managing your own finances is a major component of remaining independent. Sadly, older adults are very vulnerable to financial bad decisions, including forgetting to pay essential bills and falling for scams and frauds that specifically target elderly people. Check in with your loved one regularly about the status of their finances and make a plan for who will step in if and when your loved one’s financial acumen starts to slip. Many elderly people now try to hide financial issues out of shame or worry that people will take away their funds, so watch out for warning signs and keep the conversation open.
Consider hiring part-time help.
Lots of older adults are resistant to the idea of any help at all, but hiring people part-time can actually help your elderly loved ones maintain independence for longer. For example, if your loved ones are no longer physically capable of deep cleaning their own house, then you could hire a maid service to come in twice a month instead. If they struggle to grocery shop and lift heavy bags, then have groceries delivered to their house instead. There are many possibilities that you can explore before making the leap to assisted living, so check out what services are available in your area.
Don’t forget their mental and emotional health.
Elderly people’s physical health gets a lot of attention — for a good reason. However, it’s important not to neglect their mental and emotional well-being in the process. Older adults are susceptible to depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions just like younger people. They also need to seek out cognitive stimulation since they’re no longer getting it through a full-time job. Whenever you check in on your elderly loved one’s well-being, make sure that you’re talking about their mental and emotional health as well as their physical health.
Got more tips for helping elderly loved ones maintain independence? Share them in the comments below so that we can all learn from one another!