Encouraging an elderly person to stay as independent as possible, both physically and mentally, is important for a number of reasons. First, it helps them have healthy body circulation. Secondly, it makes them preoccupied, therefore, far from being depressed and feeling lonely. But whether it’s you, as a loved one or a caregiver who looks after them, or an aged care worker; you have the tendency to resort to defying this by doing things for them, instead of with them.
This article would like to remind you that with an aim to maximise independence amongst the elders, here are some ways on how we can encourage them to do so.
- Give leeway when it comes to performing the activities of daily living (ADL’s). Be available when they wash up, do oral care, brush their hair and change their clothes by letting them know that you’re there when they need you. Be watchful as they go about their daily routine because there may be imminent danger still like choking during a meal, slipping because of the wet floors or getting out of balance when wearing trousers.
But don’t exaggerate by setting up their toothbrush for them, choosing what to wear for them or hurrying them in finishing up the task. Maintain open communication with them by expressing your respect for their capacity and their privacy. And on the other hand, remind them that they can ask help from you anytime they find a task difficult to do. If you are super concerned, the use of a chair alarm can also help you keep tabs on their health. They will appreciate you treating them as an able individual still and not somebody who always is dependent on others.
- Encourage their mental health to be active by allowing them to be functional. Talk to them, spend time with them, take time to exchange life stories, and keep sincere eye contact when they talk, just how you would treat a friend. Encourage a discussion and when you find it necessary, don’t hesitate to ask advice from them. This makes them feel important and soliciting their opinion makes them feel helpful. They have a chest load of advice to give because of the experiences they have had.
- Encourage mobility by putting rails for them to hold onto as you allow them to navigate around the house or facility unassisted. Place bells at the end of the railings in the case they will be needing assistance from the endpoint of the railed halls towards the living room, the kitchen or the toilet. This liberates them of the thought that they are useless. If they know that they can navigate towards where they want to go at least 50% of the time, that’s better than no freedom at all.
Early morning stretching prepares the body for a day’s work. A time for fun can be through a game of bingo or a session of easy Zumba. Set groups for involving the hobbies because they differ from one elderly to another. For example, those who are into knitting can go together. Those who are into sports can come up with a mini-tournament. And those who are fond of music can be encouraged to play together as a band. These suggestions can be imposed in homes for the aged but can also be adopted at home by involving the other members of the family. Provide ways to bond as much as possible as this helps create memories that could be a source of happiness for everybody.
- Keep things unchanged. There’s little power memory left amongst the elderly because of the undeniable neurological decline. Hence, memory loss which may lead to the worst form — Alzheimer’s. But when things remain unchanged, it boosts their confidence, let’s say, in functioning on their own because keeping things unchanged means security. It assures them of the knowledge that they know where their things are. This provides their action automatic good feedback even though there’s nobody to credit them. Remember, good feedback encourages good behaviour. It gives them a sense of self-accomplishment which drives them to strive for independence more and more.
All of these are very simple. Anybody could do it. So don’t hesitate to share it away to other relatives or care-givers as these are the basics that you could use hand in hand with an interpersonal set of skills like maintaining patience, time management and creativity in keeping things interesting for the elderly.