Independence is a freedom that we often take for granted. As we approach the 4th of July holiday, I encourage you to reflect on your independence and what it means to you. As I reflect on my independence, I recognize that I have been brought up as an independent American woman. Independence is everything to me. It is who I am, and has been intertwined in everything I do, or accomplish. I am a strong woman that has always been self-reliant, prideful and self-sufficient.
But some day that will all change.
Someday the inevitable will occur. I will grow old, and I will not be the same independent woman that I am today. As I embark my aging journey, I may experience life-changing medical episode, such as a stroke, heart attack or an accident. Maybe I will develop a disability, such as losing my vision or experience hearing lose. Or worse yet, I could be diagnosed with a terminal disease, like my mom, who lost her fight to ovarian cancer at the young age of 55.
When I get older, what will happen to my independence and how will my everyday living be affected?
I can tell you from experience, as you age, you will find that your independence is constantly challenged. Simple tasks, that we certainly take for granted, become harder. I am still relatively “young”. But at a young age of 47, I am already seeing my eye sight is “going to pot”. I need glasses for distance and readers just to read a cereal box or a food label. Mowing the lawn and shoveling snow has become more tiresome. As I get older, I frequently catch myself muttering, “Oh to be young again.”
As your parents or loved one age, they too will need to ask for more help. Eventually, they will need others to help them perform tasks that they used to do so easily. Accomplishing “simple” daily tasks such as driving to the store to purchase groceries, changing a light bulb, showering, making meals and going to the restroom becomes more difficult when you age.
The loss of independence is frightening for individuals.
I can personally vouch for this! I watched this happen to my grandparents as they reached their mid-80s. At first, simple tasks such as changing a light bulb, watering plants and cutting the grass became difficult and quite honestly, NOT safe.
For as long as I can remember, gardening and cutting grass was my Grandmother’s passion. Giving those tasks up to maintain her safety was so difficult for her. My Grandfather, a retired painter, became angry and very frustrated when he could no longer safely climb a 6’ ladder to change a light bulb – a task he did daily for over 60 years of his life. It was heart breaking to watch them both morn their independence. When I tried to help, they scolded me for not letting them do it for themselves. They both had once been self-sufficient and now the reality was that they were getting older and less self-sufficient. That realization certainly was frightening and they felt that their independence was being compromised.
Acceptance, Empowerment and Choices are the Key!
As you can see from my example, for my grandparents, their first step to keeping their independence was to accept help from family and caregivers. Acceptance does not hinder independence. Empowerment, choices and respect for your loved one’s independence is the key. Ultimately, this will help your loved remain in the comfort of their own houses longer, which will in turn promote more independence than other living alternatives.
As quoted in the book, No Place Like Home, written by ANS Administrator Kim Ellis,
“Outside of NASCAR enthusiasts, “taking the keys away” is less about driving and more about the loss of independence. The thought of losing one’s independence is frightening, whether we’re talking about the inability to drive safely, to make it to the toilet on time or any number of limitations an older person faces.
Always respect an older adult’s dignity and pride. When there is an expressed concern about loss of independence, go out of your way to assure you loved one that their independence is important to you. Explain that your intent is to empower their independence by helping out in a few areas.”
So as you reflect on independence this weekend, please remember how you can help support a loved one’s independence by empowering them through choices, allowing them to do the things they can and reminding them that the small tasks you are doing for them is to help keep them safe and comfortable in their own home…..LONGER!
If you have aging parents and need assistance, please contact ANS, your premier in home health provider. To learn more about ANS’ services or on how you can get a copy of Ms. Ellis’ book, please visit our website at anshomecare.com or contact us at 1-800-HOMECARE.