It’s difficult to watch your aging loved ones struggle with the day-to-day tasks of living. You want to help them, but you don’t know what they need or how much is too much. The best thing you can do if you don’t know How to Keep Them Safe and Independent is offer assistance with simple tasks and respect their autonomy by giving them the opportunity to help themselves.
It’s also important not to take over for them, but it is equally important that they know they are loved and that you’re there to support them in any way possible!
How to Keep Them Safe and Independent
Keeping the elderly independent comes with much responsibility from all parties involved. The parent, the children and at times even caregiver can feel frustrated by this process. I’ve found that parents enjoy their independence as long as they’re safe and secure in their homes. Even if their physical abilities aren’t what they used to be, it’s important for them to feel like they can do things for themselves while living alone.
When you come into the picture, this whole scenario becomes a balancing act on your part. And it’s not easy! You want your parents to feel independent but safe at the same time.
First, you may need to evaluate whether your parent’s home is safe and secure enough for them to live by themselves. If the answer is yes, then set up some simple rules that will help ensure their safety but also allow them to maintain their independence.
The following are some of my suggestions…
Offer Assistance with Simple Tasks
Remember that you may not know all the struggles your loved one is going through, so it’s important to offer assistance without being presumptuous. You can ask them if there are any tasks they need help with (like cleaning the house or doing the laundry).
Then, offer to take on some of those tasks. If they don’t want your help, that’s okay! Just be sure to give them an opportunity to tell you what they need in their own words.
Respect their Autonomy
After you’ve offered assistance, respect the elderly loved one’s decision to either accept your help or not. It can be difficult to watch them struggle with a task that is second nature to you, but it might just be frustrating for them and they simply need someone to observe.
Respecting their autonomy by giving them the opportunity to help themselves is important, no matter what they need help with. You may be used to giving orders and leading tasks to completion, but that’s not the best approach for a loved one who may have different needs.
Instead, offer to help when they’re doing something and see if they’ll let you do some of the tasks involved. For instance, if you want to help them clean up their kitchen, ask them if it would be okay with them if you washed the dishes while they sweep.
Sometimes your loved one has other skills that are still functional but are just waiting to re-surface. Offer encouragement and praise for anything they can do without assistance. This will give them the confidence to help themselves!
As a caregiver for your aging parent, you are probably very concerned about them being safe and healthy. However, there is one thing that you can do to help keep your family healthier than any other precaution:
You have to let go of control.
Loving the elderly is a choice, but it’s something you have to do without your own selfish interests in mind. By allowing your parent to maintain their independence during their later years, you are doing them and your entire family a great service. You can’t control everything that happens around you, but if you’re confident that both they and you are safe and sound, you’ll be relieved of worry.
Being able to let go of control has been one of the biggest challenges for me in dealing with a loved one’s personal needs on my own. I didn’t want them to struggle with things they were used to doing without effort, but I had to remind myself that it was as much for me as it was for them: I couldn’t control everything.
In fact, I realized that I did more harm than good by always trying to take over because of my own need to feel in-charge. It wasn’t until I stepped back and allowed my parent’s independence to flourish again that I was able to relax and enjoy our time together more.
When you’re consistently worried about your loved one doing something wrong, it’s difficult for them to feel secure that you actually love them for who they are.
How to Keep Them Safe and Independent: Support them
Don’t take over for them, but make sure they know you’re there to support them in any way possible! Remember that your loved one may be used to doing certain tasks on their own and may have anxiety in new situations. Offer help with simple tasks like taking the garbage out or going to the store.
If they tell you they don’t need help, ask them what you can do to help them. It’s important that they know that you’re there for them no matter what. It’s also important not to take over for them, but it is equally important that they know you’re there to support them in any way possible!
The bottom line:
It is important not to take over for your aging loved ones, but it is equally important that they know you’re there to support them in any way possible!
Make sure they are safe and secure while maintaining their independence is a joyous undertaking. It may seem daunting at first, but with some practice, you should be able to do it easily. Good luck!
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