Maintaining Senior Independence: How to Walk the Fine Line Between Helping and Hindering

When a senior we love is having difficulty completing a task, our natural instinct, with the best of intentions, is to step in and take care of it ourselves. But is this really helping the senior – or could it be hindering?

The truth is, there’s a fine line between ensuring an older adult’s safety and depriving the person of the senior independence, self-worth and purpose that are paramount to his or her wellbeing.

Dr. Barry J. Jacobs, clinical psychologist, family therapist, and healthcare consultant who co-authored the book AARP Meditations for Caregivers, shares from his own experience in caring for his mother: “With all my best intentions and concerted energies, I mostly succeeded in curbing her independence and squelching her spirit. She didn’t see me as her caring son so much as the overbearing usurper of roles she cherished.”

The following suggestions can help family caregivers better understand when to step in – and when to step back:

  • Exercise patience. Structure the day to allow sufficient time for the older adult to work through tasks at a pace that is most comfortable. When we’re hurried and harried, we’re more likely to jump in and take over. A little extra time can make a big difference in boosting the person’s self-esteem.
  • Emphasize the positives. While it’s true that certain tasks may have become too difficult to manage independently, find work-around solutions that ensure the senior can stay involved in the activity according to his or her individual strengths. For example, if loading clothes into and out of the washer and dryer is cumbersome, the person may still be able to sort and fold clothing.
  • Encourage input. Have an honest, open, heart-to-heart conversation with your loved one to clarify his or her expectations about your role in providing care support. Is the senior struggling with relinquishing certain aspects of daily life? What are the most pressing needs? Companionship and other emotional care? Physical needs with ambulation, bathing, and getting dressed? Assistance with meals and housework? Work together to devise a plan to meet these needs in a way that is agreeable to both yourself and the senior.

It’s also a good idea to explore the possibility of enlisting the help of a professional in-home senior care provider, such as Senior HomeCare of Tucson. It’s easy for family caregivers to become overwhelmed with taking care of housework, meal preparation, running errands, transportation, and personal care needs, leaving little time to simply enjoy spending quality time with the senior they love.

Senior HomeCare of Tucson, the most trusted home health in Tucson and the surrounding area, provides a full range of customized in-home care services to address all of these needs and more, ensuring that older adults are safe, while empowering them with as much senior independence as possible. Contact us at 520-355-4787 to request a free in-home consultation, and strike a healthier life balance – both for the senior you love, and yourself.

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