It’s tough to find the balance between providing care and making seniors feel like they’re being babied. As a caregiver, you want to help as much as you can and keep your loved ones safe. But that can leave your loved ones feeling frustrated and thinking you don’t believe they are capable of even basic actions. Worse, it can affect their spirits and damage your relationship.
No matter the situation, finding ways to provide support while also helping seniors feel independent is essential. It  helps seniors maintain their sense of self, which can help reduce feelings of anger and depression. Independence also supports a healthy sense of purpose and even helps seniors maintain their physical abilities.
Encouraging independence isn’t always easy. But it’s not as tough as you might think, especially with these five helpful tips.
You can’t assume you know how anyone else feels about what’s going on now or could happen in the future. Sit down together to talk about what he needs now or how her abilities might change as she gets older or her condition progresses. You can even do this before your senior needs your help. It’s an ideal starting point to figuring out how you can best support him or her while you both cope with declining capabilities.
Gauge the Necessity of Helping
Transitions are hard. Rather than bulldoze into your senior’s life, consider observing how she acts and functions to get a good feel for the extent of the help that’s needed. When you watch someone you love struggling, it’s a natural impulse to try to jump in and help. But that can backfire, leaving you facing a lot of resistance. Instead, gauge his abilities and take a moment to make sure he really needs a hand before you jump in.
Make Things Easier
Sometimes the simplest solutions can make a huge impact. Arrange all your loved one’s personal items and clothing so they’re easy to access, allowing the senior to decide what he or she wears and have an easier time getting dressed. Do the same for personal items including toiletries, jewelry, and other things that he or she likes to have within easy reach. It also helps to switch to clothing that’s easy to put on. If zippers and buttons make it difficult to put pants on, swap them out for pull-on options with an elastic waistband. Something as simple as being able to dress herself can provide a boost in confidence.
Voice assistants – like those offered by Google and Amazon – can be a game changer for people with mobility issues, vision problems, or trouble with dexterity. Voice-activated, smart home devices can empower seniors, allowing them to easily perform a variety of actions on their own, including such things as:
- Using the television
- Controlling lights, the thermostat, and other appliances
- Locking doors
- Making calls
- Figuring out what time and day it is
- Getting information about the weather
Invest in Adaptive Equipment
There are lots of products on the market designed to help seniors stay safely independent at home. Simple things like grab bars installed in the bathroom facilitate mobility while reducing fall risks. Other helpful ideas include railings or stairlifts for the stairs, shower chairs and elevated toilet seats in the bathroom, and weighted utensils for easier eating. An emergency call button could be another essential, putting help close at hand even when you’re not on the premises.
If you need help deciding on the changes that will best empower your loved ones to do more on their own, consider consulting with a professional. Occupational therapists can come in, evaluate the situation, and give you more ideas about helpful in-home changes.
For some seniors, needing help feels like they’re giving up something of themselves. It’s your job to focus on his strengths. Support her in remaining active as much as she can be. And reframe your caregiving with the idea that it’s not intended to take away independence or freedom. Instead, you’re there as a tool to help your senior live a rich, full, beautiful life on his or her own terms.