One of the biggest fears adults face as they enter their senior years is the loss of independence. With the frequent horror stories of nursing homes and care facilities populating the news, that fear is understandable, but many families worry that there is no alternative to a care facility, or that their loved one won't be safe living independently. In truth, options exist for all seniors, if families know the keys to keeping them as independent as possible. Listed here are a few of those keys and how to implement them.
Listen and Respond Well
The first thing any family member of a senior needs to do is know exactly how their loved one wants to live the rest of his or her life. Even if your loved one has problems communicating, ask, and then take some time to listen to the answers given. It's likely that you'll hear your aging loved one wants to stay close to family, be as active as possible, and be treated with dignity and respect, no matter what specifics are added to that.
As much as possible, your loved one's wishes in these matters should be top priority. If you must utilize a retirement home or assisted living services, find ones that view seniors as people rather than patients and encourage visitors, host activities that engage the mind and body, and offer a community with friends in a similar life stage.
Accessibility is a Must
Seniors can continue living in their own homes, but this may mean making changes to that home's layout, furniture, and fixtures. For example, if your loved one currently uses a wheelchair, there are cost-effective ways to widen doorways, put in ramps, and lower curbs. If driving is an issue, consider setting up a revolving list of people to transport the senior where he or she needs to go or teaching your loved one to use public transit.
If services such as grocery delivery are available, utilize those. Replace doorknobs with handles, and look into modifying bathroom fixtures to give the aging individual a walk-in tub or shower. Family members will be your first resource, but you can also call on your house of worship or other charitable organizations for assistance.
Keep in Touch with a Medical Alert System
Many seniors use LifeAlert or similar products in order to stay independent, yet still be able to get help in emergencies if they need it. Make sure your older family member has one of these devices, as well as close friends and neighbors to call for assistance. In addition, equip your senior with a simple cell phone, with enlarged numbers if necessary. Stay in touch with any doctors your family member is seeing, as well. Build a rapport with the physician and learn about any meds your loved one is taking or any conditions he or she is susceptible to.
Ensure Financial Fitness
If your senior is having trouble keeping track of money, he or she can still remain independent, but may need help or modifications. For example, if your loved one can no longer write checks, you might get him or her set up with online banking. Write notes on the calendar for when bills need to be paid, or call to make sure payments are on time.
In the worst-case scenario, you yourself may need to manage your loved one's money and credit cards, giving him or her an allowance. However, this is a last resort and should be discussed firmly, but gently. Also in a gentle way, talk to your senior about his or her will and beneficiaries, as well as who will have power of attorney when the time comes. Pay particular attention to this decision-making process and emphasize that these are your family member's decisions and theirs alone.
Keeping seniors independent might seem difficult, but it can happen. Most seniors want to remain self-sufficient as long as possible, and with tips like these you can make sure they do. This will lead to peace of mind and happiness for both seniors and their families.
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