Independence Day — For All July 4th. The birth of American indepence. Picnics, patriotic t-shirts, and brilliant firework displays. It’s the quintessential mark of our very human desire to be free. The desire to ‘do it myself,’ like every two-year-old asserts. Yet, what does Independence Day mean for those who are slowly becoming more dependent on those around them? What does the word ‘independence’ mean to aging seniors and their caregivers? This July 4th, we’re talking about senior independence — what it means, why it’s so important and how to promote it. Plus, some inspiration for seniors and caregivers navigating the delicate balance of dependence and independence.
Why Independence is Hard to Define Did you build your own house? Did you sew your clothes, grow and harvest your food — all with tools you built yourself? Of course not! Yet you still consider yourself an independent person, correct? That’s because independence is not about self-reliance, but about how you perceive your own ability to care for yourself independently. Ask yourself; what does independence mean to me? Is it the ability to make your own schedule? Get out of the house? Take on new responsibilities without much pressure? Maybe it's the ability to make your choices without being told what to do. “When I was younger, I thought independence meant working hard and saving up for a house. As I got older, I realized part of being an adult was deciding what role I wanted to play in my life.” Everyone has their own criteria for independence.
What’s the big deal?
Your golden senior years are a joyous time. A time to explore your past accomplishments, your goals for the future, and what independence means to you. Your body and mind are changing. Your capacity to work is changing. You may even need help with basic functioning like meal preparation, bathing and dressing. That’s why independence is a buzzword for seniors. It means everything to hold on to the freedom and independence you still have as you age.
No matter your age, freedom and independence are crucial to our self-esteem.
The Good News Your golden years are a prime time to do things you never would have dreamt of before. Asking for help with bathing can be difficult, but it doesn't mean you’ve lost your independence. When you retire, for the first time in your life you have the freedom to decide what you’ll do with your time. It’s a great time to try new things! Senior independence can mean doing things for yourself that you wouldn't have dreamed of doing when you were younger—working on a book, for example, or starting your own small business, or buying a pet. It means planning your days so that you get the most out of each hour, and not wasting time on things that don't contribute to your happiness. “When I turned 71, I took an art class for the first time in my life. And to my surprise, I discovered a real talent! Now I use my time to paint portraits and beautiful scenery for my kids' homes. Seeing my handiwork hanging on their walls brings me such joy. What would have been if I never took that art class?”
4 Ways to Promote Senior Independence Whether you’re a caregiver or a senior, you can promote senior independence the following ways:
1. Improve your advocacy skills. When making decisions on behalf of another, or making decisions a team instead of on your own, it's important to
● Stay positive
● Use a pleasant tone of voice
● Communicate as clearly as possible
● Be okay with comprising for the sake of another Keep these things in mind when advocating for yourself or your loved one. Not sure if you’re being an effective advocate? Ask for
feedback from those around you!
2. Encourage a healthy lifestyle. Staying healthy is crucial to maintaining your independence, especially as we age. It means staying functional and active for longer and needing less help with physical tasks. Take a look at your diet and see where you can add more whole grains, vegetables, and cut down on processed foods and foods high in fat and sodium. Commit to an exercise routine that suits your level and stick to it! You’re sure to see both physical and emotional improvement from living a healthier lifestyle.
3. Talk openly about aging. Aging. We’re all headed towards it, every second of our lives. Today’s media likes to convince us that staying young forever is a commendable (and attainable!) goal. Instead of falling for the promise of a fountain of youth, embrace aging with grace and be proud of all your years of experience, friendships you’ve made, and accomplishments you’ve achieved.
4. Make things easy to access. Speaking up and asking for help can be really uncomfortable. Especially when you have to ask for so many things, so often. An easy way to decrease the number of times a senior needs to ask their caregiver for help — make commonly used items easily accessible. That limits the need for constant requests for help reaching or lifting for things. Clothing, food, appliances, toiletries, etc, should all be made available to the senior. “My mom asked me to move the outfits she wears most often to a lower shelf. Now she can dress herself every morning without calling for her caregiver. It’s the simple changes like these that allow her to feel independent.”
Growing Every Day When you’re forming or maintaining a caregiver-senior relationship, every day is a new opportunity for personal growth. Here are some inspirational quotes to help you on your journey.
“To find yourself, think for yourself.”
― Socrates No matter how dependent we become on others, whether due to life circumstances, illness, or age, we can still think for ourselves. And that is true independence.
“There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.”
― Rosalyn Carter Caregiving is universal. At some point in your life, you have given care or received care. Embrace it.
“Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.”
― Albert Camus So...you’re independent. The pivotal question is: what are you going to do with your independence?
Happy Fourth of July! Whether you’re celebrating as a caregiver or senior, Independence Day is a time for reflection on our relationships and goals. Make sure to see some fireworks while you’re pondering! If you’re looking for a caregiver or professional to help your elderly loved one age with grace and independence, contact Community Home Health Care at 845-425-6555 or contact us through our site.