Loss of independence occurs as people age, as they suffer physical, social or emotional setbacks which prevent them from functioning independently. The key to this loss of independence is how easy people find to accept help
What kind of loss of independence do the elderly experience?
Physical and Mental Losses
These can include:
- Forgetting appointments and day-to-day tasks
- Having difficulty climbing stairs or getting in and out of the bath
- Unable to open jars
- No longer able to walk long distances
- Vision problems
- Less control over emotions
- Less physical energy
- Less flexibility
- Hearing problems
- Less ability to move easily
- Memory problems
- Lower levels of stamina
Often hearing loss, poor vision or reduced mobility can have a significant impact on the rest of an older person’s life.
- Going out to eat
- Playing sport
- Going to parties
- Visiting places
As a result, it is harder to see friends and friendships can begin to fade.
- Loss of independence can create tremendous frustration, feelings of uselessness, and sadness, due to a sense of loss of control in one’s life.
Typical reactions to loss of independence
Reactions are often complicated. These can include:
• Fear Some people become frightened by their new vulnerability, wondering how they will manage on their own. Overwhelmed, they begin to expect close friends and family to be always available for them and become overly dependent
• Anger. Others feel angry that they can no longer manage on their own and may take their anger out on their loved ones
• Guilt. Others feel guilty and refuse help from family and friends, because they think they will be a burden
• Confusion. It is not uncommon for people to feel confused about needing help and long for “what was”
How do the elderly deal with their need for assistance?
People vary in their reactions to receiving help. Some are quite comfortable getting help from others, while others are not
Those Comfortable with Asking for Help
Some people have always enjoyed having others do things for them, such as cooking or cleaning the house. Not being able to do these things for themselves, because of a health problem, does not bother them. Some individuals have had to rely on family, friends, or paid caregivers throughout life due to a longstanding health problem, or disability. For them, accepting help does not threaten independence
Those Uncomfortable with asking for Help
Some older adults have gained great pleasure from caring for others during their lives, but are not comfortable receiving help themselves.Others prefer to manage without help whenever possible. For these people, accepting assistance, particularly from someone outside their family, is difficult.Even the most independent among us have relied on others at some point during our adult lives. Sometimes help comes in the form of a job reference, a financial loan, or moral support
As you grow older your attitudes toward accepting help may change, especially when you experience changes in your health or social life.Those who adapt to accepting help can devote more time to building new and positive experiences
How can you help the elderly to cope with their loss of independence?
- Be patient with them. It takes time for them to acknowledge their losses and to understand how these are affecting their life now
- Help them understand that losing independence is a common experience as people age, and not a sign of personal failure
- Help them to recognize their feelings and that it’s OK to feel sad and frustrated at times without putting themselves down for not being able to do what they used to do
- Try to get them to listen to your suggestions about how to make things easier. This is not always easy to do, but there are many ways to keep your elderly relative engaged and interested
- Try to help them to maintain relationships with loving and caring friends and family
- Work out what help they need and try to encourage them to accept it
- Seek help from your GP if you are worried either with your parent or alone