Mar 31, 2017

Understanding the Loss of Independence in Ageing

Everyone ages. As children, we can’t wait to be teenagers to experience the freedom we see in the lives of the adults around us. As teenagers we long to be adults to experience independence and choice, then as adults we long to retire to be free from the responsibility of adulthood. For most people there is not a lot of thought that goes into the experience of ageing.  People plan for retirement but they don’t always think about that next step of “ageing”.

The reality is, ageing happens to everyone and everyone will experience it differently. As we age, we lose functions, whether it is physical or cognitive; there is a sliding scale of a loss of functionality further resulting in a loss of independence. Frustration becomes evident when you are unable to choose where you go or when you go because you lose your drivers’ license; or have the inability to choose what you want to eat because your digestion or teeth can longer accommodate your favourite foods. It may even been the loss of choice to have sex because the residential care facility does not offer sufficient privacy to do so. What ever the loss is, family and friends are often more worried about their loved ones overall wellbeing and safety, thus giving little consideration to their emotional journey of loss while ageing.

The journey of developing ones independence from youth is full of emotion. Ones journey in the loss of independence is also full of emotions. Here are a few tips to support your loved ones going through the journey of the loss of their independence as they age:

  • Be aware of their emotional state and acknowledge the loss of independence as a hard reality to accept
  • Be careful of sweeping statements such as, ‘You can’t do anything on your own now’, ‘You’re getting old, let me do it for you’ and ‘You need to wait for me, don’t do it alone’. Instead, why not try to use suggestive language such as ‘Why don’t we…’, ‘What do you think of…’, and ‘Can we try…’ Selective wording can help them retain dignity and choice. Enabling older people gives them a sense of achievement albeit limited.
  • Support the notion of reablement. The lost of function does not necessarily mean the permanent loss of function. Reablement includes strategies to help them regain physical and cognitive functions. Being diagnosed with Dementia, doesn’t mean that person is sick and can’t assist around the home. Being physically incapacitated, doesn’t mean that person hasn’t got a point of view or can’t make their own decisions.
  • Monitor changes in behaviour and emotions and seek help when needed. Good resources can be found at Beyond Blue, Alzheimers Australia or your Local GP.

Life is busy and everyone is focused on their own lives. Carers are often multi tasking between their own health and ageing concerns, or their families and careers. When caring for someone who is ageing, take a moment to think about their emotional journey and add a little more care and concern for their mental and emotional wellbeing.

Discuss openly as a family how the ageing person can be more supported and enabled rather than disabled and losing their independence.

This post was originally posted on Danielle Robertson Consulting’s website HERE

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