Independence is something most of us value highly. There is a certain belief in the community that ageing means a loss of independence. Luckily, that doesn’t have to be the case. Today we’ll talk you through some of the ways independence is fostered in an Aged Care setting and why that’s so important for good mental and physical health.
Independence equals dignity
Ageing and age-related health conditions doesn’t mean that an older person should lose all their independence. Being able to make choices about our lives – even simple choices such as what to wear or eat for lunch – give us the dignity of living life the way we want to live it. A loss of independence can mean a loss of identity, meaning, and purpose and this can really damage an individual’s mental health. Although it may not be possible for an older person to do everything they used to, it’s vital that they still have a say in those things that they can have input into, even if their decisions aren’t what their family or carers expect. Choice is everything when it comes to independence. Some ways that family or friends can support the independence of an elderly loved one include:
- remember that they are the expert on their own life experience!
- ask for their input on decisions which affect their everyday lives.
- respect the choices that they make, even if they aren’t choices you would make.
- help them to access the information they need to make informed choices.
- remind them of what they can do and support them to do it.
The right environment breeds independence
One of the most helpful aspects of an Aged Care residence when it comes to maintaining independence is the peace of mind that comes with knowing support is always at hand. Residential Aged Care settings are designed with safety in mind to maximise residents’ independence. That way, they can move around the space and participate in life as they choose. This may not be the case if a senior person were to remain in their home without the benefit of modifications and carers close by 24 hours a day.
Use it or lose it
A key part of maintaining our independence into our senior years relies on being mentally and physically active. When it comes to seniors, keeping the brain and body active are essential for staving off boredom and depression, so you can do what you love for longer. In residential Aged Care, residents have access to many activities to stimulate the mind and keep the body moving, dependent on their ability and interests. It might be as simple as doing a spot of light gardening, joining others for a seated yoga class, or simply coming together to watch a musical performance. If your senior loved one struggles to do the things they used to love, try and support them to find other ways to engage. For example:
- if reading is a challenge, provide them with audio books.
- explore options for assistive tools or technology if movement is an issue.
- break down their favourite activity into smaller, more manageable chunks.
Social connection fosters independence
One of the biggest factors in declining mental health is a lack of social contact with the people who matter to you. Not being able to contact friends or family when you want to can be frustrating and upsetting for senior loved ones. Similarly, having no one to chat with regularly can result in a person being less able to manage social connections when they do occur. Residential Aged Care provide support for residents’ social lives, in that residents are encouraged to come together regularly for meals and activities.
Other ways to support social relationships in an Aged Care setting is to visit regularly, either in person or via Zoom or Skype. Involving your senior loved one in what’s happening for you can give them a sense that they are still connected to their family and community, even if they are unable to get out and about regularly.
Maintaining independence in the senior years is all about the dignity of choice, and finding support to keep doing what you love. For more information on how TriCare Aged Care Residences can support your loved one to live life on their terms, contact us today or book a tour at one of our welcoming locations.