Independent Living means freedom. The freedom to make choices and set one’s own schedule– prepare meals, shop at the grocery store, grab an ice cream cone, pay bills—truly get up and go anywhere at any time.
While total independence is ideal, older adults may struggle keeping up with day to day tasks. When this happens, it is a good time to consider how additional support can provide assistance for those forgotten chores. Additional support can provide the older adult an opportunity to continue to live independently with minimal and appropriate assistance. As health needs can change unpredictably, it is always a good idea to closely monitor the added care in the event additional services are needed. And, with the variety of support currently available, finding someone to help will extend the time one can live in a much beloved home and neighborhood.
It would be ideal if everyone who needs support could ask for it, too many older adults feel uncomfortable acknowledging difficulties. Many fear that asking for help signals the loss of independence. In reality, adding support is a key component to extending independence. While it is quite clear that changes due to aging might complicate independent living, it does not have to end independent living.
How can family and friends help?
Family and friends are a big part of maintaining independence. The best way to help is to observe. Look for clues that loved ones would benefit from additional assistance. Some are relatively small, but important: dishes in the sink long after a meal, stained clothing, clothing not appropriate for the weather, weight loss, change in telephone use, missed birthday greetings—changes to any behavior of daily life. Others are much more significant and could cause immediate harm: missed medications or medication mix-ups, missed bill payments, scorched pots and pans, and increasing confusion.
Working together with family and friends is the best way to help older adults maintain a happy and healthy independent life.