Independence and Age-Related Decline

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Our nation will celebrate her 243rd birthday this week! These United States are a nation of fiercely independent individuals who like to blaze their own trail and stand on their own two feet. From those early days of pioneer settlers who struggled to exist in a hostile and foreign environment until today, Americans are people who find a way to make good things happen over and over again.

For this reason, when age combined with chronic illness or disease begins to rob your aging family members of their independence, and they begin to need help, they may try to deny this truth or hide their frailties from you and other family members and friend. Reasons for this can range from pride to fear, but whatever motivates their reluctance to admit the need for help, their feelings are valid and need careful understanding and creative solutions to address their concerns and get them the help they require.

Imagine your dad’s embarrassment when he becomes incontinent. Wearing adult diapers might be the answer, but a urologist should also be consulted to see if there is an underlying cause that could be treated or cured. If he hides this inconvenient and uncomfortable health concern from you and others, it will probably restrict his social interactions. Perhaps he stops playing golf with the Thursday morning gang or doesn’t want to go to the coffee club at Hardee’s anymore. The sudden cessation of healthy social interactions is a big red flag that something is going on.

What if your mom can’t remember how to make the grandchildren’s favorite cookies? Maybe she suggests they go get ice cream instead; one time isn’t a trend, but you should watch to see if her memory is failing her. Ask some simple questions that will require her to remember something complex and see if she can answer it. If she can’t, don’t panic! We all have bad days now and then, but observe over time, and if you see indications that her memory isn’t what it used to be, it could fall to you to ease into a conversation about where help is needed and how to find solutions that might improve her situation.

Any conversation about an aging parent’s need for help might feel like fireworks at first, but can give you some tips on how to avoid the gunpowder and enjoy the light show when things get better. Many individuals who resist assistance at first find that once a helping routine gets comfortable, their lives are much better, and they have a renewed sense of independence.
Betsy and I hope you’ll join us this week at Heart of the Caregiver dot com and share your heart about the best ways to enhance and celebrate independence.


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