As seniors grow older, maintaining independence and autonomy are among their top priorities. Your parent may tell you that they’re just fine living on their own. They may even believe it. Here’s what you need to know.
Striving for Independence
The desire to be independent doesn’t diminish with age. If anything, it becomes more important to seniors: Independence is sometimes the only thing seniors may feel they can control as certain aspects of their lives change as they age.
Additionally, maintaining independence promotes a sense of achievement that, for many seniors, generates a great sense of self-worth and well-being. Feelings of denial and resistance are often tied to the natural desire to maintain independence.
Dealing with Denial
If it’s been a while since you took a trip to your childhood home, you might be surprised to find your dad cooking with pots that are burned on the bottoms because they have been left to boil or your mom wearing the same dirty clothes day after day.
These are signs that your aging loved ones need help to stay safe and healthy. But just because you think your parents need help with medication management, transportation, and meals doesn’t mean they’ll feel the same way about their own needs for care.
Your mom might be in denial about how much assistance with day-to-day activities she really needs, or your dad might be resistant to making the move to an assisted living community.
Handling the Objection
If your parent objects to assisted living by saying, “I’m fine on my own,” talk about how you want them to be in charge of developing a plan for where and how they are going to live. Show them that you hear their concerns and want them to take charge of the research process and setting up tours, and give them control of the decision-making process.
Try saying something like, “I want you to stay in your home for as long as possible, but that might not be the best option. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of other possibilities. The ultimate decision is yours, but I think we should tour some communities to fully understand all your options first.”
How Much Independence Do They Really Have?
Your parents might not even realize how much independence they’ve actually given up by staying in their current home. The average person age 65-plus spends almost three hours a day, seven days a week, on housework, shopping, and home maintenance.
Remind them that assisted living is designed to offer residents all kinds of freedom — to live in comfortable surroundings they don’t need to maintain; eat delicious meals they don’t need to prepare; take advantage of intellectual, physical, and emotional enrichment opportunities they don’t need to seek out and plan for.
Independence is encouraged, so your parent may keep and drive their own vehicle. They may enjoy beer or wine as they wish. Your parent chooses which activities and how much or how little they participate each day.
Additionally, communities provide physical and occupational therapists whose job it is to help preserve independence for as long as possible. Reinforce your parent’s self-confidence by talking about how they can still use their talents in assisted living — just with a little help.
For example, if your mom has always loved to cook but a recent injury has made it difficult, an occupational therapist can offer adaptive tools and rehabilitation techniques that get her back in the kitchen. She could also help cook for a special event in the community or maybe they offer a cooking class as an activity.
Whether or not your parents feel “ready,” there is value in moving to an assisted living community before they need to, too. Moving in while they are still active and independent allows them time to be able to be involved in the choice and well enough to make friends with other residents when they arrive.
As you help them transition to a new stage of life, it helps to be prepared with answers to their questions and concerns. For more insights into common objections and strategies for how to handle them, download our eBook The Standoff: Coping With a Parent’s Objections to Assisted Living.