How Can Independence Be Maintained Amongst The Elderly?

As we get older we may feel that it is a certainty that we are going end up in a care home, or be completely dependent on someone else. However it doesn’t have to be, as many individuals are choosing to stay at home, and are maintaining some level of independence for much longer than in previous years.

Improvements in health care and longer life expectancies are leaving many people living with long term health conditions that can affect their daily lives. Statistics show that people, on average, will live seven years with some kind of on-going health issue.

Factors That Can Cause Loss Of Independence In The Elderly

There are a number of factors that can cause a loss of independence to an elderly individual including a fall, injury, illness, sight or hearing impairment, and social factors such as loss of transport. These causes often create a problem because there is a total loss of confidence in being able to do things for themselves.

There are a number of illnesses that could potentially cause loss of independence amongst the elderly, for example Dementia, heart disease or breathing difficulties. Dementia is a condition that affects an individual’s mental abilities including: memory, thinking speed, judgement, understanding, and language. Dementia can affect an individual’s ability to live independently because it may get to the point where they are unsafe to be left on their own, and this is simply because they may forget to do important tasks such as turning the stove off, turning off the taps on the bath, failing to take medication or leaving the house and getting confused about where they are.

Falls can have a major impact on an individual’s ability to live independently, and this is largely because their mobility may have been affected. However if the fall wasn’t serious there may only be a short period of time in which an individual isn’t able to perform all of the tasks that they were able to in order to live independently. This short time where they are unable to complete all daily living tasks would take place whilst they are recovering, and soon as they have recovered they may be able to cope on their own once more.

Similarly injury, sight or hearing impairments can inhibit an individual’s ability to live independently. This is because they may struggle with daily living tasks such as: washing, dressing, and cooking.

Maintaining Independence In The Elderly

There are a number of ways that elderly individuals can maintain their independence for longer. For example encouragement may be an effective method of helping to maintain an elderly individual’s independence for as long as possible. This is because it may help them to do activities that they would enjoy doing, that they wouldn’t have done on their own without prompting for a number of reasons, the main one being a lack of confidence.

Installing aids or making adaptations to the home can help to maintain individual’s independence for a long as possible. examples of aids that could be installed around the home include: grab rails in the bath or shower, handrails in entrance hallways and on the stairs of the house, lower cupboards and shelves, for easy access. Ramps could also be installed at the entrance to the home to make it more accessible in comparison to if there were steps at the entrance.

Home Care

Implementing a Home Care package could be very beneficial in helping elderly individual’s to maintain some level of independence for as long as possible, and this is largely because it allows them the opportunity to receive the help and support that they need within the comfort of their own homes.

This also allows them to have some control over what help and support they receive. Care workers can visit individuals within their homes and support them with all aspects of personal care and daily living.

Care workers assist people in gaining confidence to carry out daily tasks and encourage them to make their own decisions about all areas of daily living, for example what they would like to wear, or what do they want for dinner. The best outcome from a Home Care package is that the person being supported regains enough confidence to be able to live independently again.

Too often people leave it too long before admitting that they need help and the road back can be a lot longer than it would have been if earlier intervention had been sought.
By Edward