One of the most insidious, harmful misconceptions we have about senior care is that there is a clearly defined line between an individual who can and can’t live independently. Most often, a course of aging suggests a care model that gradually phases in personal care services. The dread of facility care may even push many seniors and families to resist any care assistance, even those services that can be delivered, cost-effectively, in a senior’s own home. By delaying the introduction of basic care services, a senior’s quality of living suffers, resulting in a faster decline in health. Sometimes, a failure to recognize the need for these care services can lead to the gradual onset of depression or a preventable accident such as a broken hip.
Common early care services
- Transportation: Some seniors may no longer be able to safely drive, even though they can make their way around the house and generally care for themselves. Meals-on-wheels, family chauffeurs, and even taxis only go so far. Indeed, it’s often errand running, not direct transportation, that’s needed.
- House chores/maid service: Most often, this is an orthopedic problem. Whether it’s window cleaning, dishes, laundry, dusting, vacuuming, etc., many house chores involve bending over, repetitive motions, and elbow grease that a senior is simply no longer capable of.
- Companionship: Maybe it’s reading the paper to a senior with failing eyesight. Maybe it’s finding participants for a senior’s favorite game or hobby. Maybe it’s taking the time and patience to converse with a senior with poor hearing.
- Basic personal care: Just because a senior can still dress and toilet themselves doesn’t mean they can safely and efficiently take a bath, complete finer points of personal grooming, and maintain access to all parts of a multi-story home.
Physical vs. Psychological Factors
In some cases, seniors may have a negative reaction to basic care services, even when the services are warranted and improves the senior’s quality of life. For them, a loss of complete independence becomes the loss of self-worth. To this end, the introduction of basic care services may need to be matched with counseling that allows the senior to acclimate to the new situation while minimizing the psychological impact. Often, these psychological impacts are temporary. Showing an individual how they can once again do things they had decided to give up may be enough to mitigate the trepidation he or she feels.
In many ways, denial is the most natural response to the aging process. So, too, a prejudice against the elderly can frequently blind us to those areas in which our loved ones are capable of retaining their independence. Only by recognizing those ways in which early care services can benefit an individual’s health and quality of living, while continuing to nurture a stubborn will against the aging process itself, can seniors hope to get the most out of their twilight years.