In honor of National Senior Independence Month, we’re taking the opportunity to share ideas about independence in the face of dementia’s challenges. Often, caregivers and families see dementia as something that takes away independence from their loved one. While this may be the case in some respect, especially in the later stages of the disease, it is possible to encourage freedom, agency and independence even in the midst of challenging symptoms.
Rob Low, Community Relations Director at Clarity Pointe™ Pensacola, a memory care assisted living community in Pensacola, Florida, shares, “Independence is often the result of attitude and approach. When we treat the loved ones in our care as though they can’t handle anything on their own, we stifle any chance of them feeling in control of their lives. But when we approach care in a way that encourages their ability to make choices, the person with dementia can accept support without sacrificing their sense of self.”
If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia, learning how to promote their independence may require a shift in perspective. Obviously, your priorities are to keep your loved one healthy and safe. Yet, while you go about your caregiving, you may be doing more than you need to. If you’re always doing things for your loved one or making choices on their behalf, their sense of independence can’t exist. It’s important to recognize your loved one’s strengths and abilities, and let go of the need to complete caregiving tasks for the sake of offering them some agency of their own.
The Need for Independence
As dementia progresses, those living with it experience a pattern of loss. They lose skills and abilities, familiar ways of life, and eventually the self-confidence that accompanies control over one’s circumstances. However, by promoting independence, we can alleviate that feeling of loss by emphasizing the areas where they are still in control. Caregivers and family members can offer their loved one’s choices, even if it would be more convenient to choose for them. We can recognize our loved one’s current abilities and allow them to execute what they can.
Promoting independence of a loved one with dementia increases their self-esteem and overall quality of life. Not only this, but the more a person does on their own, the greater chances they have of remaining independent longer. Performing tasks that require cognitive function strengthens the connections in the brain. Allowing your loved one to think and act independently has the potential to improve brain functioning and possibly slow down the progression of dementia.
Celebrating Independence in Everyday Life
The Alzheimer’s Society offers several tips for caregivers to help promote independence and choice for their loved ones with dementia. Consider how you could incorporate these strategies into your caregiving approach to offer your loved one the benefits of independence:
- Do things with your loved one rather than for them.
- Present tasks in easy-to-manage, simple steps. For example, instead of asking your loved one to “get ready,” ask them to brush their hair or put on their shoes.
- Be patient, allowing your loved one the time they need to complete a task. If they end up needing help, offer it in a supportive way.
- Keep your focus on what your loved one can do, rather than the things they can’t.
- Encourage your loved one to stay active. By maintaining strength and flexibility, they’ll be able to complete tasks on their own longer.
- Make adaptations to their home and lifestyle. For instance, switch from laced shoes to slip-ons, or switch out their showerhead for one that’s handheld.
- Allow them to make their own decisions when possible. For example:
- Allow some flexibility in what time they wake up
- Offer them choices of what to eat and when. Offer them two or three options if they have trouble deciding on their own.
- If possible, limit your support in the bathroom, giving your loved one privacy with the choice to ask for help when they need it.
- Let your loved one choose their own clothes to wear. However, keep in mind health and safety during colder months.
- Don’t force your loved one into doing something (unless it’s necessary for their health). Give them options for activities to do throughout the day. If you try something and your loved one resists, let it go and try again later.
These strategies can help you change your approach to caregiving as you learn how to adjust your communication and expectations for completing tasks. At the end of the day, your role as a caregiver is to give your loved one the highest quality of life possible, and promoting independence allows that to occur.
Independence in Person-Centered Care
“At Clarity Pointe Pensacola, our approach to memory care ensures that our residents live the lifestyle they choose,” says Low. “Our caregiving is centered around who each person is – what they like and dislike, what their preferences and interests are – so we honor their choices and perspectives in all aspects of our care. By focusing on their remaining strengths and abilities, we encourage independence in everyday tasks and activities. With this kind of approach, we find that our residents are happier and experience greater health and satisfaction, despite the challenges of memory loss.”
If you would like to learn more about encouraging your loved one’s independence through dementia, reach out to the Clarity Pointe Pensacola team today!
Clarity Pointe™ … Our Difference is Clear
Clarity Pointe™’s Specialized Memory Care “Living” Neighborhoods are truly changing lives for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias – and for those who love them. At Clarity Pointe, our mission is to ensure our residents lead connected and rewarding lives.
Unlike other providers that offer a secure memory care wing in a skilled nursing or assisted living center, Clarity Pointe Pensacola offers three freestanding, purpose-built Memory Care communities that are solely and entirely dedicated to Memory Care Assisted Living. Our communities blend luxurious surroundings with specialized care that is individualized to each resident and delivered by a compassionate, expert team of professionals.
We stay current on the latest trends and advancements in Alzheimer’s care and implement them into our residents’ care plans. Always moving forward, we combine the latest in evidence-based programming with luxurious, residential living and compassionate respectful care.
For each of our residents, we offer a life that is engaging, fulfilling, inspiring and meaningful.