“Keeping Mom Independent: A Chat with Kim Cooper”
How to Give Your Loved one Independence for a Better Quality of Life
I’m J Smiles, comedian, Alzheimer’s and Dementia activist, and family caregiver. You may know me from Parenting Up!™, where we’re a family of caregivers taking care of our family members together. Welcome to Snuggle Up™ Saturday.
Whatever caused your Loved One (LO) to need your caregiving assistance, may require recovery time. Recovery time can be as short as physical therapy for a few months or as long as several years of slow recovery from a stroke, or anything like that. Although it may be hard, especially during those initial recovery stages, to give your LO independence, it’s supa important for their physical and mental health.
Realize that, before whatever caused them to need you, your mom, dad, sister, brother, or whoever lived a-whole-private-stay-out-of-my-business-life outside of you. They did what they wanted, when they wanted, how they wanted. Suddenly, depending on what the issue is, they can’t do certain things or can’t do them without help, they can’t eat the food they want to eat or go to the places they like to go or keep to the routine they had in place before now. Ugh!
That’s a lot for a grown adult to digest. Whether your caregivee is in a state of mental decline or not, they likely have feelings about you caring for them and them losing their independence. It’s so, so important to give them some of their independence back in any way that you can.
Listen, although you may want to, you can’t put mom or dad in a bubble. You can’t protect them from everything. So, you have to learn to compromise, suitable to your specific situation.
If your LO likes to walk but forgets they have an illness or forgets where they are easily, you can utilize cameras around the house, utilize neighbors to keep watch (try allowing walks at the same time every day on the same route), use a GPS tracking watch, or even find a regular walking buddy for them if it can’t be you. The companionship of another person and the ability to still get to go for daily walks will do wonders for your mom or dad.
Keep in mind the degree of care that’s needed. People want autonomy no matter how old, ill, or unfit they may be. If your loved one loves to cook, but shouldn’t be cooking alone, allow them to cook one meal per day with you watching closely, but staying out of the way and letting them enjoy the process. If they were a world traveler, and it’s still possible for them to travel, let them continue to travel with you or other companions when feasible.
Keeping strong daily routines so that your loved one knows what to expect is also a good idea. Having special days of the week or the month for favorite foods or outings that they get to pick can help them still feel in control of certain things.
No matter the illness, your mom or dad is still your mom or dad and older than you. They deserve dignity, grace, and the ability to maintain as much independence as possible to continue their quality of life.