Having independence is to have complete control and autonomy of your own life. And while we typically gain more independence as we move out of childhood and adolescence, it can become compromised due to changes in mobility, capacity and health in our older age.
That said, a loss of functionality does not mean the desire to be independent is lost. In this article, we discuss how you can strike the right balance between offering help and support while encouraging autonomous living.
What is independence in health and social care?
Independence in health and social care refers to an individual’s ability to manage their own lives and make choices regarding their health and well-being. More specifically, it emphasises the need to empower individuals to have control over their own care and support, promoting self-determination and autonomy.
To have independence also means to have access to information and resources that allow one to make informed decisions about healthcare options. It involves providing support services that promote self-care and self-management, empowering individuals to take responsibility for their health.
But independence goes beyond physical well-being and includes supporting individuals’ emotional, social and psychological needs. It recognises the importance of promoting dignity, privacy and personal preferences in care delivery.
Finally, it involves providing appropriate assistance to ensure individuals can participate fully in society and maintain a good quality of life.
The importance of promoting independence in the elderly
Promoting independence in the elderly is of utmost importance for several reasons. Firstly, independence is paramount to maintaining a sense of dignity and self-worth, enabling individuals to continue making decisions and actively engage in activities they enjoy.
Secondly, it has a significant impact on one’s physical and mental well-being. By encouraging independence, elderly individuals are more likely to engage in active lifestyles, maintain mobility and take part in daily tasks that lead to improved physical health.
Moreover, promoting independence in the elderly helps combat social isolation and loneliness. By participating in community activities, maintaining social connections, and engaging with family and friends, one’s quality of life is greatly enhanced.
How can you encourage independence in the elderly?
The thought of complete independence may be very daunting for an elderly individual, so approaching the idea should be done with the utmost care. As a caregiver, encourage them to do as much as they can. Even if they cannot complete a task themselves, it’s important to let them try instead of assisting them straight away.
The simple way a caregiver can encourage independence is to provide opportunities for the individual to make their own decisions, offering plenty of favourable choices and respecting their preferences.
Secondly, those in the health and social sector should promote physical activity and mobility by encouraging regular exercise tailored to their abilities. Perhaps provide assistive devices or modifications to support their independence in daily tasks.
In addition, try to foster social engagement by facilitating participation in community activities, social groups or volunteering. Finally, create a supportive environment that promotes independence, respects their autonomy, and provides encouragement and positive reinforcement for their efforts.
As some human functionalities may deteriorate, certain safety measures must be implemented to support independent living. First, a trained health and social worker must assess one’s living environment to identify potential hazards and make necessary modifications, such as installing grab bars, non-slip flooring and adequate lighting.
If needed, you must also provide assistive devices and technology that promotes safety, such as personal emergency response systems and mobility aids.
Try to offer education on fall prevention, medication management and safe practices for daily activities, as well as encouraging regular health check-ups and screenings to detect and address any underlying issues.
Lastly, independence does not mean complete isolation. In fact, it is paramount to help establish a support network comprising family, caregivers, and healthcare professionals to provide assistance and guidance while fostering independence.
The very epitome of independence is the ability to make decisions for yourself, but when that is removed, it can lead to feelings of depression and worthlessness.
Therefore, it is absolutely essential to offer elderly individuals plenty of choices when it comes to encouraging independence. Always ensure they have a say in their daily routines, activities and care decisions, and involve them in discussions about their preferences and goals. Perhaps provide options for meal planning, clothing selection or recreational activities.
Of course, respect their choices and support their decision-making and reasoning. Additionally, encourage them to engage in hobbies, pursue interests and participate in decision-making regarding their healthcare.
By offering choices, you empower the elderly to maintain control over their lives, promote autonomy and enhance their overall sense of independence and well-being.
Another area that is typically overlooked when encouraging independence is the role that movement plays. As one’s mobility deteriorates, feelings of isolation grow, which can be a frightening experience for many.
However, movement is hugely important for maintaining physical health and well-being. As a health and social worker, it must be a priority to offer support and guidance to help elderly individuals stay active and remain a part of a community.
So, always look to create opportunities for movement within their daily routines, such as encouraging them to perform tasks independently or engage in light household chores.
That said, make sure to encourage regular exercise tailored to their abilities, such as walking and stretching, or if mobility is limited, incorporate some chair exercises. You could also promote the use of assistive devices, like walkers or canes, to enhance their mobility and confidence.
By emphasising movement, you empower the elderly to maintain their physical independence, improve strength and flexibility and promote overall vitality.
Of course, to implement any of the measures discussed, communication is paramount. While it may sound simple, caregivers must always use clear and respectful language, allowing for open and honest conversations.
Some elderly individuals may be fearful of gaining their independence back, especially if they have lived with round-the-clock care for some time. In this case, listen actively and validate their feelings and opinions.
Moreover, make sure to provide information and education regarding their health, self-care and available resources. Encourage them to express their needs and concerns about their health, and offer support and guidance when necessary.
By fostering positive and effective communication, you can empower the elderly to maintain their independence, improve their confidence and ensure their voices are heard and respected at all times.
Promoting a person’s independence is a fine balance of knowing when to help, and when to encourage autonomy. And, of course, there will be times when you need to step in. With the practices discussed for supported living, you can help increase one’s physical and mental health, boost their confidence and self-esteem, and improve their sense of purpose and quality of life.
At The Fremantle Trust, we put each individual in our care, first. We strive to enhance the quality of life for elderly people and help them to live their lives to the fullest with respect, dignity, independence and choice. If you would like to enquire about one of our care homes or nursing homes in Buckinghamshire, please do not hesitate to contact us today.
We have care homes located across the Buckinghamshire county. Learn more about care homes nearest to you:
Care home Aylesbury
Care home Princes Risborough
Care home Chalfont St Peter
Care home Amersham
Care homes Slough
Care home Chesham
Care home Stoke
Burnham care homes
Care homes High Wycombe
Care homes Marlow