Every July, Americans take the time to reflect on the gift of independence and what it means to us as a society. In fact, it’s been said that Americans’ most cherished values are individualism and the ability to be in control of their own lives.

Most people think of independence for themselves as not having to rely on other people. Self-sufficiency, self-reliance and self-sustenance are all exalted as virtues in our quest to lead productive lives.

However, as we age, it can become harder for us to maintain this ability to control or cope with changing circumstances that involve our health, our living situation, and our cognitive and emotional states.

Some families start to notice changes happening in the abilities of their elder loved ones, and they may wonder, “Can Mom or Dad continue to live independently? Is it time to ask for help?” If you’re at that place, the following are points to consider when assessing a loved one’s ability to continue to care for themselves independently:

Physical
There’s no doubt that aging brings physical changes such as reduced endurance or muscle strength, balance issues (leading to a risk of falls), decreased mobility, or problems with vision and hearing. In addition, physical capabilities could be compromised following an illness or surgery, especially if the senior is having trouble sticking to a physical therapy regimen.

The impact of these changes can be seen in what we call the activities of daily living (ADL):

• Getting around their home as easily
• Driving safely
• Transportation
• Socializing
• Home upkeep
• Health maintenance

It may be time to get help if the senior is having trouble with these activities.

Cognitive
Changes in cognitive ability are commonly expected after any kind of diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, dementia or psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety disorder or psychosis. Without any formal diagnosis, however, what should loved ones look for as warning signs of a cognitive impairment (1) ?

• Mood swings, including rage or hostility
• Forgetfulness or wandering off
• Sadness or loneliness
• Decreased interest in reading, writing and communicating
• Difficulty in maintaining friends
• Decreased interest in life in general

In addition, shifts in facial appearance, personal hygiene, and cleanliness of clothing can signal that cognitive impairment is setting in.

Emotional
Even if a loved one doesn’t suffer from cognitive problems, isolation is a big problem for seniors. In fact, according to AARP, more than 8 million adults age 50 and older are affected by isolation, and the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day!

Isolation is more than being alone. It’s the result of feeling detached physically or psychologically, or being disconnected from support groups of family, friends and community. Isolation can occur if a person has experienced a loss (such the loss of a spouse,) has retired from meaningful work or a longstanding career, has transportation issues or difficulty getting around, or lives in a community apart from their support system(2) .

 

When it comes to independence, we all must acknowledge that changes happen to most everyone sooner or later in one form or another. Having a plan in place means that seniors can have greater control over their quality of life and maintaining independence for as long as possible.

As a family-owned and operated company, Kadan understands the struggles families face when deciding if a loved one needs enhanced assistance. We’re here to help!

Simply call our team at 770-396-8997 or email to schedule a free in-home consultation. Our registered nurse will help create a personalized program and carefully match a caregiver to your loved one’s needs. If you have questions or feel overwhelmed by the decision process, we are happy to use our knowledge and experience to make recommendations and assist you in any way we can.


(1) Source: AARP.org, Assessment Checklist.
(2) Source: AARP Foundation.