Maintaining Independence With Assisted Living

One of the hardest realizations to handle is that your parent is no longer capable of caring for themselves.  That has been their role--the only role they have ever had in your life--the caretaker.  They have taken care of your needs, those of your siblings, probably even those of your children.  When someone we loves needs something, we want to show how much we care by doing as much for them as possible.  Although it may seem counterintuitive, in this instance the most caring thing you can do for your parent is doing as least as possible.  This situation may be difficult for you, but it is much worse for them.  It is embarrassing and scary for them to admit they are incapable of full self-care.  You do not want to compound the problem by forcing them into more care then they actually need.  If your parent does not need skilled nursing care, you may consider an assisted living facility or hiring a home health aide instead of a nursing home. 

Meeting Basic Needs

It is important for your loved one to maintain as much of their independence as possible.  One of the largest contributing factors to a longer, happier life is the will to live.  A person needs to feel that they are needed and have a purpose; without this, the quality of life diminishes.  Your parent should be encouraged to continue to perform all tasks and self-care that they are capable of.  There are many devices that can assist the aging in performing the activities of daily living on their own.  If you give them the tools they need to do it instead of just doing it for them, it helps them maintain dignity and encourages them to not give up on life.

This basic need for purpose is innate in all of us.  The psychologist, Abraham Maslow, described the five basic needs that motivate us to live in Maslow's hierarchy of needs in 1943.  After the two most basic needs (physiological and safety) are met, people need socialization and self-esteem to remain motivated.  Continuing to be active and having close relationships are essential factors in establishing both longevity and quality of life.  Without these basic needs being met, some people may become depressed and give up on life.

How Assisted Living Can Help   

Most people consider assisted living  to be similar to a nursing home.  However, it is much more like an apartment complex or condo that provides assistance with daily care for the aging adult population.  Assisted living allows its residents to maintain their independence and have the feel of having their own home, while still giving them the basic assistance they require at this stage of their life.  It is not a skilled nursing unit; the staff helps with activities of daily living such as medication management, preparing meals, and bathing/getting dressed.  Most have different levels of care and only assist with what the person cannot safely do on their own. 

Residents are able to enjoy the life they have been accustomed to.  Many facilities allow residents to keep their pets.  Living areas are like an apartment; they allow the resident the privacy of their own place with a community of friends.  Each unit typically has their own kitchen area and provides Wi-Fi. Many assisted living facilities provide amenities such as a pool, fitness area, library, gardening area, and community room. If capable, residents are able to come and go as they please.

Assisted living, at places such as Colonial Residence, also fosters relationships and socialization.   Residents may choose to participate in scheduled activities such as bingo, movie nights, crochet/sewing groups, and group outings.  Many have beautiful courtyards and walking trails for the residents to enjoy at their own leisure. 

Remaining both physically and mentally active is essential to maintain cognitive function and a desire to live. It is important to allow your loved one to remain as independent as possible.  When deciding on the appropriate level of care, make sure that you keep not only their physical needs in mind, but also their basic needs for self-esteem and socialization.  Meeting these needs prevents depression, helps them maintain a quality of life, and gives them a purpose.