How to manage losing independence

If you are experiencing a loss of independence, or feel a loved one is in this situation, you can still maintain a sense of control. No one looks forward to losing independence. In fact, research reveals that 75% of older people feared losing independence while only 29% feared dying1. Moving into an aged care facility is a concern for 44% of those surveyed.

Whether independence is lost through a physical, social or emotional reason, the sense of loss is the same.

Understanding the cycle of loss

As people age, the loss of independence can stem from physical and mental changes and social and emotional effects that dramatically alter day-to-day life.

For example, physical changes like diminishing vision or a loss of hearing can interfere with the performance of simple tasks like driving, walking long distances or communicating in general. Mental impairment can cause people to lose the ability to perform everyday tasks and become forgetful.

These changes increase the need for help from others and can lead to feelings of dependence and inadequacy.  They can also lead to low confidence and stop some people from participating in enjoyable activities which can increase feelings of frustration, anger, guilt and isolation.

Adding to the burden may be well-intentioned loved ones who place restrictions on the person losing independence out of concern for their wellbeing.

Maintaining a sense of control

We all have a common need to retain some sense of independence and dignity and feel that we are making a valid contribution to the world.

Some people facing a loss of independence may have previously been quite dependent on others—perhaps never holding a driver’s licence and relying on friends and relatives to drive them around. But for many, a newfound dependence on others can be very difficult. The more capable and independent a person was in the past, the greater the loss experienced.

There are things you and your loved ones can do to increase the sense of control:

1. It’s your life, keep control

If you are experiencing a loss of independence yourself, make sure your loved ones know how you feel. You should tell them that you need to live a life that continues to have meaning for you.

If you feel loved ones are micromanaging your every move, let them know how they can help you feel more independent and support you to make your own choices.

If you are feeling depressed by a the loss of independence there are support services available like Beyond Blue (or calling 1300 22 4636) My Aged Care (or calling 1800 200 422).

2. Loved ones, be reactive not too proactive

If your loved one is experiencing a loss of independence, it’s understandable for you to be concerned. It can be tempting to take over and provide help, but it may be more effective in the long run to discuss the issues with them first, if possible.

The two most important questions you can ask are whether they need help and how you (or others) can provide it. Letting your loved ones have a say in the help they receive can ease the emotional impact and help them feel more in control.

3. Facilitate

However you end up helping—and you may feel that you’re walking on eggshells sometimes—take care with how you go about it. If you’re able to facilitate a conversation so your loved one comes up with their own solutions and ideas, it’d be a better outcome for them, and possibly the most generous thing you can do.

4. Encourage

If possible, encourage your loved one to keep pursuing their passions or find new hobbies and help them to maintain their relationships with family and friends too. Keeping active and busy can help to lessen their sense of loss.

Seeking knowledge and assistance

If you or a loved one is experiencing a loss of independence, you may benefit from our education module Understanding aged care.

But before deciding on a solution, seek the advice of your health practitioner and see your financial adviser who can help you understand all of the options available. If you would like please contact us on 03 6220 8330 or to discuss.


Source: AMP, 20 Dec 2016


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