Once a family member’s health status begins to decline, it can be difficult for them to remain feeling dignified and independent when they are unable to live the life they once lived and need assistance doing daily life activities. There are ways that loving family members can help elderly family members continue to feel dignified and independent even when they need assistance. Here are 8 tips to help:
1. Give them purposeful “jobs” to help with.
Tasking your elderly family members with purposeful “jobs” such as household tasks (i.e., folding laundry, chopping vegetables for a meal etc.) is a great way to help them continue to feel dignified and useful.
2. Give choices.
If you are a caregiver for your family member, make sure to give them choices such as the clothes they will wear for the day, what meal(s) they would like to eat, instead of making these choices for them. Respecting their style and food preferences will give them more autonomy to help them feel more dignified.
3. Do not take full control over sensitive items.
Items such as bills and mail are more private and sensitive matters. Allowing your elderly family members to continue to have control and responsibility over them (so long as they are able) is an easy way to help them continue to feel dignified, independent and responsible in their life.
4. Make their home safer and more accessible for independent living.
Making sure your elderly family member’s home is safe should be an immediate priority. However, it can also allow them to continue to be independent (safely) in certain activities of daily living. This could mean installing grab bars near the toilet or shower, providing visual schedules or instructions on how to perform certain tasks, and/or removing rugs to decrease the chances of tripping and falling.
5. Provide them with long-term care options of their choice.
Discussing long-term care options with your family member who needs it can allow them to preserve their autonomy. By providing and discussing many option, they can chose to age in place, or they may choose an option such as assisted living depending on their personal preferences and provided that it is a smart and safe choice for them at that time.
6. Listening to and valuing them.
Listening to elderly family members who are in need of assistance and valuing their opinions in regards to their independence and everyday life is an important way to preserve and maintain their dignity. This will help them feel like their autonomy and choices are not being taken away simply because they need more assistance.
7. Acknowledge their strengths.
By acknowledging strengths, you are honoring your elderly family members and their independence and knowledge. Instead of focusing on weaknesses or injuries/illnesses, this allows them to maintain their dignity.
8. Listen to their stories and life experiences.
By taking an interest and taking time to listen to their life experiences, this will help family members reminisce about positive memories and important times in their lives. This gives a positive boost to their mental health and well-being and will allow them to feel dignified telling you about their past and memories that make them happy.
While needing more assistance due to old age, injury, illness, or physical/mental cognitive decline can feel defeating and be challenging to cope with, there are ways that we can help our loved ones continue to feel dignified.