On a psychological level, a person’s independence is closely linked to his/her sense of dignity and identity. When seniors age, particularly those with Alzheimer’s disease, the loss of independence can pay a real toll on mental health.
As caregivers, it’s important to encourage loved ones with AD to contribute and engage in activities that build self-worth and a sense of meaning. Although the safety needs of those with AD must come first, it’s vital to encourage a sense of independence and allow seniors to perform all tasks within his/her means without assistance. Sometimes caregivers mistakenly do too much for their loved ones with AD, never realizing the negative effect that enabling can have on his/her sense of well-being.
One example of encouraging independence is when elderly (particularly women) want to be involved in holiday traditions, such as making festive meals. These traditions may have been handed down for generations and it’s imperative that those with AD are allowed to be involved to the extent that they are cognitively and physcially able to perform tasks in the kitchen.
Allowing those with AD to take on tasks and manage skills that lend to independence may involve a juggling act on the part of caregivers and family members. On one hand it’s important to be supportive and allow those with AD to perform activities independently; on the other hand, there may be a real need for assistance when the individual with AD experiences cognitive impairments. Caregivers can balance this need for independence and assistance by standing by and being prepared to jump in when necessary, but allowing loved ones to be involved to the extent they are able to safely perform activities. Ask if your loved one needs help rather than simply diving in to take over. Listen for cues that performing specific tasks or activities has become difficult and respond appropriately.
As your loved one with AD becomes more physically or cognitively impaired, caregivers and/or family members may opt to move the holiday celebration to an alternative location-other than the senior’s home. Having holiday meals catered is another option when those with AD are no longer able to help with preparation of the holiday feast.
Gathering ideas on how other caregivers handle this sensitive issue can be helpful. When possible,make gradual changes in delegating tasks instead of drastically re-inventing traditions. Most importantly, be as flexible as possible when it comes to helping those with AD maintain independence and dignity.
Learn more about topics for caregivers and for those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease by CLICKING HERE to join our 25 lesson course at AlzU.org.