As caregivers, we often have to walk that very fine line between supporting our loved one’s need for independence and helping him or her receive the best care possible. It’s a delicate balance but one that we should all strive for.
I recently received a phone call from a woman caring for her 90-year-old aunt. The aunt is adamant about being fully independent — she has her own Uber account for when she needs a ride and hired a cleaning person to help with housework — but her niece, who lives several states away, worries about her aunt’s care.
On one hand, it’s a positive that the older woman is committed to her autonomy. Maintaining independence can boost confidence, outlook and even physical health. However, going it alone likely won’t be feasible forever; as we age, many people may lose sight of the fact that they could benefit from support, as they’re working so hard to resist losing their independence. That quandary often puts caregivers in the position of getting over-involved or not involved enough.
There’s no easy solution to this dilemma that faces so many families, but one helpful strategy is co-independence. With this approach, caregivers respect their loved one’s need for self-sufficiency while remaining proactive about his or her care.
For instance, in the case of the niece who wants to be more involved in her aunt’s care, she could work toward co-independence by hiring a care manager to work with her aunt. That way, she could feel assured that her aunt is safe, while her aunt can retain her daily independence in her own home.
Caregiving, like aging, is not black and white; our needs and circumstances are constantly evolving as we age, and the best solutions to struggles are often somewhere in the middle. Keeping that in mind can help caregivers carry out their responsibilities while still supporting and respecting their loved one’s wishes.
Beverly Bernstein Joie, MS, CMC
Complete Care Strategies