Getting older can be a struggle for many seniors but it is important to remember that aging doesn’t mean it is the end. Some seniors may experience physical decline but many can retain a good deal of physical ability and self-reliance with some encouragement.
Here are a few ways that caregivers can help seniors age “gracefully.”
Many seniors become fearful and withdrawn because they are concerned that they will not be able to take care of themselves. This can lead to a sense of helplessness and resignation. Allowing oneself to resign to frailty and loneliness can contribute to depression. It can become a self-fulfilling cycle of “I can’t do it so I won’t try.” As a caregiver, encourage your senior to do as much as they can for themselves. This may require adjustments with mobility aids and other occupational assistance but retaining independence as much as possible can help him maintain physical and mental health.
Everyone has made mistakes, and most everyone has regrets. The key to happiness may be in learning to live in the present. There is no joy if one is allowed to dwell in the past and ruminate over mistakes that have been made. Help your senior realize that mistakes can be made but he still has time to learn from those mistakes. He can repair relationships, learn new skills, and take joy in small pleasures – by living for today.
As seniors age, they often find that family members and others become intrusive or even overbearing. Family members and loved ones may be concerned and begin to feel that everything in the senior’s life is “their business.” This can lead to resentment and anger. It may also contribute to learned helplessness. Though the senior may need assistance with some activities, she should be encouraged to set boundaries with loved ones and others and maintain independence wherever she can.
Just as the senior has made mistakes, so have others. One of the scariest things may be a sense of abandonment that the senior feels. Encourage your senior to reconcile with those loved ones, even if they have done things in the past that hurt or angered the elder. This does not mean allowing the loved one to take advantage or cause pain again and some situations cannot be changed. The senior, however, will benefit from an attitude of “forgive not forget” and the idea that forgiving someone can free him or her from resentment. We can forgive others to help ourselves.
Encourage personal freedom
Senior should be encouraged to count the achievements and the blessings. Not everyone has the chance to look back on a life. The senior should be encouraged to be proud of who he or she is! Self acceptance is the key to feeling free and comfortable in your own skin. Deliberate living and personal freedom have helped these people beat “the odds” and remain active, intelligent and alive for longer than many thought possible.
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