February is National Senior Independence Month! In light of this important observation, here are some simple ways you can responsibly help your senior loved one manage their level of independence.

Ideas for helping your senior loved one navigate (and maintain) their independence:

• Safety comes first 

Prevent falls by removing hazards that could cause your loved one to trip or fall down. Add handrails in hallways and stairways and grab bars in the bathroom for extra support.

Consider utilizing an emergency response system if your loved one is on his or her own often, so he or she can immediately call for help by simply pressing a button.

• Encourage their social life

If possible, assist and support your loved one with their social activities. These may include club meetings, attending church, visiting with friends or relatives, attending community events. Offer to drive them there and back if you’re able. React affirmatively when they express interest or enthusiasm. Express your moral support.

• Help them participate in the day-to-day

Help them with meal planning, ask them to fold the laundry and participate in the shopping, cooking and cleaning where possible. Bake cookies together, even if they can only help with minor tasks like stirring or measuring out ingredients. Let them decide what TV shows, podcasts, radio shows, and music they want to listen to.

• Encourage exercise

Staying active is critical for good health, so encourage healthy and reasonable levels of exercise–whether it’s a yoga class at the senior center, gardening, a stroll around the block or neighborhood, or strength exercises at home. If they have specific physical therapy exercises, remind them and encourage them to complete those daily.

• Engage the brain

Play cards or board games, do sudoku or crosswords, work on a jigsaw puzzle, color or draw with them, or follow their favorite sports teams. In other words: support (and participate in) the hobbies that make them happy.

Warning signs

There are certain signs to watch out for if your loved one is struggling with his or her independent lifestyle, such as:

• Issues with driving
• Confusion
• Decrease in social activity
• Lack of good personal hygiene
• Struggles with managing proper medication routine
• Falls and accidents
• Neglecting finances
• Poor nutrition (such as having expired foods in kitchen)
• Inability to maintain good housekeeping/cleanliness
• More withdrawn behavior than usual

Benefits of adjusting independence level

Entering a senior care facility is a big step that requires some significant changes, but studies show that retirement communities actually help the elderly live independently or semi-independently for much longer than they may have otherwise.

Here are just a few ways seniors can thrive in a Consulate care center:

Activities – Consulate’s assisted and independent living allows patients to live safer, happier lives alongside others going through similar life stages. These communities are designed uniquely for the specific challenges that senior citizens face, including mobility issues and the potential resulting isolation. Various programs and events offered to residents combat loneliness and provide camaraderie, which in turn benefits mental health.

Peace of mind – Residing in a senior community can lower anxiety surrounding all of the what ifs about aging alone, as residents know that additional assistance is available should they need it at any point.

Tailor-made assistance options – The different facilities, programs, and levels of care are not a one size fits all situation. Residents can pick and choose which services they’d like to utilize, such as transportation, check-ins, housekeeping, medication reminders, physical therapy, and more.

Life expectancy – Due to the reasons listed above, research shows that seniors staying in independent living centers tend to live about seven to ten years longer than their homebound counterparts.

Ultimately, sometimes adjusting one’s personal level of independence can set one free to live a happier and healthier life.

If you’re concerned about your ability to function independently, you can evaluate yourself (or a loved one) with this brief quiz.

For more information, please visit Consulate Health Care’s services page, or check out these tips from the Association for Long Term Care Planning.

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