Freedom, individuality, liberation, autonomy, independence, something most of us are after whether as a toddler, young adult, aging senior, or someone with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias. As a nation we declared independence. As individuals we still seek it, regardless of our age or circumstance.
Every year we celebrate American Independence Day on July the Fourth. Thinking back to July 4, 1776, we recall a day in which the Declaration of Independence and birth of the United States of America became the land of the free. A day to celebrate our nation, our individuality. A time or honor.
How can we help our senior population with dementia, in this land of the free, celebrate their autonomy? We should strive to help them to remain as independent for as long as possible.
Certain adaptations must be included in the plan for independence. As people, we must adapt the way we think and act. As family and care partners we have to change our expectations. The manner in which we communicate and our approach must be adapted in order to achieve success. Often we think the person with dementia will change. The changes must start with ourselves.
Changes must be made to the home. Is the living space a safe haven for someone with memory loss? Is it equipped for someone with physical changes? Have we researched what adaptations we can make to create a place of safety, fostering independence and success?
Often the effort of the goal is to get the task at hand accomplished. As care providers we must change our attitude. When working with someone with Alzheimer’s disease, the emphasis should be on the process. The time together, allowing the individual with dementia to remain as independent and self-sufficient for as long as possible, must be the focus.
Spotlight their ability to reminisce and share stories while working together on whatever the undertaking is. The goal is creating a meaningful activity while partnering on the task. Any independence you allow and foster is something to celebrate. Go ahead, rejoice in their accomplishments, not just on July the fourth, but every day, and everything. Honor independence and revel in how far we’ve come as a nation and as individuals!