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25 October, 2016 | 2 min read

Remaining Independent When Mobility Is an Issue

remaining-independent.jpgMost people treasure their independence. It is irreplaceable. We like to partake in our own activities and continue to do things on our own.

But there are times when we need help. When we ask for assistance, it’s usually with the intention of reclaiming our independence as soon as possible. However, many senior Americans face challenges with mobility, which can be a permanent inhibition to independence. In fact, mobility studies show that more than 10 percent of American seniors require the help of a cane, more than 4.6 percent use a walker, and 3 percent need either a wheelchair or scooter. Though these aids actually help seniors preserve their ability to move independently, they can feel like a restraint and a threat to their independence.

So how do you help your parent preserve their independence in the face of mobility challenges?

Be supportive. Don’t underestimate the power of affirmation. Remind your parent or loved one that a change in mobility is an added challenge, but not a roadblock. They can still do the things that they’ve always loved to do, but they just may need a little more patience and help to figure it out.

Don’t be overbearing. Even though you want to help your parent in any way you can, remember to treat them like the adult that they are. It’s easy to lend a little too much help, and that will likely make your parent feel less independent than ever. Offer help, but don’t be offended if they don’t accept it wholeheartedly. Aim to support, not carry.

Don’t lose your sense of adventure. Is there something that your loved one has always wanted to do? Help them figure out a way to do it. There are many activities that can be adapted to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers and canes.

Encourage usage of appropriate assistive devices. Many seniors will try to reject the use of their assistive gear in an attempt to preserve their independence, but that is particularly unhelpful. Remind your loved one that wheelchairs, walkers, and canes allow them to move on their own, and ignoring them might have adverse effects in the future.

Don’t stop improving. Encourage (doctor approved and professionally advised) exercise to improve mobility. Even if the improvements are minute, it will instill a sense of independence and confidence in the abilities they do have.

Lastly, remember how important attitude is — both theirs and yours. A positive mindset goes a long way in any situation. By exploring these options, your loved one will soon find the best option that will allow them to continue to enjoy their independence.

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