Fighting for Independence- July 4th, 2010

As we celebrate our country’s Independence Day, it occurs to me how important independence is when it relates to caring for a loved one.  We are part of a country that values independence. Whether it is in the story of the person who “made it on their own”, to DIY television shows or the expression on a child’s face when they master dressing themselves for the first time. It is deeply rooted in our core.

Then why are we so surprised and frustrated when we try to “do what’s best” for our aging loved one and they fight us on it. We can see that it would be best for them to have help, yet they aren’t willing to accept our “generous” offer.

Consider this – do they see it as that first step down a slippery slope of “dependence” rather than independence? 

LTC carriers frequently see the client’s resistance to starting a claim…but the person might be willing to accept a few weeks of respite care for the caregiver. That way it isn’t about them, but the other person needing the help. We are a funny bunch – we want the help for others, but not for ourselves. I think it goes back to independence and just how deeply it is rooting in our culture and being.

Let’s take a step to the side and maybe view if from another angle. What if accepting the help allowed our loved one to maintain their independence longer? If someone is facing that edge of no longer being able to safely live at home, would it be easier to accept someone coming in to help a few hours a day vs. them having an accident or situation that forces them to move out of their home to another setting? Frequently, those moves are permanent and the person does not return home.

That may be a better way to position the conversation and respect the person’s desire to stay at home and remain independent. We are all fighting for independence in one way or another throughout our entire life, so why would this time of someone’s life be different?

I think the question becomes – do you lose the “battle” of perceived dependence or would you rather win the “war” and maintain as much independence as possible for a longer period of time?

And on this holiday — To all our brave service men and women – thank you for fighting for our independence, not only for those of us in this country, but for others around the world — so that they too can experience this precious freedom.

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