How independent are you? The trouble with holidays and family reunions is that people who haven’t seen you in years start whispering about how “old” you look. They wonder if you are doing okay on your own or if they should be intervening on your behalf. It is an understandable reaction. You may indeed be struggling to hold things together, but if you don’t want to move and you still feel that everything is fine, it is time to come up with a plan. If the idea of a “talk” comes from you it is more apt to play out the way you want it to.
Be honest. Is everything just fine? What are you willing to do to make sure that you can stay in your own home? It may be hard to admit, but you will likely need some kind of help. This is no time to be stubborn. You are always going to feel that things are just fine, but your family and friends are probably not going to agree. It will soon become obvious that you aren’t qualified to make this decision, but if it is any consolation, neither are they. This doesn’t mean that you can’t manage, but it does mean that it is time for an impartial opinion. A good social intervention is one way to make this happen. Evidence clearly indicates that older people can benefit from an assessment by a qualified outsider. An impartial observer can hone in on specific survival skills that can make all the difference in the world.
Whether you are living with a family member, have a cottage in their backyard, or live down the street, everyone wants the experience to be a positive one. You can find check lists in books on aging but you may be too close to the situation to make an unbiased assessment. You either pretend that everything is okay or go to the other extreme and perceive things as worse than they really are.
Enter a Geriatric Case Manager, a professional who is trained to work with you and your family. He/she will be able to identify and assess current and potential needs, and come up with a plan to help you. Keep in mind that having a disability or a chronic condition does not automatically mean that you cannot do things on your own. Learning how to take care of yourself or even knowing when to ask for help is all part of independent living. A Case Manager will not try to railroad you into a nursing home. Their goal is to help you be as independent as you can be. They know that interventions, whether simple or complex, can assure a quality situation for you.
So what are these important tools?
- An assessment. How do things look right now?
- Education: Most people don’t know where to turn when looking for answers. Positive recommendations and information about care networks can make life easier.
- If necessary, a manager can coordinate services and track your progress on an on-going basis.
Remember that being independent does not mean that you have to do everything yourself. Knowing when to ask for help and who to turn to is a part of the process. There are different levels of independent living. You may just need someone to help you with your taxes, but if you need help with meals or other personal services that can be arranged. There will be always something to work on, but feeling that you are independent is what makes life worthwhile.