Balancing Independence and Safety: Family Caregiver Tips

Jan 18, 2024

“We built a gate at the top of the stairs at your grandparents’ so they won’t fall down the stairs,” Mom mentioned over text one morning. She said it so casually, in the middle of an unrelated conversation, that it took me by surprise. My parents are doing as much as they can to make sure my 88 and 83-year-old grandparents can keep aging in place at home and maintain as much of their independence as they can. There have been a series of modifications and home updates as they work to adjust to the ever-changing new normal that aging provides, and it’s been a process. 

As you work to adapt to your loved one’s changes, it can feel overwhelming to make sure that you’re not smothering them or taking away their agency as a person while also making sure you’re providing adequate assistance and making sure their environment is safe for them to remain in place. 

Today, we’re going to chat about aging in place, managing independence, and how you can help your loved ones maintain a sense of individual identity and personhood safely.   

Getting Started

Much like anything we talk about here, making and having a working plan is going to be very helpful. As you work to develop the plan, there are a few things you can take into consideration as you work to find a balance that focuses on enablement and empowerment to allow them to still feel independent but focuses on care and safety.

Support their social life

Does your loved one have an active social life, belong to a knitting or fly-tying club, or go on weekly coffee dates? See if you can arrange rides for them, or if they’re still able to safely drive, encourage them to continue attending. This schedule normalcy can make a huge difference in their overall mental health and well-being and can help them feel independent still, even if their physical health is limiting some of their regular activities and plans. 

Similarly, try to maintain the activities they’ve been doing previously. Have they been regularly attending church or are participating in a Bible study? Do they have a book club or other activities they regularly like?  Supporting their social life may seem overly simple or add complications if they’re unable to drive, but if you can arrange travel for them, it can help maintain a sense of normalcy. 

You can use the Avanlee Care app to help manage their schedule, and you can make sure that you have a way to track when and where they need a ride to events if they’re unable to drive. 

Foster Independence

A key theme we’ll run into with everything we discuss here is taking steps to maintain normalcy. A big part of keeping aging loved ones independent falls on you as the caregiver to foster that sense of independence. 

Some ways you can manage this are through changing your own mindset surrounding caregiving. Make sure you aren’t framing your loved one as a burden, treating them like a child, or a checkbox you need to manage. Although the roles in your relationship may be changed or even reversed, make sure you aren’t limiting their abilities in your own mind. Take into account everything that their doctor recommends and what they’re comfortable still accomplishing, and scale from there. 

You can use the Avanlee App to help track medications, appointments, and schedules, which can provide you some ease of mind while also allowing your seniors the freedom they may be craving. 

Home Modifications 

Home modifications can help your loved ones take care of themself without worrying about tripping, slipping and falling, or being unable to take care of the chores they have – if they’re able to complete them still and have a desire to continue doing so. 

Remember the gate I mentioned at the start of today’s blog? My grandparents still live alone, with my mom spending a few nights a week with them, but otherwise are alone in their home most of the time. They have a steep stairway right outside of one of their bathrooms that we noticed was creating a potential hazard when they would come out of the shower with damp feet, and we were worried about a slip and fall launching them down the stairs. This was a moderately simple fix, and my dad built a gate tall enough that they wouldn’t fall over but still fit the general aesthetics of their home and their own personal style.

Some modifications include handrails in the bathroom or around the house, a safety tub (or a safe chair to use in the shower), and securing bath mats and rugs down to make sure they don’t cause a tripping hazard. 

Support Services

Finally, if you need some help but do not need full-time care yet, there are a lot of services available specifically designed for managing specific tasks or chores without needing full-time caregiving services, in-home aid, or other full-time assistance.

Avanlee Care can provide grocery fulfillment and delivery services powered by Walmart, and you can remotely order groceries for delivery to your loved ones’ homes directly. 

Meals on Wheels provides meals and nourishment for homebound seniors and can be a helpful way to manage food, especially if your senior or aging loved one has difficulty cooking or preparing meals. 

The National Institute on Aging has some great resources focused specifically on in-home support, and you can get more information on many of the services from your local Area Agency on Aging, local and state offices on aging or social services, tribal organizations, or nearby senior centers.

Wrapping Up

Overall, taking even small steps to help encourage senior independence can make a significant impact on your loved one’s overall health and well-being as they age. There are numerous small, simple ways you can make these changes, as well as resources (like us!) available for you if you just need a bit of an extra hand once and a while. 

Caregiving can feel overwhelming sometimes, and even knowing to start can seem like a daunting task. Remember that you’re doing a great job, and there are many resources to help get you started if you have any questions.