Independence vital for all Americans
Dr. Chrissy Whiting-Madison
It is once again the time of year when we all take a moment to pause and reflect on the price of freedom.
The truth is freedom is never truly free. Perhaps to those of us who have never experienced active combat or lost a loved one while serving, it can easily be taken for granted. However, the truth remains the same — countless individuals have paid the ultimate price so we can choose the life we which to live.
Can you imagine a life without freedom and the toll it would have on your mental health? Many of our seniors, especially many of our veterans, battle this reality every day. Each morning they are forced to wake up in an existence where freedom diminishes more and more with each passing hour.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), our seniors and elderly veterans are struggling. As these individuals age, their health and well-being are being impacted greatly. We expect our mother will be unhappy when we take away her car keys, determining it is no longer safe for her to drive. We expect our father to protest when we suggest hiring an in-home caregiver. We know grandma will resist when we start the process of moving her into a retirement community or even a more comprehensive senior health center. Knowing and expecting these reactions does not make these transitions any easier on our beloved senior family members; rather these difficulties can result in long term outcomes, such as depression, anxiety, anger, fear and guilt.
What can be done to ease this transition from freedom to limited independence? Some research suggests that maintaining social connection is the answer. This can be as simple as maintaining social events, such as the monthly bunco party or poker game. However, it may not always be so simple. Our seniors often do not possess the ability to maintain social commitments like they used to. When this happens, all is not lost. One solution would be the hiring of an interactive caregiver. Rather than the traditional caregiver, an interactive caregiver provides care along with the senior, working as friends and partners, rather than a nurse or assistant.
If this type of assistance isn’t in the monthly budget, considering using technology to facilitate more freedom and independence. Technology is available for nearly any conceivable senior need. In fact it can assist with anything from money management to medication schedules to emergency alerts.
If your beloved senior continues to show signs of struggle, it may become beneficial for them to not live at home. Although feeling counterintuitive, living in a community setting allows for ample social opportunities, new friendships and a comradery, which is only understandable to those which are experiencing the same struggle. Well-intentioned family tries to visit as much as possible; however, the loneliness does eventually settle in. Living with others like yourself can alleviate the loneliness and provide a better quality of life.
So many gave their lives for us to enjoy the independence and freedom we usually take for granted. It is time for us to realize these luxuries are for all Americans, not just the young and vital, but for all of those that call the land of the free their home.
Dr. Chrissy Whiting-Madison is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Sociology at Rogers State University.