We all have fears, as children of aging parents you may fear caregiver guilt, but seniors face unique fears as they age. Understanding what our loved ones fear is important and can help us better communicate with them to help alleviate those fears.
Would it surprise you to learn that seniors fear loss of independence more than they fear death? In this blog we discuss the common fears of aging.
It turns out that according to a study titled "Aging in Place in America," 26 percent of respondents said they feared losing their independence, followed by 15 percent who said they feared moving to a nursing home. Only 3 percent said they feared death.
The only way to understand your parent's individual fears is to ask questions and listen carefully to their answers. Get your conversation started with the Top 10 Senior Fears and how you can help alleviate them for your parents.
1. Losing Their Independence
Independence is something you strive for your entire life and something a lot of people cherish deeply. As parents age, they may wonder how they can Maintain Independence as a Senior Citizen. It's hard for seniors, who have been independent for so long to give up one of their truest values. Do you remember the feeling when you got the keys to your first car and could go anywhere you wanted? Imagine after years of that freedom and independence never being able to drive again. Loss of independence is a scary thought isn't it? As your parents age they may start to see their sense of independence slip away as their cognitive or physical health declines.
If this is one of your loved ones top fears be sure to give them control of as much of their lives as possible and ask them if they'd like help or give them options instead of making decisions for them. This small step can make them feel they have more control over their daily life. Here's an example of how to put this into practice, instead of saying "Don't shovel your sidewalk, you'll fall and break a hip!" try saying, "Would you like some help with shoveling the sidewalk or any other maintenance work?"
You could also frame your help in the form of a gift by printing off "coupons" for house work, yard work or other tasks they may be worried about completing on their own. You could also surprise your loved one with hired yard maintenance professionals.
2. Their Health Declining
It's no surprise that as your loved one ages, their overall health will decline. Your parents may wonder how much longer they will keep their independence at everyday tasks, but they'll also wonder how long they will be able to do the things they most enjoy such as attend events and practice their hobbies. Nutrition plays a big part in senior health and varied menus and healthy appetites can lead to better health for seniors in Federal Way, so make sure your loved one has a balanced diet.
Help your parents understand this fear and how they can have a healthier lifestyle. Chat with them about their specific fears due to declining health and see if you can help them continue their hobbies or find an alternative.
3. Not Having Enough Money
When you're no longer able to work it can be scary to have a fixed income. Even those who have been saving for retirement all their lives can be worried about running short on funds. Your parents may worry about paying for necessities or putting the burden on their loved ones to help them financially. It can be hard for seniors to talk about money and budgeting to make sure their basic needs are covered, but you can ease into the awkward conversation about money and help better prepare your aging parents. One good way to start the conversation is to simply ask how they would like their affairs handled if they can no longer make sound financial decisions on their own. This eases into the subject in a way that seems far down the road.
Help your parent or loved one make a detailed budget in order to reassure them of their financial security or to solve problems that throw off their fixed income. Make sure to include items such as a mortgage, food, utilities, hobbies, travel, savings, emergency, home repair and similar items so their are no surprises in the future. Also remember to take a look at alternative home options such as retirement campuses that could become cheaper options and help alleviate other common fears for seniors. Take a look at How Do I Know If My Parent Can Afford Assisted Living or or Cost Comparison Guide to see if a retirement community is right for your loved one.
After the base budget is established be sure to look at their health care plans to determine if they can afford what's covered. Healthcare alone can cause financial hardships so making a plan will help ease their fears.
4. Having to Move From Their Home
Many seniors fear having to leave their house. Homes hold significant memories, values, and is a safe place for seniors. Talking with your parent can help reduce stress and fear about moving from their home to a new place. Discuss options that allow them to stay in their home for longer such as a live-in companion or nurse. Make sure to talk about other options such as downsizing, and senior housing too. Talking about the possibility of moving early can help ease the transition into a worry-free community.
You should be able to find senior resources where you can find information on various options in your local area. Make sure you thoroughly research each option with your parent and tour a few retirement campuses. Talking about the situation can help ease the fears your loved one has of senior housing. Remember to try your best to let them have a say in the matter and choose the best option for their wants and needs. Help them know that they are looking at options for the future not necessarily planning to move right away. Once they know what the future may hold, they can rest easy and not have to worry about the unknown.
5. A Loved One Passing Away
The older your parent gets, the more likely it is they see their friends and loved ones passing on. This can be a crude reminder of their own age but also brings significant loss of relationships and friendships. Coping with grief after the death of a spouse can be extremely difficult. It's more difficult to build budding friendships as you age and most elderly folks fear losing someone they love more than their own own impending death. Again, discussing the possibility of losing family is the best option because it externalizes the fear and helps your loved one look at their future more objectively.
The best way to approach the subject could be to objectively talk about your own mortality. Let them know you are taking precautions by making your own Will and Living Will and talk to them about your wishes if you die or could no longer make decisions for yourself. This open discussion can likely open the door for them to talk about their own wishes and their worries about losing a loved one.
6. Needing Help With Day-to-Day Activities
This fear plays directly into the fear of losing senior's independence and can be even more difficult to face when they can no longer do basic everyday activities such as brushing their hair, eating, or dressing themselves. Requiring help in these areas is an unwelcome reminder of their age and makes them feel they aren't in control of their own lives. To ease this transition, continue to allow your parents to do as much as they can by themselves, even if it takes them quite a bit longer to finish the task. Keeping your loved one active is also an important means to increasing independence. Consider a senior fitness class that helps keep them healthy, moving and builds their strength.
We often take for granted the daily activities that we can accomplish ourselves until we can no longer accomplish them without help. If you've ever had an injury that prevented you from completing activities of daily living you can probably attest to the frustration of needing help with simple activities such as getting dressed, so imagine losing that ability long term and always needing someone to help you. Talking about ways to help them accomplish tasks on their own as well as letting them know it's okay to need or ask for help can ease their worry. If their needs become too much to handle, hiring an in home caregiver can drastically help with activities of daily living.
7. Having to Give up Driving
This fear is another direct implication of loss of independence and can be a tough one for seniors to swallow. Without a license or the ability to drive, seniors now have to count on others to get to where they want to go. Whether it's just to the grocery store to pick up a few things or to a doctors appointment, your parent now has to count on others to get them there. If your loved one faces this fear, assure them that they will have reliable transportation even if for a quick drive to get out of the house.
Let your loved one know that it's not the end of the world and try setting up a family calendar with drivers on rotation to make sure they always have a ride if they need or want one. Many retirement communities also have transportation daily to take residents to shops, appointments, and recreational activities whenever they'd like. There is also the option of different shuttle services to take seniors where they need to go. If this is an option your loved one would like to pursue, consider attending the first few trips with them until they are comfortable riding on their own.
8. Being Lonely or Isolated From Loved Ones
As your parent ages, it can become more lonely especially if they've had to deal with a loved one passing away. Because it's difficult for seniors to establish new relationships, seniors can start to feel unloved or unwanted and if your parent can't drive these fears can be heightened and lead to depression. To address this fear be sure to help your parent socialize with different family members, neighbors or even your local senior center.
Take a look at your local senior center calendar and have your loved one pick out a few events they are interested in and plan to go to a couple of them. Trying to make new friends could be awkward for your loved one, so if they'd like to visit a senior center offer to take the trip with them the first few times until their comfortable and have made new friends.
It can be challenging for your loved one to need care and even more challenging if that care is done by someone they don't know but there are risks to seniors living alone. It can be uncomfortable for your parent to be taken care of by a stranger especially if the care is more intimate. Having a close family member as the primary care giver is the best option, but it's not always possible. If a stranger must take care of your loved one, be sure to stay with your parent as much as possible until they are comfortable with this new person in their home. Don't discount any gut feelings you or your parent have about their new caretaker, it's important for your loved one to feel as comfortable as possible with their caretaker.
If you're thinking of using a company that provides caregivers be sure the organization does thorough background checks. Similarly, if you plan to hire an individual, check their background before allowing them into your loved ones home to care for them.
You can help your parent ease into this transition by staying when the aide is around for the first few weeks. By then the aide will be more like a friend and your loved one won't be so worried. It's also important to remember that because someone else is qualified, doesn't mean they are the right fit for your family member. After the hire beware of in-home healthcare aids scamming your loved one and if you of your loved one has concerns, listen to them.
10. Falling Down or Hurting Themselves
Fear of falling may be one of the most valid as 1 in 3 seniors has a fall each year according to the Center for Disease Control. Balance is more difficult as we age and your parents know that if they fall or get hurt it could damage their ability to be independent. This fear cannot be completely erased, but you can help your parent gain more confidence in their abilities by installing hand rails and grab bars, removing slipping hazards such as rugs and check their medication side effects that may cause dizziness.
It's a good idea to take inventory of your parents home. Is there clutter that can be easily tripped over? Are the floors slippery when wet? Is there good lighting throughout the home? Think of all the items that could be hazardous and take steps to prevent falls among seniors.
Unfortunately, if we live long enough, all of us will need assistance at some point. The interesting questions start after accepting that hard fact. If your loved one needs assistance with some tasks of daily living, what else will be important to them? Continued access to cultural events and the arts? On-going opportunities to engage with nature and enjoy the outdoors? A sense of community where they can both give and receive support from their neighbors?
We can only do so much to slow inevitable, age-related declines, but it turns out there is quite a bit we can do to respond sensitively to fears and to enhance quality of life for our elderly loved ones.
At Village Green Retirement Campus, our goal is to help residents maintain their independence, which is why we offer so many health-supporting services such as exercise classes, transportation to doctor’s visits, nutritious meals and enhanced safety and security measures.
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