Loss of independence: What to do when you feel it coming?
Aging comes with its own set of challenges. One of the issues that cause the most worry is the loss of independence. This concern is based on a loss of control that can be frightening for many. However, there are ways to predict and recognize a loss of independence.
What are the signs of loss of autonomy?
Sometimes, certain behaviours or changes in lifestyle can indicate a loss of independence.
Changing eating habits:
- Eating less often or in smaller quantities
- Decreased sense of hunger or appetite
- Unwanted weight loss or gain
- Forgotten/skipped meals
A feeling of weakness:
- Physical weakness: Fatigue, low energy, loss of energy
- Psychological weakness: Feelings of helplessness or being a burden
Loss or reduction of vision and/or hearing
- Telling the same stories over and over again
- Asking the same questions several times
- Purchasing of duplicate products
- Forgetting names (of places, movies, people, etc.)
Signs of neglect:
- Messy and dirty living environment
- Neglected personal hygiene
- Plants or pets in poor condition
Injuries or bruises
Changes in your mood:
If you or a loved one believes you have any of the above signs, please refer to a healthcare professional for a more comprehensive assessment.
What are the causes of loss of autonomy?
There are many reasons for a loss of autonomy. Often, there are multiple factors, with at least one or more circumstances that can lead to a loss of autonomy.
Many neurological diseases associated with aging can compromise a person's independence. Diseases, such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and major vascular events, including a stroke, can be very debilitating.
Other diseases affect bones and muscles, such as osteoporosis or arthritis. These diseases can, among other things, limit mobility in the elderly. It can become more difficult to get around and perform daily activities, including cleaning, cooking or shopping.
Over time, the body can wear out and cause a loss of visual, auditory or cognitive acuity. This wear and tear can prevent people from following the same lifestyle as in the past. It can become more difficult for seniors to cope on their own.
Fear and anxiety
Another factor is fear and anxiety. Some people are so afraid of getting sick, falling or having their health deteriorate that they stop doing their daily activities and isolate themselves. It is this fear that paralyzes them and gradually makes them dependent on the healthcare system or their loved ones.
How to prevent loss of autonomy
There are many ways to slow down the progression of loss of autonomy so that you can enjoy life longer.
It is important, both for your physical and psychological health, to move. If you can, go for a walk and get some fresh air. If you need to, use walking aids, like a walker or cane. Physical activity will help keep your muscles active and your bones healthy.
Train your brain
Do puzzles, word searches, sudoku, or play cards or board games. Take time to socialize with friends and family. Always keep learning new things. In sum, keep your brain active. Not only are these activities enjoyable, but they can also help slow cognitive decline.
Picture source : https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/
Get the proper nutrition
Like a car, you need good fuel to keep going. It's important to eat well and live a balanced lifestyle. Canada's Food Guide has great recommendations that ensure you get all the right nutrients.
How to prepare for aging
Unfortunately, sometimes a decline in independence is inevitable. To ease the transition, it is helpful to have all the necessary paperwork completed.
Remember to complete your protection mandate in case of incapacity. The mandate is used to designate a person who will be able to make decisions for you when you are no longer able to do so. It is, therefore, important to choose someone you trust who will keep your welfare and well-being top of mind.
Advance medical directives
There is a document that you can fill out to define the medical care you do or do not want to receive. This document is called "Advance medical directives", and it is important that you fill it out in a free and informed manner.
Surround yourself with your family and friends. They are the ones who will take care of you and look after your health. It is important to have people close to you to avoid feeling alone.
Take care of yourself and those around you. Keep an eye out for warning signs and causes of loss of independence. Maintain an active and balanced lifestyle—and get a head start on the paperwork.
It is important to consult a healthcare professional if you have questions about your health or the health of a loved one.