Seniors may be seen as a vulnerable group because with ageing, their health deteriorates and so they may need help and care. However, not all seniors require constant monitoring and supervision. There are seniors who are still healthy and able to do their daily activities on their own. There are some with limited mobility but still want to live independently. Even though our intention of providing care is out of good interest and responsibility as a family member or as a caregiver, we should also be careful not to provide too much care if it will inhibit the elderly’s opportunity to be more independent or to improve their mobility.
Why is “over-caring” for the elderly an issue?
Getting a helper is often a common arrangement in Singaporean household’s when it comes to caring for the young or the old.
“...require constant care for young children or elderly members of the household, for example. For many Singapore households, there remains a genuine need for live-in domestic help. And the number of such families is set to rise, given the demographic and social trends.” (Quote from TODAY’s article on S’pore’s families dependence on maids)
There is nothing wrong with getting helpers, especially so if the family member requires serious help and needs someone to assist them in their daily life. A helper will be suitable for such households. However, for seniors who are still healthy and abled, it is important to evaluate the way care is being provided to the elderly by these helpers. Some helpers may provide excessive care to the elderly because they feel that it is their job to care for the seniors and anything less of an effort can be seen as not fulfilling their obligation.
The problem of over-caring for the elderly is that we are taking away their independence to an extent. Without any sort of independence, the elderly would not be able to have the opportunity to do daily activities by themselves and would be constantly relying on someone to do the work for them. They will use less of their muscles and that might lead to serious issues such as immobility as their muscles are under utilised and become weaker.
Benefit of elderly independence
Boost of confidence
They are able to feel confident if they know that they do not need anyone’s help to do things. They will also feel more confident that they have control over their decisions. Elderly who are used to others doing things for them may feel anxious if they are caught in a situation when they are alone.
Saves time and cost
In Singapore, many caregivers rely on FDWs to take care of their elderly family members.
If the elderly family member is still in a good state of health, it might be unnecessary or too early to get a helper to provide care for them. This can save costs for the family. For caregivers who prefer to provide care by themselves, they need not be there to monitor the elderly all the time too so it helps to save time and they do not have to sacrifice other commitments such as work to care for the elderly.
Improve their physical health
By encouraging them to be independent, it would require them to do things by themselves, move around on their own without relying on anyone’s help. All these physical activities will help improve their mobility as they are training their muscles to move and walk around.
What can you do to prevent over-caring?
Products that replace the need for the elderly to do any activity at all are not beneficial for them. Such products are at risk of making the elderly be idle as they are not required to put a lot of effort in terms of physical activities or movements. Having eldercare products that complement the elderly in their daily activities is better than products that replace the need for elderly to do any activity at all. For e.g:
Nursing bed has more functions than the bed rail and is designed to have the elderly stay in the bed most of the time. It might not be suitable for elderly who are still healthy and can still move around.
2. Walker vs Wheelchair
Walkers encourage the elderly to continue walking if they are still able to walk even though their mobility is slightly weakened.
Getting a wheelchair too early in their healthy senior years may impede the elderly from improving their mobility as the wheelchair replaces the need for them to walk. It may seem convenient, on the surface, if the elderly can sit and not walk all day but it actually stops them from getting back their mobility.
Related Blog: Choosing the Right Mobility Aids for your Loved Ones
- Training their strength and muscles can lower the risk of falls as they are also training their balance, coordination and mobility.
- Exercising can lower the chances of getting diseases like osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes
- Can improve bone density and blood pressure
- Take daily walks
4. Daily Living Aids
- For meals, there are special utensils that can assist seniors with limited dexterity, so they can feed themselves
- For dressing, there are dressing stick and long handle brushes so they can do the grooming on their own