Medicine Hat Community Living Expert – Diane Eley

Independence and Dignity – Show a Little Respect Please!!!

We Canadians strongly agree that maintaining our independence is important no matter what age we are.

Our independence is vital to our dignity and we expect others to continue to respect that as we grow older. The sad truth, however, is that the respect and independence we expected to be shown as we grow older doesn’t necessarily materialize.

Many times others either assume that a senior can’t do things for themselves, or they simply grow impatient and make choices for them!

Well-intentioned family members may feel they are doing a favor by making decisions for a parent without consulting them, feeling it is their responsibility to “help” the parent.  However, even though it may come from a heart of good intentions, that can leave a senior battling a range of feelings from being annoyed to insulted to worthless.

Yet we all acknowledge that as we age, our bodies slow down and it may take more time to do tasks than when we were younger. Where is the balance?

Like everyone, a senior derives a sense of worth through making decisions for themselves.  It’s important to take the time to know the person and treat them as equals – acknowledging their strengths and abilities.

The following are some hints at how to encourage independence and dignity for the senior in your life.

Involve older adults in as many decisions as possible.  Ensure they are involved in any decision that affects their care (including what they wear… what time to go to bed, etc.) and services they receive.

Be open and honest, and listen to the other person.  Find out where another wants you to take the lead and assist them or if they prefer to try to do things on their own.  Let them know your concerns about their needs and discuss how that can best be remedied.

Recognize that participation in day-to-day life is vital.  To be involved in meaningful activities is linked to choice and control.  Continue as many daily tasks as possible whether it’s going to church, walking down the street or going out for coffee.

Above all, be the advocate for your senior’s independence and dignity.

For further information on how community living may enhance a senior’s dignity and independence please call us at 403-526-6951 or visit us at