Are you Independently Living or Independently Existing?
Some people you meet seem tough and stern on the outside but, actually, the end up being soft and squishy. Like a marshmallow on the inside. The first time I met Ruth she was an administration officer at a local charity group. Basically you could see that Ruth ran the show. We were chatting about hiring a room for a couple hours for my project. During the chat Ruth mentioned her 90 year old mother still lived at home independently. That is remarkable, considering 80% of people living at home past 90 years of age have a disability.
What is Independent Living?
Being the chatterbox, I wanted to know more about Ruth’s remarkable mother who manages to live independently at home. I have been working in the healthcare industry for a long time. I heard Ruth say “independent living” alarm bells rang in my head. The definition of “Independent Living” has many different levels and varies from person to person.
Independant Existing, Not Living
I met an 86 year old lady living independently in her own house. Thelma was a diabetic and needed help with administering her insulin. I first walked into the house thinking I had the wrong address. Thelma had built that house with her husband nearly 70 years earlier. Thelma walked with a rolling frame and received government assistance for food and utility bills. The house was in a dilapidated state with rotten front steps, rain gutters fallen off the roof, holes the size of dinner plates in the floor and no back wall to the house. Thelma was basically trapped between a kitchen and her bedroom because of the holes in the floor. It was a lonely existence totally exposed to the elements. Thelma was just existing, not living independently.
By extreme contrast to Thelma’s living circumstances. I visited a 52 year old male with a rare muscle degenerative disease living at home with his wife as a carer. John and Barbara lived in a 2 bedroom ground floor flat that was well maintained and modified to accommodate John’s wheelchair. Barbara had everything organised from hygiene needs to meals and medication times. John was living a fulfilling life independently from an institution with the support of Barbara his amazing wife.
Help Arrived Like Buses
Ruth’s mother’s name was Kate. To stop the alarm bells ringing, I wanted to know how independent is Kate’s home life. Ruth explained the scenario to me. Ruth’s brother was living with Kate to ensure all went well in the house. He was the carer and did all the shopping because the weight of the shopping bags was too heavy for Kate to manage. He also went to town to pay the bills. Kate could get around with a walking stick and was able to walk around the house. Ruth smiled when she said “It’s like watching an episode of Mother and Son” (Australian TV show). Kate is stubborn and had a set way of doing anything. “They argue and pick on each other all time,” Ruth said. Everything from what’s for dinner to watching the TV.
Kate had organised all the home help by herself. Ruth was rattling off the list of services Kate had organised. The hairdresser visited once a week. The gardener visited once a week. Meals on wheels visited four times a week. Podiatrist every second week. A person to wash the windows monthly. Ruth laughed and said “The helpers are like buses, you don’t see anyone for days then they all turn up at once.” Kate is very proactive and made sure her needs were met.
Most people trying to live independently usually struggle to live like Kate because of a couple of reasons. Money is a major factor that inhibits people living a fulfilling life. The amount of money required in retirement to live independently is very high. Thelma, in her “independent existing” struggled to live on what was provided by the government. In contrast here, Kate managed to continue living well.
Unknown resources is another major reason people cannot live independently. It is hard to find the right people to talk to about what services are provided in the community, let alone work out what services you need.
Remember there are local agencies in the community to help maintain or improve your quality of life. You need patience and persistence to find the services so you can live an independent life.
For more skills on assisting people to live at home sign up now to iNightingale.
P.S Are you a carer with similar experience as Ruth and Family? Tell me your story about what sort of resources you have found to support independent living
Mother and son Australian TV comedy show: See Mother and Son description
Number of 90-plus people likely to quadruple by 2050