Accepting assistance as we age: reframing a concept

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The concept of getting support from others often comes with a negative connotation. But it's easy to forget we are all interdependent. We all need support. Accepting assistance as we age presents challenges for both the aging person and their support system. The first step is to reframe why we give and receive help; then to create a strategic care strategy.

We Aren’t Alone in Our Need for Help

Rather than continue to reinforce society’s description of older adults as declining in ability and value because of changing levels of independence, I prefer to insist that many older adults simply need support, just like any other human. We need support as we raise our families, grow our careers, and deal with day to day activities. It isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength because we are stronger together.

Shifting Our Mindsets toward Aging

It turns out that people, regardless of their age, need assistance. It’s time to shift the mindset from a deteriorating and declining view (credit Dr. Bill Thomas) to one of support and reverence for an aging population. We should strive to lift up those who came before us and support them in their advanced years just as they supported us while we worked to achieve our own self-reliance and independence. By shifting our mindset towards giving and receiving at every age, accepting assistance as we age becomes easier.

Older Adults Live at Home

With approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 each day, we need to step up and do what we can to support our communities in need. Nearly 1 in 7 adults in the U.S., about 52.4 million people, are over the age of 65; and of these, only about 1 million live in nursing homes. That’s less than 2.5%. The current unemployment rate is less than that!

This means that everyone else lives at home in their communities, or lives at home with a loved one. So, what can we do to help support people living in their homes who will need caregiving assistance as they age?

Currently, 47% of Americans ages 40 to 50, take care of both their children and their aging parents. What’s more, is that 19% of caregivers burnout. Many struggle with managing strained relationships with their spouse and children, and balancing their own personal needs. So again, what can we do lend support?

Accepting Assistance as We Age

Researchers from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago decided to go straight to the source to find out exactly that: what do older adults need to feel supported in their homes? Specifically, these researchers organized focus groups of 68 older adults (average age = 74) living in their communities and asked them two important questions:

  1. Why might older adults be reluctant to accept support in their homes?
  2. What are possible strategies to overcome any refusal to accept help in their homes?

Four themes emerged from this research:

  • Older adults reported fear related to asking for help since this may mean that they are no longer capable of doing a task (i.e. driving, preparing a meal, walking long distances).
  • Older adults reported fear related to asking for help since this may mean that they are a burden to loved ones.
  • Older adults reported fear related to asking for help since this may mean being taken advantage of leading to an overall lack of trust.
  • Older adults reported fear related to asking for help since this may mean that they have a loss of control over their situation.

From Independent to Interdependent

Strategies to overcome the reluctance to ask for help in the home also emerged from this research:

  • Older adults suggested that the idea of being independent or losing independence should be replaced with requiring interdependence to indicate that we all rely on one another to some degree for different things, not just physical things.
  • Older adults suggested that they could remember that as a care receiver, they have an opportunity to bring joy and satisfaction to the caregiver by graciously accepting help.
  • Older adults suggested overcoming the idea that asking for help is a negative action and replacing it with the notion that help is a two-way street.

As a society, we should recognize that everyone, regardless of age, needs a helping hand sometimes and that all people can benefit in some way by depending on another. Whether you are an older adult who is contemplating asking for help in your home, or are a family member of an older adult who needs some help in their home, YouMeCare would like to support you.

Creating a Strategic Care Strategy

At YouMeCare, we specialize in connecting people who need help with people who can provide help. We have created an platform to pre-screen and perform background checks on all caregivers who aspire to be YouMeCare Caregivers. Every YouMeCare Caregiver creates a profile, which you can use to determine who you would like to connect with to ask for help. YouMeCare Caregivers are available on short notice and can commit to any schedule you prefer. We make accepting assistance as we age, or as our loved one’s age, easy.