Independence means different things to different people. Ask two people what it means to them and you’ll likely get four answers. For the purposes of this post, the promoting independence definition is: working with individuals to optimize their abilities to function and to make their own choices in all aspects of their lives. When it comes to becoming more independent, everyone is different, and everyone has their own unique challenges. They can range from something as straightforward as not being physically capable of moving on their own, to something as invisible as having to deal with a severe mental illness. Independence is going to look different for each individual.The level of a person’s independence can change as other things change. Examples would be skill level, medication effectiveness, family support, and physical/mental abilities. Caregivers, friends, and family can have quite a positive impact on a person’s sense of independence. Here are some concepts to consider:
Work as a Team
An important part of promoting independence is cohesiveness of the treatment/support team. It is imperative that they are all on the same page and that everyone is working toward the same thing the same way. Increasing an individual’s independence has to start with a “can do” mindset. Anyone who is helping another to become more self-sufficient needs to keep the individual’s starting point in mind.
Have the Right Attitude
More than many things, a client has to want to become more independent. A parent, spouse, caregiver, or child can encourage and offer to help, but in the end, an individual needs to want to learn. It’s critical for the client to get and keep that positive mindset in order to make any decent, lasting progress.
Know the Obstacles
Think about it. The level of independence a person achieves is always relative. What Person A can do with ease, for example, going up a flight of stairs, Person B struggles with, and the struggle does not have to involve a wheelchair or a walker. Knowing and preparing for how to overcome obstacles to independence go a long way toward solving problems before they even become problems.
Be Prepared to Teach – AND Learn
Some obstacles can be overcome simply by having the skill to deal with them effectively. Teaching a new skill or a new way of doing something may resolve the issue. This may involve having to teach that new skill more than once – perhaps many times – before it sinks in. In the process, the teacher learns more about the person they’re working with and can adjust teaching techniques as needed.
Make Progress Known to Others
Once everyone involved is working the plan for independence, the individual has to try doing new things on his/her own. Any success, no matter how small, needs to be celebrated. This harks back to the support team encouraging progress and telling everyone they can think of about that progress. Recognition is a powerful motivator. It feeds a positive reinforcement cycle that fosters even more progress.Nothing succeeds like success. Once a client masters one level of independence, the treatment/support team can suggest more avenues of independence to explore. To learn more about promoting and increasing a person’s level of independence, contact RISE. They will be delighted to help.