Honoring Autonomy: Clarifying Helping vs. Enabling

As a caregiver, you’re there for your loved one to help them maintain their health and independence while also providing them with emotional support. You likely help your loved one in so many different ways, but you may have not asked yourself if everything you’re doing is in your loved one’s best interests? You never want to cause your loved one undue stress, but you also don’t want to enable behaviors that are detrimental to their wellbeing.

 “Caregivers may feel like they’re in a balancing act, and it can get difficult,” says Halie Dickinson, Community Outreach Director of YourLife™ of Tallahassee. “The line between helping and enabling can be crossed even with the best of intentions. But when caregivers are aware of this line, they can take actions to help their loved ones live an engaging life.” 

In this blog, we’ll go over what enabling is and how helping your loved one will benefit their wellbeing and quality of life. 

What Does Enabling Look Like? 

It’s understandable why you may want to help your loved one with everything. You want to make sure they get what they need and aren’t at risk of getting hurt. Some caregivers may begin to take on more tasks than necessary if their loved one has recently recovered from an injury or if something changed about their health. 

Some seniors may also get used to this lifestyle and may stop trying to do things on their own. They ask the caregivers to handle it. However, this can quickly turn to you waiting on them hand and foot and they don’t do anything for themselves. 

Unfortunately, seniors can quickly lose mobility and strength when this happens. While there may be certain tasks that your loved one needs help with, it’s important to have them maintain their independence and do what they can on their own. 

Another version of enabling is when your loved one has an addiction. Some may smoke cigarettes or regularly drink alcohol. In some cases, you may feel like you’re allowing your loved one to harm their health, or you have a responsibility to prevent this from happening. 

Dealing with addictions is tricky and there isn’t a set path for anybody. You may consider having some conversations with your loved one about moderation or alternatives to the addictive substance. 

How Is Helping Better for Your Loved One’s Health? 

When your focus is on helping, you’re giving your loved one the opportunity to have regular routines of taking care of some things themselves. This keeps them engaged physically and mentally and is essential to maintaining strength and ability to do these tasks. 

With your encouragement, your loved one may feel more comfortable in doing these things because they have your support and they know that you’re there just in case they need you. 

Consider discussing this with your family so you can all encourage your loved one to stay active and engaged in exercise and fun hobbies. You can even brainstorm activities that your loved one will enjoy and will promote independence. 

Explore Opportunities at YourLife™ of Tallahassee 

Our community understands how vital it is for our residents to be able to make choices in all aspects of their life. We’re dedicated to creating a safe and welcoming environment where our residents can build and maintain their autonomy. If you’re interested in learning more, contact our team today. We’re happy to have a chat.