How can I help my dad become independent of care?

1 answer | Last updated: Jul 02, 2010
Jl1996 asked...

My dad, who is 90 years-old, had passed out due to irregular heartbeat and has been in the hospital and a rehab center for over six weeks. He will be moving into an assisted living facility when he leaves the rehab center. However, after being in these health care institutions, he no longer remembers how to take care of himself. He is capable of dressing, bathing, getting in and out of bed and pulling the blankets over him at night, but he's so used to other people helping him do these things for him, he can't remember how to do them himself. The physical therapist shows him how to do these things, but he always looks for someone else to help him. Any suggestions on how I can help him understand that he can take care of himself?

Expert Answers

Laura Juel is an occupational therapist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. She works in the Outpatient Occupational Therapy Program and the Duke Driving Program for older drivers.

I would talk with the occupational and physical therapist from his rehab setting to get an idea of the amount of assistance and best approach for him to carry out his self care tasks. It would also be helpful to find out how much help is provided in the assisted living facility. Your dad's illness and recent hospitalizations seem to have had a major impact on his well being- both physical and psychological. Having a conversation with him about what he would like to work on or be able to do for himself would be a start. For example, have someone pick out his clothes with the expectation that he will sit in a bedroom chair and dress himself every morning. This structure will provide some consistency and assistance can be gradually scaled back as he improves. The nurses can document a care plan for the level of assistance he requires, improving the likelihood of carry over between staff.  An occupational therapist could provide some insight into setting up a morning routine for bathing and self care, gradually advancing him to getting himself to the dining hall and maybe a group activity. If your dad is unable to formulate any goals and you feel that there is a change in his demeanor, you may want to discuss with his physician the possibility of depression. Your dad had a frightening event and spent weeks in hospital where most of the care was provided to him. It will take some time for him to readjust to a new home setting and take control of his daily life.