Neurodivergent Elders: How Can You Help

Neurodivergent Elders: How Can You Help

Neurodivergence refers to variations in the human brain that affect individuals’ cognitive and social functions. This term encompasses conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, and other developmental differences. While these conditions are typically identified in childhood, it’s important to recognise that neurodivergence is a lifelong characteristic.

As individuals age, the challenges associated with neurodivergence can become more pronounced. Ageing brings concerns, including physical health issues and cognitive decline, to name a few. For neurodivergent elders, these challenges can be even more complex. Thankfully, there are five practical ways families, relatives and friends can do to support neurodivergent elders. Let’s discuss them here.

 

Establish a Routine

A consistent daily routine can provide neurodivergent elders with stability and predictability, which is particularly true for those with ASD. This helps them manage anxiety and even supports their cognitive function. This is especially important as they may find changes and uncertainties more stressful than their neurotypical peers.

To create a routine, start by identifying key activities that need to be included daily, such as meals, medication, exercise, and leisure time. If the elderly aren’t mentally reliable, consider hiring a home care expert.

Home care experts ensure that their routine is followed consistently and provide peace of mind for the family. It’s recommended to hire someone close by who can respond quickly is advisable, especially for urgent cases. For instance, if you’re in Newcastle, Australia or anywhere nearby, you might opt for professionals in the city or explore some of the best home care packages newcastle has to offer.

However, sticking to a routine can sometimes be challenging due to unexpected events or health issues. When deviations occur, handling them flexibly and reassuring is essential. Gradually adjusting the routine and maintaining open communication can help manage these disruptions effectively.

 

Simplify the Living Environment

A well-organised and simplified living space can significantly reduce stress and confusion for neurodivergent elders, especially for those diagnosed with ASD and ADHD. Specifically,  Individuals with ASD may find clutter overwhelming and distressing due to their need for order and predictability. Similarly, those with ADHD may struggle with clutter because it can exacerbate difficulties with focus and organisation.

Start by decluttering each room, removing unnecessary items, and keeping only essentials. Label storage areas clearly and ensure frequently used items are easily accessible. Implementing visual cues, like colour-coded systems or placing pictures on drawers and cabinets to indicate their contents, can also help maintain order.

Challenges may arise if the elderly strongly attach to their belongings or resist changes. In such cases, it’s crucial to approach the process gradually and sensitively. To gain their cooperation, engage them in decision-making and explain the benefits of a more organised space.

 

Enhance Communication

Effective communication is vital for supporting neurodivergent elders. They may have specific preferences or difficulties with traditional communication methods, so it’s essential to tailor your approach.

Use clear, simple language and avoid jargon. Visual aids, such as pictures or written instructions, can be beneficial. Ensure you’re patient and give them ample time to respond. When necessary, repeat and rephrase information to help ensure understanding. Don’t also forget to listen actively and maintain a calm and supportive tone.

Despite these methods, communication barriers can still exist, and misunderstandings may occur. In these instances, alternative methods, such as communication boards or assistive technology, can help bridge the gap. Consider regularly reviewing and adapting your communication strategies as well to improve interactions over time.

 

Foster Social Connections

Social isolation can be a significant issue for neurodivergent elders due to communication difficulties, sensory sensitivities, and challenges in navigating social interactions. These factors can make engaging with others and participating in social activities harder, leading to increased loneliness and isolation.

Encouraging social interactions and helping them build a support network can greatly enhance their well-being. Identify social activities that align with their interests, such as group hobbies or community events. For example, facilitate regular visits with family and friends and consider involving them in community support groups for neurodivergent individuals.

Despite best efforts, socialising might still be challenging due to anxiety or sensory sensitivities. To address this, start with small, manageable social interactions and gradually increase their frequency and duration. Providing emotional support and understanding their social limits can also make a big difference.

 

Promote Healthy Living

Maintaining physical and mental health is crucial for neurodivergent elders. Good physical health supports mobility and independence, while mental health care can improve mood, cognitive function, and emotional stability.

Encourage healthy eating by planning nutritious meals and helping with grocery shopping or meal preparation. For their physical health, establish a regular exercise routine tailored to their abilities, such as walking, yoga, or light stretching. Additionally, ensure they have a comfortable and quiet environment to promote good sleep hygiene.

Health management can be difficult due to sensory issues or resistance to change. Overcoming these challenges involves gradually and supportively introducing new habits. More importantly, consulting healthcare providers familiar with neurodivergence can offer personalised strategies and additional support.

 

Final Thoughts

Supporting neurodivergent elders is crucial because it significantly improves their quality of life and helps them maintain their independence. This support can improve mental and physical health, reduce stress, and enhance social connections. If you’re ever confused about how to help, it’s always recommended that you speak to professionals for guidance.

 

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