Recovering at home after a hospital stay can be hard on anyone, but it can be especially difficult for an aging-in-place senior and their loved ones. Along with factors like motivation and personal accountability, willpower is a key component of any good recovery program.

Recuperating seniors that lack willpower oftentimes fall into bad habits that keep them from achieving their healing goals. If your aging loved one is being discharged from the hospital soon, the relationship between willpower and recovery cannot be emphasized enough.

What is Willpower?

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines willpower as “the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.”

If you were to ask a behavioral psychologist to explain the many facets of willpower, they might mention:

  • The ability to delay gratification or resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals
  • The capacity to override an unwanted thought, feeling, or impulse
  • The ability to enjoy a “cool” cognitive system of behavior rather than a “hot” emotional system
  • Conscious, effortful regulation of the self by the self
  • A limited resource capable of being depleted

Synonyms for willpower include resolve, self-discipline, determination, drive, and self-control.

Willpower Promotes Healthy Behaviors

Challenges like losing weight, kicking a smoking habit, or recovering from an illness all require willpower. For an older adult who’s at home recuperating after a stressful experience like a surgical procedure, the ability to resist unhealthy impulses is important for ensuring a speedy recovery.

For one, limited willpower has been cited as a primary deterrent to maintaining a healthy body weight- an important factor for someone recovering after a knee replacement or heart attack. Research would seem to indicate that willpower greatly influences whether or not an individual makes positive lifestyle changes that ultimately benefit their health and wellbeing.

How to Practice Self-Control

Here are some ways for a recovering senior to practice willpower and self-control:

Avoid temptation whenever possible

Although strong willpower is an important factor for healing, other strategies are also needed. One proven approach is called “precommitting”, which essentially means anticipating and eliminating temptations in advance. For instance, if your parent struggles with diabetes, removing temptations like cookies and pastries from the home will help keep elevated blood glucose levels from delaying the recovery process.

Check emotions at the door

The correlation between one’s emotions and their ability to resist temptation may not be obvious, but it’s there. Does mom not get enough sleep because she was on Facebook or watching TV? Feeling tired could interfere with her physical therapy the following day. In other words, poor decision-making driven by instant gratification may limit your loved one’s ability to meet recovery goals when they matter most.

Willpower needs exercise too

Some people think that you are either born with willpower or not. But that’s not true. Willpower is more like a muscle that can be strengthened over time through exercise. The best way for a senior to boost their willpower is by setting small, incremental goals. Goals that can be attained with a little grit and determination- like getting out of bed or bathing on their own.

Keep your willpower replenished

Because they’re human, there will be times when your senior’s willpower is tapped out. When that happens, encourage them to take a day off from their normal routine. Help them to recharge while doing something they enjoy.

Being an informal caregiver also takes a lot of self-control and motivation. To avoid caregiver burnout and stay refreshed you may need to take time off and replenish your willpower supply. Sources of caregiving relief might include family members, friends, neighbors, or professional in-home caregivers.

Dependable In-Home Respite Care for Busy Families

When your willpower supply needs a little recovery itself, contact First In Care. As a fully licensed home care provider our highly trained professionals support the independent lifestyles of those we serve. In addition to respite care, our compassionate caregivers provide daily living assistance support through services like personal care, light housekeeping, companionship care, dementia care, and even live-in and 24-hour care.

While serving as an extended family in the home, our skilled professionals use a unique approach that’s designed to maintain your senior’s quality of life, dignity, and independence. To learn more now about our flexible plans and hourly rates, or to schedule an initial consultation for a senior in Manatee County, FL, today, please visit First In Care at!