Being the child of a parent who needs attention later in their age is difficult. Fears of your mom and dad living alone tend to rise dramatically. Have you ever had a family member fall with no help in site?
It's a feeling of hopeless regret because you may not have been there to help.
With advanced age, seniors experience memory impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia that make living at home a challenge. Imagine not remembering where the bathroom is, how to put on a shirt or how to turn on the stove.
An increasing number of seniors are living alone, and have no assistance with personal care, mobility, transportation and medical needs.
Let’s take a look at the dangers of seniors living alone, and what families can do to help.
Seniors Living Alone - It’s Unsafe
A report from The Administration of Aging showed that nearly 30% of all senior adults, which is over 11 million, are living at home alone. Of that number, nearly half need help with basic activities, such as meal preparation, getting dressed and housekeeping.
Studies have shown that most seniors prefer to live in their homes as long as they can. We form attachments to our surroundings and take comfort in the familiarity of our houses, material possessions, and neighborhoods. For many older adults, it’s frightening to walk away from their homes.
Starting a new chapter in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility means that you will have to get settled into a new environment, make new companions and rely on the help of others for personal and medical needs.
The quality of your loved one’s life largely depends upon his or her environment. It may be time to have a conversation with your family member about moving into a senior living community. While it’s not an easy conversation to have - it’s essential. Ask questions about the difficulties of performing everyday, simple tasks. Observe their surroundings.
Do belongings seem more cluttered than usual, and does your loved one seem “scatterbrained” or more forgetful? If the answer is yes, it’s time to look into housing alternatives that are comfortable, affordable and safe.
Signs that Living Alone is Unsafe
Red flags raise awareness that your loved one likely needs a senior living community. Be watchful for:
- Declining eyesight: Your loved one is unable to read directions on microwave meal containers, recognize symbols on dishwasher knobs, or find valuable objects in drawers
- Weight loss and decreased appetite: Decreased hunger may be due to physical implications of aging and declining health, or he/she may be confused about when the last meal occurred
- Family support maxed out: Despite family members tending to physical, financial and emotional needs, there is still not enough time or hours in the day to provide thorough care to the loved one
- Worsening illness: You were able to manage your family member’s health problems on you own, but now conditions such as diabetes, cardiac disease and COPD are becoming more pronounced, and frequent medical care is needed
- Changes in behavior: Your family member doesn’t want to get out of bed, appears depressed or has unexplained mood swings.
You Know the Signs. Now What?
You're ready to have a talk with your loved one about moving to a senior living community. Follow these three simple steps to guide you through the process and make the conversation less tense:
- Know your “stuff.” An independent living facility is different than an assisted living or skilled nursing facility. Know which option is best for your loved one and be prepared to explain how alternative living arrangements will be beneficial. Recognize that your family member wants to stay at home, and discuss the ways that senior living will enhance quality of life (not hinder it).
- Don’t expect to come to an immediate decision: Expect rebuffs, hurt feelings and complete rejection of the idea. Your family member may have lived in his or her home for twenty years or more. Attachments run deep, and anticipate statements like “This is the only place I want to live.” The key is to have an open conversation about your concerns, and the alternatives to living alone. You can revisit the discussion later after your loved has time to think about it.
- Involve them: The reason why your having ongoing talks with your loved one about senior housing options is so that you can validate important needs and concerns. Don’t take a “I know what’s best for you” approach - you’ll only be met with resistance and resentment. Show pictures of communities, discuss the amenities at each one, and find out the most important features by asking open-ended questions that foster a meaningful conversation.
The dangers of seniors living at home are real, and as caregivers we are conflicted between keeping our loved ones safe and preserving their independence and dignity. Have a conversation today with your family member about senior living options that can drastically improve and enrich his or her life.