Supporting an Older Loved One Living Alone
When a loved one lives with someone else, like a spouse, roommate or adult child, it can be comforting to know that someone is looking out for them. But when your loved one lives alone, it can be worrisome to think about something happening to them and there being no one around to help.
According to the Pew Research Center, around 27 percent of older adults live alone. An AARP survey also found that 77 percent of older adults, including those who live alone, want to continue age in their own homes. Respecting a loved one’s wishes is important. But if you have concerns about safety, these are important to consider as well. Here are some tips to help you support a loved one living alone:
- Build a network of support
As a caregiver, you will serve an important role in supporting your loved one in their home. With your every visit, you will likely assist with several different tasks, whether preparing meals or helping with personal hygiene. But what about the times you’re unable to be there? At these times, it’s essential to have a network of support. This can include, but is not limited to:
- Friends, family, neighbors and other social connections
- Home health aides, in-home services and geriatric care managers
Aging organizations, caregiver support programs and other resources, such as:
- Senior centers
- Area Agencies on Aging
- Disease-specific organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association or American Cancer Society
- Plan ahead for safety issues
If you have any concerns about your loved one’s safety while living alone, planning ahead can help avoid being at a loss when a crisis happens. Consider the following:
- Schedule a professional or self-administered home safety evaluation. Take extra precautions in the kitchen, bathroom and on stairs, as they are often high-risk areas for older adults.
- Set up a medical alert system in case your loved one falls, experiences a crisis or wanders.
- Take precautions against wandering if your loved one has dementia, such as installing deadbolts and storing house keys in a safe location.
- Place emergency contact lists throughout the house.
- Contact local police to inform them that your older loved one is living alone. Several police agencies offer telephone check-in programs to make sure older adults living independently are remaining safe. You can also discuss welfare check protocols, and how your loved one’s house can be accessed in case of an emergency.
- Look into products designed to support older adults in daily tasks
- Evaluate the situation
Continue to evaluate how your loved one is doing at home, and if any changes need to be made. If your loved one’s care needs become advanced, the availability of support changes or safety concerns become too great, you may need to look into new solutions or even a different living situation. If you feel your loved one can no longer live alone, it may be time to start a conversation with your loved one’s network about what the next steps should be.
Written By: Julie Hayes, MS, Content Manager at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging