Nursing home or stay at home: most people wouldn’t flinch. Home is where we want to be; aging in place is the ideal scenario.
Everyone has moments of loneliness, whether they live alone or in a house full of people. However, seniors who are aging in place alone may experience it more frequently.
Sometimes there are legitimate obstacles in the way of leaving home: loss of a driver’s license, incontinence, anxiety, doctor’s orders and more. Those who would rather not burden their family or friends with transport requests opt to stay put.
Isolation doesn’t happen overnight, but simple decisions delaying action (i.e. the mail can wait until tomorrow, I’m too tired to go to the hairdresser, etc.) quickly compound. Before long, the less time a person spends “out and about,” the more difficult it becomes to get out.
The Risks of Solitary Living
Seniors who live alone should regularly invite friends, neighbors or family members to join them for a meal (or meet at a local restaurant, if possible, for social engagement opportunities). Eating alone too often may increase the risk of infections, illness, malnutrition, loss of appetite or even mental confusion, says this article
from A Place for Mom.
Hoarding is another issue that, like isolation, can sneak up on a person gradually. It doesn’t take long before a few days of unwashed dishes begins to smell, before unopened, unsorted mail transforms into a heap of paper. Again, the longer things are left undone, the harder it is to DO them, no matter how urgent the need.
If mobility is a problem, there is an increased risk of falling or sustaining an injury while trying to navigate through the house. Accordingly, all seniors who live alone (even those without mobility issues) should utilize lifeline systems
and medical alert bracelets to get immediate help when needed.
Tips for Preventing Injuries
Know someone who is aging in place alone or soon will be? Help them do so successfully; share these suggestions for creating a safe environment:
Make sure your home is barrier-free. Stay ahead of the hoarding curve by removing clutter in cabinets, closets, and drawers, on tabletops, and in frequently used rooms. Clear paths for smooth travels (whether by walking or power scooter
), move or rearrange bulky furniture, and remove trip hazards (high-pile rugs, lamp cords, etc.).
If you travel outside the home, plan ahead. If you use a cane or walker, bring it along. An auto ramp or car lift may be a practical solution for someone who wants to leave the house on a regular basis but has a mobility impairment.
Is the bathroom safe? A majority of injuries and falls among home-bound seniors take place in the bathroom. Integrate non-slip surfaces, grab bars, and barrier-free baths, tubs, and showers to temper the hazards of the “water closet.”
Modify the home to better support aging in place. Put lever-style handles on all doors.
Widen hallways to accommodate a power scooter or power chair. Install countertops with rounded edges.
(NOTE: These modifications may be costly. Read this post, “Where the Heart Is: How to Pay for Home Modifications
” for grants, loans and other available payment options.)
Tips for Preventing Social Isolation
Guard yourself -- or a senior you know -- against isolation with these practical tips:
Stay connected. Skype, online forums, Facebook, email, and the good old-fashioned phone or letter: access all options for staying in touch from right where you are.
Set a routine; establish boundaries. Keep up with regularly scheduled appointments as much as possible. You can say no to a dinner invite or a neighbor’s offer to drive you to the store on occasion, but don’t make it a habit; consistent social interaction is essential to preventing loneliness and isolation.
Go outside. Unless you are physically limited to staying inside, try to get out -- even just to read a magazine on the porch or for a short walk -- at least once a week.
Learn about community resources. Visit or call your local AAA (Area Agency on Aging)
office to find out about Meals on Wheels programs, nearby senior centers (most serve hot meals and provide daily activities), public transportation options, and other community-based support services.
Hire a companion. Most home care agencies offer companions who can assist with bill paying and letter writing, provide transportation to appointments, help with errands and housework, or simply come to visit and chat.
Hire a housekeeper. Maybe your Mom doesn’t need company, but she’s overwhelmed by housework. Bring in a cleaning service once a month or once a week -- however often the services would be helpful.
Consider a roommate (or pet). Sometimes, there is just no replacement for human or animal companionship. Use your judgement on whether a pet would be more work than help. A roommate, perhaps a friend who recently lost her spouse, or a grandchild who just moved back home after college, may be a desirable solution though -- and one that often benefits both parties.
Click here to read Michelle Seitzer’s article – You Can Stay at Home! – Modifications for Seniors to Age in Place
Michelle Seitzer is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in elder care content. Seitzer writes for a number of senior-related websites, including 101 Mobility.com, the nation’s leading sales, service and installation provider of a complete line of mobility and accessibility products and equipment that may be customized to suit each individuals’ home care needs. Learn more about the company at http://101mobility.com/ or email Michelle (email@example.com)
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