The life expectancy of America’s senior population is increasing. So, more people are living alone and for a longer period. According to the 2016 stats of the Administration on Aging, approximately 20% of men and 36% of women above 65 years of age live alone in the US.
Many elders live alone and independently for as long as they can. Association with their house is often a major reason. When they live in their house for a long time, their memories linger in every corner of the place. Therefore, leaving it becomes quite painful.
However, elders can face all types of dangers when living alone. Having an independent life is important, but it is equally important to be aware of these dangers to avoid them.
Here are some dangers that seniors living alone might face and steps you can take to avoid them.
Risk of medical emergencies
Elders also have a greater risk of injuries due to declining eyesight, weaker muscles, brittle bones, slower reflexes, and declining reaction time. They are more prone to slipping in the bathroom, tripping over the cables, missing steps when climbing stairs, taking the wrong medications, and so on. Living alone means you cannot get emergency help as no one would be aware of your injury.
You can diminish the risk of injury by making changes in your house. For instance, the washroom should have slip-proof mats and no loose wires cluttering the floor.
Some people insist their elders live in a nursing home to remove the risk of medical emergencies. But there is always a risk of neglect and abuse in those facilities. In severe cases, it requires the services of a nursing home abuse lawyer to file a legal complaint on your behalf and demand compensation from the facility.
Loneliness and depression
When one spouse dies, the other has to live alone in the house. On top of that, they also get more distant and have fewer social engagements and friends. Therefore, they face loneliness and depression. Loneliness and depression are linked to each other. Loneliness has a direct and adverse effect on various facets of your emotional health.
You might be able to fight loneliness-induced stress at a young age, but it is not possible in old age. Therefore, you get overpowered by depression, and a sense of deprivation creeps in. These feelings affect sleep quality, appetite, and overall quality of life.
Depression can exacerbate other underlying medical conditions such as heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc., by dampening your immune system. So, it is mandatory that you don’t feel lonely and depressed.
Talk to your doctor and discuss with them if you feel overly anxious about unnecessary stuff. Have someone to check in on you, or have a pet with whom you can keep yourself busy.
Sometimes, you need an additional set of eyes to look at you and ensure everything is alright. Because often it is difficult for you to see what others can. If someone lives with you, they may notice the signs of some illness you might have been ignoring and quickly call the doctor.
In old age, severe ailments attack when you least expect them. Take the example of Alzheimer’s disease. According to Alzheimer’s Association, every 65 seconds, someone in the US develops this disease, and one in every ten people age 65 or older have Alzheimer’s disease. It is a disease that progresses slowly; therefore, you might not be able to notice the change and assume it to be age-related forgetfulness. Therefore, an outside perspective is essential.
Make sure you regularly visit your doctor and never hesitate to call your doctor even if you feel just a slight uneasiness, such as a headache or stomachache.
Elders living alone also have the risk of developing social isolation. A study by University College London, in which 6500 people participated, stated that social isolation reduces life expectancy and poses mental and physical health issues.
Social isolation increases the risk of heart diseases, cognitive deterioration, infectious illnesses, and high blood pressure. The study also clearly defines the difference between social isolation and loneliness, though they are often used interchangeably. While loneliness is about not having company, social isolation is when you avoid friends and family and don’t interact much.
The best way to reduce social isolation is to take the initiative to meet friends and family in person. Meeting them in person gives you a bigger wellness boost than engaging via texting, voice calling, or emailing.
But if you have no friends and family around you, no problem! Volunteer somewhere in person, or join a local club that interests you. Also, don’t do monthly grocery; instead, go shopping once or twice every week. This way, you will meet people and don’t confine yourself within the house.
Lack of nutritious food
According to research in the National Library of Medicine, seniors living alone in the house are at a greater risk of malnutrition. It further stated that loneliness and depression also lead to malnutrition. The study concluded by comparing the diet of the elders who lived alone to those who lived in a family environment.
Elders are at a greater risk of malnutrition because they tend to reduce the number of meals they eat in one day. Or because they significantly reduce their daily consumption of proteins, vegetables, and fruits. Malnutrition also happens when elders cannot frequently go grocery shopping or make their own meals at home. The easiest way to ensure you avoid malnutrition and eat a healthy diet is by hiring a cook who can shop grocery and provide home-cooked meals.
Daily tasks become more challenging
Regardless of how you maintain your health, it is a fact that you cannot perform certain physical tasks in your old age. For instance, you cannot manually mop the floor, wash the bathrooms, or use a vacuum cleaner that requires bending your back. But keeping the house clean and clutter-free is essential for your hygiene too.
If you cannot keep your house clean, consider asking for help from a neighbor or a friend. You can also buy a robot vacuum cleaner that follows your voice command. This way, you won’t be vacuuming the house with a stick vacuum which often becomes challenging in old age.
Older adults need to take care of themselves more than young adults, especially when they live alone. They are more prone to accidents, malnutrition, distancing themselves from society, loneliness, and depression. Without a loved one caring for you, you must look after yourself and keep yourself safe from accidents.