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How To Know When An Elderly Person Can’t Live Alone

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There are a lot of changes that happen as we age, and some of them can be difficult to manage.

One change that many older adults have difficulty with is living alone.

You should watch for certain signs if you think an aging parent might need assistance or transition to an assisted living community.

Some of the clear signs that an elderly person can’t live alone are insomnia, frequent falls, confusion, weight loss, trouble completing daily tasks, and any other condition that results in physical or mental decline.

This said, when an older parent is living alone, you might have a hard time knowing whether they simply need extra help or if they really need care of the type that comes through a senior living community or long-term care facilities.

Sure, some signs are easy for adult children to spot if they are paying close attention. But what about the more subtle ones?

This blog post will discuss some signs that an older person should not live alone, so that there is peace of mind that they won’t be lonely or in danger.

How Can You Tell If Someone’s Health Is Declining

Family caregivers naturally want to help an elderly family member as much as possible.

It’s easy to convince yourself that they are okay living alone, especially if they are healthy and financially stable.

However, there are many signs you should watch for that indicate their health is declining and it may be time to move them into senior care at a nursing home or assisted living facility.

These include:

The Person Experiences Frequent Falls

One of the most common reasons for nursing home admission is a severe injury.

Falls are one of the leading causes of injuries, and they can cause debilitating consequences if not treated immediately. 

If your loved one complains about hip pain or leg pain (or if they have fallen and have a broken bone), it may be time for them to move into an assisted living facility that offers a higher level of care.

The Person Has Difficulty Managing Their Own Money

It’s difficult to watch a loved one lose their independence, but it can be even more harmful if they cannot manage their own money or care for themselves because of mental decline. 

Have you noticed that your parent has trouble paying bills on time, making decisions about self-care and other issues?

This is a red flag that it may be time to consider moving them into a senior living facility.

Your Parent Has Difficulty Managing Daily Activities

Another telltale sign that an elderly loved one can’t live alone is having difficulty managing their daily life tasks. Is their personal appearance suffering? Are they having trouble cooking for themselves or eating what they cook?

If your parent has problems with basic needs, such as trouble eating, dressing, bathing and using the restroom on their own, then it’s time to look at senior living communities where staff members assist with these activities of daily living.

What Are The Signs That An Elderly Person Needs Assistance?

You can tell that older people need help if:

  • They cannot give a clear answer to your questions (this may be due to a small stroke that they were unaware of).
  • You find them struggling with tasks that should be routine, such as cooking or household chores for themselves. 
  • When you visit their home and notice a bad smell from uncleared garbage bins or dirty bathroom facilities.

It’s even more serious if:

The Person Has Chronic Medical Conditions That Require Full-Time Care

When someone has chronic health problems that require full-time care, they can sometimes benefit from the staff and resources of an assisted living or memory care / long-term care facility. 

Most seniors who live in these communities can live with independence, but the staff is on-site 24/hours per day in case they need extra care. 

For this reason, elderly people in poor health feel more comfortable and safe because they know there is always someone nearby who can assist if needed.

Your Loved One Has Become a Hermit

If your parent is isolating themselves from friends and family members, this can be another indication that they need to move into a senior living community.

While it’s normal to prefer staying in the house, social isolation is a different thing.

If your loved one has become too reclusive, this can be caused by the fear of losing independence and self-sufficiency that comes from aging, or it could be a sign of depression.

Your Loved One Is Losing Too Much Weight

Weight loss is usually a good thing, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. But unexplained weight loss is different.

When it’s caused by malnutrition or eating spoiled food, or from starvation because the person can’t remember whether they have eaten that day, your parents’ health is at stake.

I know someone who traveled for work, so she was only home part of the week.

Her mother (who lived with her) had Alzheimer’s, but seemed to be doing well when she was alone during my friend’s work trips.

One day, my friend took a closer look and realized her mom was losing weight.

Then, she figured out that her parent wasn’t eating while she was gone.

At this point, she moved her mom into a memory care facility.

When Should I Be Concerned About My Elderly Parent?

There are many warning signs that indicate when an elderly person might need assistance living in their own home.

Signs like needing help with personal hygiene, losing too much weight, becoming reclusive and not being able to cook for themselves are all reasons why it’s time to be concerned about your parent’s health.

Other common telltale signs include:

Your Loved One Is Getting Lost In Familiar Places

If your parent or loved one seems to be getting lost in familiar places (such as going to / from the grocery store), this is not a normal part of aging and you need to have them checked for cognitive impairment.

Elderly adults who are in the early to middle stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease will sometimes wander out of fear and confusion about their surroundings.

If this starts happening, it means the disease has already progressed beyond where it’s safe for the dementia patient to live independently.

They Forget or Miscalculate Medications

Most senior citizens use pillboxes to keep track of their medication.

However, if you notice that your loved one is forgetting or miscalculating their dose, this could be a sign that they’re not able to live on their own any longer.

Such mistakes with medication can be life-threatening, so it’s vital to intervene and at least begin to research care options as soon as possible.

Your Loved One Often Becomes Defensive or Paranoid

Many seniors in the early stages of dementia become increasingly defensive or paranoid about everything around them, for a variety of reasons.

This can be due to knowing they are having memory issues, so they feel helpless and vulnerable.

If your loved one cannot recognize their own limitations, they may become increasingly more defensive or paranoid of what is happening around them.

This can lead to disastrous consequences if you don’t make the difficult decision to step in before the situation gets worse.

Your Senior Parent Develops A Fear Of Being Alone At Night

It’s quite common for many older adults to be afraid of being alone at night, especially if they have just recently lost a spouse.

I certainly know that I went through that as well.

These fears could be for many reasons which can include…

  • severe anxiety
  • developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
  • specific phobias
  • fear of falling
  • fear of onset of a medical condition or worsening of a chronic condition

There are many other reasons as well. Read our article on the Reasons Elderly Are Afraid To Be Alone At Night.

Options For Elderly That Can’t Live Alone

So, you’ve found out that your elderly loved one can’t live alone anymore. But what now?

Well, there are multiple housing options for seniors if they cannot live independently.

It is important to understand that not all of the following will apply in every situation.

These options need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, depending on specific circumstances:

  • Assisted living facility: With this option, your loved one can live as independently as possible but with the security of emergency assistance if necessary. 
  • Nursing home: These homes offer 24/7 supervision and personal care. If you decide to go with this option, make sure that your loved one has enough space and privacy.
  • Adult family home: This is the best choice when an elderly parent needs minimal assistance but still wants some independence in their lives. A tiny home on the adult child’s premises may be a good choice if zoning permits it.
  • Retirement community: The best way to get all of the benefits of an adult family home without the worry of doing all the work.
  • Board and care: These homes provide minimal supervision but are also a great choice for those who need little assistance in daily living tasks. 
  • Home health aide: A professional caregiver is probably your best bet if you want to make sure that your loved one can stay at home. They will receive some level of support and home care without having to live away from loved ones.
  • Living with someone: The decision as to whether a family member moves in with their senior parent or vice versa is one that the entire family must make. It’s not an easy one and it will certainly affect everyone in the family.
  • Hiring a live-in caregiver: A live-in caregiver is a great choice for those who need more hands-on care. They can provide around the clock assistance and are usually less expensive than hiring multiple part-time caregivers.

Wrapping Up

It’s not easy to know when your loved one needs to move from independence to a place that provides professional care.

But the earlier you begin the process, the better the chance of making a successful transition into assisted living or other senior home that can provide around-the-clock supervision if needed.

It may not be easy, especially if you are caring for your loved one at home, but taking these steps now can help ensure that they can live safely and comfortably in the future.

Therefore, consider these signs, and if you’re still uncertain, consult your loved one’s doctor or a geriatric care manager.

A professional is better equipped to provide an accurate assessment of whether or not your loved one can live independently.

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