Is it safe for my elderly parent to live alone?

Just as our parents worried about us when we were younger, the situation reverses as our parents get older.  And the worry can become much worse if one of your parents has been left alone following the loss of their significant other, or they have received a diagnosis of a health condition.

Worries about how they will cope on their own are fairly common, so it may be that you are considering what options are available to you.   In most cases, it is likely that your parent will want to continue living at home, especially if holds a lot of memories for them.

And even if your parent has been diagnosed with dementia or other complex care needs, it still should be possible for them to remain in the comfort of their own home, with the right support in place.

One of the main worries is that your parent will feel isolated – this is particularly relevant at the moment when Covid has stopped many social activities.  For those lucky enough to have family members living close by, this interaction can be crucial for their wellbeing.  However, with other commitments such as work or young children to look after, families can’t always offer the level of support that they’d like to.

Help at home

A visiting caregiver can help to provide companionship.  A smiling face and some friendly conversation can make a huge difference to someone living on their own.  Where possible, they can also help them get about in the local community, taking them shopping or taking part in social activities, rebuilding their confidence.

Another concern that children of elderly parents often have is medication, particularly if they have been newly diagnosed with a health condition.  Are they remembering to take it properly?  Could it make them more likely to fall in the home?  The list of worries can be endless.

In some circumstances your worries may be unfounded but here are some other signs to look out for, indicating that your parent living alone may require some extra assistance:

Mobility

Is your mum or dad a little unsteady on their feet these days?  One of the biggest causes of hospitalisation in the elderly is through falls, and the majority of these happen in the home.   If falls are happening frequently, then it may be time to seek some support in the home.

Reduced mobility can also cause problems in routine daily tasks such as getting dressed and undressed, washing, cooking, cleaning etc.  Having support in place to help with these tasks can help to minimise the risk of accident and injury.

Memory

Lapses in memory can be common as we age, but if your parent is in the early stages of dementia this can of course become more of a worry as things progress.  Certain tasks may become more difficult and they may be putting their personal safety at risk – forgetting to lock doors and windows, leaving appliances on etc.   Memory loss could also affect someone’s ability to take their medication correctly and on time. 

As well as ensuring the home is safe and secure, a caregiver could also provide much needed mental stimulation, participating in hobbies such as music, reading and puzzles that will help to stimulate memory and brain function. 

Long-term illnesses

If your parent is recovering from a stroke, or perhaps needs palliative care due to a cancer diagnosis it can be really challenging for the family to be able to offer as much help as they’d like to.  Complex care doesn’t have to mean going into residential care or staying in a hospice.  Complex care needs can be managed at home, where they feel the most comfortable.   If the disease is progressive, care could be built up slowly so it’s something they get used to and become familiar with their caregivers.

Having home care in place is not there to take away your parent’s independence, it’s there to support and promote it.  Caregiver visits can range from as little to a couple of hours each week to regular daily calls.  Your parent will still be able to do all the things they are able to do on their own – just with the added support that will help them with everything else.

If you have any concerns about your parent or a family member who is living on their own, then please don’t hesitate to call us for a friendly chat.  We’re here to answer your questions and can tell you more about how our services work, and how they can support your parent’s independence at home.

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