Do you know a senior living alone or with a senior partner who may be isolated, lonely or in need of help with basic activities of daily living.? In a study sponsored by AARP, researchers from the University of Michigan surveyed a group of about 2,000 Americans ages 50 to 80. More than a third of seniors in the poll said they felt a lack of companionship at least some of the time, and 27% said they sometimes or often felt isolated; most of the people who said they lacked companionship also felt isolated, and vice versa.
In addition to the impact of isolation on mental health, seniors may not be able to safely perform basic activities of daily living at some point. These activities may include cooking, bathing, dressing, transferring to a chair or bed, walking safely around the house or out to the mailbox and managing their medications. When families or friends come together and visit the seniors in their lives, it is important to look for signs that it might be time to look for assistance, either in-home care or a move to senior housing.
So, what are these signs? There are many different things that may be clues that a senior needs help or isn’t safe living alone at home. Here are some things to look for from our guide, Five Signs It’s Time to Look for Senior Housing.
- Recent Falls – There are many reasons why a senior may be at fall risk: leg weakness or injury, shuffling of feet, balance issues and sometimes judgment problems. According to the CDC, every second of every day, an older adult (age 65 plus) suffers a fall in the U.S. – making falls the leading cause of injury and injury death in this age group. One out of four older adults will fall each year in the U.S.
- Poor Nutrition and/or Eating Habits – Is your family member eating takeout or mostly frozen meals? Is their refrigerator full of spoiled food? Has their weight changed significantly in the past few months? Rapid weight gain or loss can be a sign of serious medical problems, or it may be a sign that they are having trouble with accessing or preparing food.
- Personal Hygiene & Household Cleanliness – Have you noticed that your loved one has stopped taking care of themselves or their living area? Are there new personal or household odors? These can be signs that someone is having a hard time bathing or doing chores around the house, which can lead to risk of infection and increases the chances of mental and emotional decline.
- Memory Loss, Confusion or Behavior Changes – Is your loved one struggling more and more with memory loss? This many not be just forgetfulness, but a cognitive decline that goes beyond misplacing something. Are they able to remember things from many years ago clearly, but can’t remember if they had breakfast? Has their behavior changed, either seeming to isolated themselves away from people, or perhaps some aggressive behaviors have emerged? All of these may be signs of dementia.
- Difficulty in Managing Medications – There are many reasons seniors don’t take their medications as prescribed. Here are some common causes of medication mistakes:
- Vision Problems – not being able to read the small print on pill bottles or being able to distinguish between pills can lead to potentially dangerous medication misuse
- Memory Loss– those who suffer from any form of dementia are very likely to have medication management problems. They may forget to take their meds, or may forget that they’ve already taken them and could take multiple doses, risking overdose
- Limited Income – those who live on fixed incomes may not be able to afford all the medications they need
- Swallowing Problems – some seniors have difficulty swallowing medication due to a variety of health issues
- Hearing Loss – a senior who is hard of hearing may have difficulty hearing and understanding instructions from a doctor or pharmacist
- Social Isolation – studies have shown that seniors who live alone more frequently fail to comply with medication regimens
If you recognize some of these signs happening for a senior in your life, what do you do? Starting a search for senior housing can be an overwhelming task, especially if you live far away. Utilizing the help of a Senior Housing Advisor from Forever Care Services to conduct a search for the right community can make all the difference. There are myriad options in senior housing and care, and they are not a one-size-fits-all answer to assisting seniors. Let us help.
— By Adrienne Miller
Chief Care Officer, Forever Care Services, LLC