How Do I Know When It’s Time For Assisted Living If I Live Alone?
A: Recently a friend of mine in her late 70’s wondered, “How would I know it’s time for assisted living if I live alone?” She has no close family of her own for caregiving. What do you recommend for people like this?
- Your friend should be commended for being sharp and perceptive enough to anticipate her own needs. All too often discussions about changes in one’s housing and assisted living occur during a health crisis. But because your friend lives alone, she needs someone like you to talk about the “red flags” that you both may start to notice, and she may need help working up plans for the next life phase.
Here’s a checklist of red flags to be concerned about:
- Neighborhood, and safety concerns. Does your friend still feel safe living alone? Are there suspicious strangers stopping by asking for jobs like yard work or repaving her driveway? People who live alone are frequent targets of scam and thieves.
- Changes in health. Chronic conditions like diabetes, pulmonary disease, dementia, and others, worsen over time. People with those conditions need increasing help. A sudden hospitalization could be life threatening if she has no one to care for her when she comes home.
- Changes in social activity level. What sort of social circle does your friend have? Besides getting together with you, does she visit with others, participate in religious activities, or other group events? Does your friend still work on favorite hobbies, or is she starting to drop interest?
- Changes in home housekeeping and maintenance. Is there a change in housekeeping and how well your friend maintains her home and yard? Is there clutter piled everyone, and garbage needing to be removed? Does the lawn look weedy and overgrown?
- Do you see piles of mail and unopened bills? Your friend’s mail may be a clue to how well she is managing her finances. Do you see unopened bills that have post- marks older than 30 days? Have you spotted letters from banks, creditors or insurers referring to overdrawn balances and missing payments?
According to the Administration on Aging, almost half of older women, age 75+ live alone. While transition to assisted living is a complex decision for which there are no simple or quick answers, your friend would be wise to start making plans now while she is able to think the issues through. Planning now will allow for unpressured time to research living options, financial costs, and locating the supports she may need to live independently.
As a place to start contact your local senior centers and Area Agencies on Aging. Seniors centers can help with services that include:
- Meal and nutrition programs
- Information and assistance
- Health, fitness, and wellness programs
- Transportation services
- Public benefits counseling
- Employment assistance
- Volunteer and civic opportunities
- Social and recreational activities
- Education and arts programs
- Intergenerational programs
To find a senior center in your area check your local phone book or call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116.