Independence is an important part of living a happy and high-quality life. For seniors, maintaining their freedom can be a joyful experience and allow them to continue living in their home after the passing of a spouse. However, elderly persons living alone also face an increased risk of injury or illness that can quickly steal their independence away. If you or a family member is a senior living alone, know the risks and take steps to stay safe and healthy in your home.
Dangers of Living Alone as a Senior
In the United States, about 13.8 million people over the age of 65 live alone. This equates to about 34 percent of elderly women and 20 percent of elderly men living on their own. As a person gets older, they are more likely to live alone due to their spouse or companion passing away. For example, about 45 percent of women over 75 live alone. While maintaining independence in old age is a great privilege, it can also come with many risks. Seniors may be more likely to suffer an injury or accident, and if they live alone, they may be unable to get the help they need in time. If you are a senior or have elderly relatives living on their own, be aware of the risk factors of living alone as a senior.
- Injuries From Falls
Each year, more than 25 percent of people over the age of 65 experience a fall. About three million seniors go to the emergency room due to fall injuries yearly, and more than 800,000 elderly persons are hospitalized from these injuries. Even minor falls can make a senior afraid of falling again, and this fear may hinder their participation in everyday activities. If an elderly person becomes less active, they may become physically weaker, which can increase their risk of falling again in the future. Experiencing a serious fall is one of the biggest dangers of living alone as a senior.
- Lack of Emergency Help
Seniors who live alone may be unable to contact help in case of an emergency. If an elderly person falls and is unable to get up or reach a phone, they may be stuck for hours or days if they live on their own.
- Increased Risk of Accidental Overdose
Many seniors take pills daily for everything from dietary supplements to medications for mental health or pain relief. Elderly persons who have dementia may have a hard time remembering whether or not they have taken their medication that day and could accidentally take their medication twice, three times or several times in a single day. In some cases, accidentally taking more than the correct daily dose may have minimal impact, but in other cases, the mistake could be fatal.
- Social Isolation
Seniors who live alone may not interact with other people on a daily basis. This social isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and can also have more serious mental and physical impacts. Social isolation can increase a person’s risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and infectious illness. Living in isolation can also damage mental health and cause depression and anxiety.
- Decline in Mental Health
Social isolation can lead to depression, which can cause damaging health impacts, such as insomnia, reduced appetite, lack of energy and even physical pain. Depression can also contribute to anxious feelings an elderly person may have, making them feel less safe in their home. Anxiety brings its own negative impacts, such as increased heart rate, restlessness and feeling weak or tired.
Seniors who live alone may experience changes in appetite from depression or anxiety that lead to malnutrition. In other instances, a senior may be living in poverty due to a lack of adequate retirement funds and be unable to purchase nutritious food. Malnutrition can make an elderly person weaker and more likely to get sick or fall.
- Untidy Home
Older persons living alone may be unable to maintain regular housekeeping due to fatigue or physical inability. If clutter builds up in their home, this can make slips and falls more likely as well as increasing their risk of illness from an unhygienic living space.
- Risk of Missing Symptoms
When a person lives alone, they do not have another person around on a daily basis to provide an outside perspective on their well-being. For an elderly person living alone, this could mean that symptoms of dementia, depression, anxiety or another illness are not recognized right away. Delaying treatment for a disease or illness could lead to a faster decline in mental or physical health.
18 Safety Tips for Seniors Living Alone
When an elderly person lives alone, they should take steps to protect themselves and stay healthy. Even a healthy senior faces security risks when living on their own that can be reduced by following these senior safety tips.
- Install a Medical Alert System
One of the best ways for a senior living alone to protect themselves from fatal falls, injuries or medical emergencies is to install a medical alert system. These security devices include a wireless remote that can be activated from anywhere in the senior’s home should they need assistance and cannot reach the phone. Medical alert systems notify emergency services immediately so they can respond quickly.
- Use a Fall Monitoring Device
In addition to a medical alert system, elderly persons can wear a fall monitoring device that automatically recognizes if they have fallen. These devices can be lifesaving if the senior becomes unconscious due to a fall and cannot activate the medical alert system.
- Install a Home Security Camera
Installing a home security camera is another great measure to protect your home as a senior living alone. Elderly persons are more likely to be targeted by thieves, but having a surveillance camera can reduce this risk. If a home invasion or robbery does occur, video footage can be used to identify the criminal. Home security cameras can also be monitored remotely by the elderly person’s family members, so they can check in from anywhere.
- Practice Other Security Measures
Seniors living alone may choose to install a burglar alarm system that notifies police if someone attempts to break in. Installing a peephole in the front door also allows seniors to see who is outside before opening the door. Because elderly persons are more likely to be targeted by thieves, they should make sure to lock all windows and doors when they are not home.
- Pick up Packages
When a senior is traveling, they should ask a family member or neighbor to pick up their packages and mail so that their home does not appear vacant. If packages are left outside, their house may be targeted by thieves.
- Install Railings
To reduce the risk of falling, seniors living alone should install railings in areas where they are likely to fall. Railings can be installed in showers and tubs where the floor may be slippery, as well as along both sides of staircases where they may lose their balance.
- Create Slip-Proof Floors
To prevent slips, seniors can use double-sided tape under rugs to prevent them from sliding or install non-slip mats in areas with tiled floors. Using a doormat can prevent water from being tracked into the house and leaving slick puddles.
- Remove Tripping Hazards
Removing clutter from a senior’s home is a simple but effective way to reduce their risk of falling. Other tripping hazards, such as stray wires or loose floorboards, should also be repaired. Seniors should organize their home so that everything they need is within reach without climbing on a stool or ladder. Elderly persons living alone should perform a home safety assessment to remove any hazards that could lead to a fall or other injury.
- Install Good Lighting
As seniors age, their eyesight may decline, making good lighting essential both inside and outside their home. Good indoor lighting will help seniors see hazards on the ground to reduce the risk of falls. Effective lighting outside can prevent slips on ice or porch steps. Motion-activated lights indoors may be a great option for elderly persons who use a cane or walker so they do not need to manually turn lights on when they enter the room. Motion sensor porch lights can also help to discourage thieves and prevent home invasions.
- Get to Know the Neighbors
Seniors living alone should get to know their neighbors so they can reach out to them in an emergency. Building a relationship with neighbors creates a safer community and makes their neighbors more likely to check in if something seems off.
- Keep Emergency Contact Information Available
As memory declines with age, a senior may not remember phone numbers for their family members or other important contacts. Important phone numbers should be written down beside the telephone in case of an emergency so they are easily accessible. Seniors may also keep another copy of emergency contact information in their purse or wallet. This emergency contact list should include family members, trusted neighbors, the fire department, police and the hospital. If the senior has a mobile phone, emergency contacts can also be added on speed dial.
- Improve Fire Safety
Due to limited mobility, some elderly persons are at greater risk of being harmed in a fire. Seniors living alone should be sure to have a fire safety plan and check the batteries in their fire alarms regularly.
- Create a Disaster Kit
Seniors living alone should have a disaster kit in their home in case of blackouts, blizzards or a natural disaster. This kit should contain candles, a flashlight, extra batteries, bottled water, canned food, extra blankets and basic medical supplies.
- Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
By eating well and exercising regularly, seniors can reduce their risk of illness and injury. Seniors who maintain a healthy lifestyle may have better balance which reduces their risk of falling. Practicing healthy living and maintaining a regular sleep schedule can also boost mental health and help slow the onset of dementia.
- Have Regular Check-ups
As a person gets older, it becomes increasingly important to have regular check-ups. A doctor can make sure a senior is taking the correct medication and can identify any health risks early. A doctor can also assess an elderly person’s risk of falling by examining their muscle strength, balance and mobility.
- Have Regular Eye Exams
Seniors should also have eye exams regularly as poor vision can increase their risk of falling. Bifocal glasses can also increase a senior’s risk of falling due to blurred areas of vision. Regular eye exams ensure the senior has the correct prescription and allows any vision problems to be addressed early.
- Take Precautions for Medication Safety
Seniors who take daily medication should always keep extra medication in their home. If a senior forgets to reorder an important medication, having a backup supply can be a lifesaver. Elderly persons with dementia should use a pill organizer to protect against the risk of accidental overdose.
- Check in With Friends and Family Regularly
Living alone does not mean that you are alone. Seniors living by themselves should reach out to friends and family members on a regular basis or ask them to check in. Checking in regularly with friends and family can improve mental health, reduce social isolation and help make a senior feel safer living on their own. Seniors seeking more social involvement can join a local book club or walking group to build a social network in their community.
By following these senior safety tips, elderly persons on their own can feel safer and prevent falls and injuries. With improved social life and mental health, elderly persons can enjoy living alone and feel more comfortable in their home.
Home Safety Checklist for Seniors
Seniors living alone should assess their home safety to ensure they are not putting themselves at greater security or health risk. If you are a senior living alone or have an elderly family member, use this elderly home safety checklist to stay safe and healthy:
- Install a medical alert system and fall monitoring device
- Install an effective home security system
- Install railings and slip-proof mats
- Remove tripping hazards
- Install good lighting
- Get to know your neighbors
- Keep emergency contact information accessible
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle
- Have regular check-ups and eye appointments
- Ask family and friends to check in regularly
Medical Alarm Systems From Wayne Alarm Systems
If you want to stay safe and secure as a senior living alone, choose a medical alert system from Wayne Alarm Systems. Our advanced medical alert systems are fully-monitored to provide emergency assistance 24/7. When you press the call button, a trained professional at Wayne Alarm Systems will respond immediately to assess the situation and notify the appropriate emergency services. Our medical alert system is also equipped with high-quality microphones that can pick up distress calls if a senior is unable to activate the call button. These highly-sensitive microphones can even detect distress calls from another room or outside the senior’s home.
In an emergency, our medical alert systems offer the efficiency and speed that are essential to prevent fatal consequences. With half a century of experience under our belt, Wayne Alarm Systems has the knowledge to keep you and your home safe. Contact us for more information about our medical alert systems or to schedule your installation today.