Important Health Resources for Older Adults Who Live Alone
By Meghan Belnap
Aging in place isn’t easy, especially when living alone with no family nearby. Whether we like it or not, there are times when we all need help, whether it be medical or a hand in getting out of the house every once in a while. It’s also important to maintain awareness of our health, so we know if we need any in-home assistance with day-to-day activities. Trying to do everything ourselves can be dangerous and lead to costly falls or accidents. Here are four important resources for those aging in place alone to be aware of.
From healthy meals to home care and education, this agency helps families sort through the various healthcare agencies to find the right resources for the individual persons' needs. Eldercare is a government-funded agency whose job is to provide free assistance to older adults to help them find the best medical providers for their needs. They have a patient support line where members can call to get answers to questions and find out elder rights and where to apply for medical insurance. Eldercare also has a wealth of information to read through and research on their website. For anyone aging in place on their own, this is an essential service that can vastly improve the ability to find relevant medical care.
Transportation for seniors
Getting to and from the doctor, lab or dentist is not an easy task for all older individuals. Some elderly adults aren’t even able to drive due to various medical conditions, while others don’t have access to a car when needed. This is a concern, for those living alone with no relatives nearby who can easily drive them to their necessary appointments. Safe medical transportation services help older adults who do not have other means of transportation for medical appointments. Many also have special vehicles available for wheelchair-bound patients. If there is already a preferred medical provider that older adults need help visiting regularly, speak to them and ask if their clinic offers these services, or if they have any recommendations for services in the area. Otherwise, Eldercare is a great place to look for medical transport, as well.
Lifeline alert technologies
The National Institute of Health says living alone increases the risk of falls. Medication changes, accidental overdose, dizziness, confusion and weakness all contribute to the tumbles. If there is no one else living with the patient, then this can quickly become a terrifying situation if they become unable to get up or are injured in a fall. This is where lifeline bracelets, necklaces and key fobs come into play. These technologies come with monitoring services that automatically detect a fall in case the patient is unconscious. This is even more effective than those with a button to push, as they may not be in a position where they can easily press a button. Some phone apps can also be used in conjunction with these services. Again, this is a service that is well worth discussing with a preferred medical provider.
In-home nursing care
If a patient’s health declines to the point that they need frequent personalized medical assistance, it’s important to reach out for help. Many older adults will go to a 24-hour nursing care center for extreme conditions, especially those that require constant attendance. For less extreme conditions that still require day-to-day assistance, there are in-home nursing assistants or aids that can come daily to provide necessary care. Hiring an aide or a home health nurse to give necessary assistance is an essential step for those whose families are unable to provide care themselves. They are better than a family member in many ways, in fact, because they are professionally trained to recognize symptoms and warning signs in health that may indicate the need for emergency services. An aide can help with bathing, cleaning, shopping, filling medicine containers and laundry. Many can also assist in prescribed physical therapy, getting transport to community events and activities, and may quickly become a good friend. Many older adults living alone can suffer from feelings of isolation and loneliness, so having that extra presence in the home can do a great deal for mental health and wellbeing, in addition to encouraging patients to get out of the house and interact with others in the community.
Just because one might be aging in place without family nearby, doesn’t mean they are alone in times of need. By using valuable community resources, elderly adults can obtain help and assistance that will be valuable to health and wellbeing. Maintaining a high quality of life is possible at any age, and there will be greater joy when one reaches out for the help they need.