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What are the Dangers of Seniors Living Alone?

Emotional Wellbeing | April 22, 2024

A lonely senior woman living on her own and looking out the window longingly.

Many seniors choose to age in place as they get older, even if they must live by themselves. Living alone, however, can present several health risks and hazards that older adults may not be aware of. From social isolation to potential health risks, there are a wide array of dangers that seniors living alone might experience.

With studies showing the population of seniors living alone growing to 27%, it is critical for caregivers to understand these risks and take steps to ensure their loved one’s health and safety.

To help better understand the risks, let’s take a closer look at the dangers associated with seniors living alone and what you can do to keep your loved one safe and secure.

What are the Risks and Dangers of Seniors Living Alone?

It’s natural to worry about your loved one’s safety as they get older, especially if they’re living by themselves. It’s important to be aware of the potential safety risks that may arise so that you can help keep them safe.

Senior Isolation

When older adults have limited social contact with others, they can feel isolated and alone. Social isolation in seniors can occur for a variety of reasons such as living alone or the loss of a spouse or close friend.

While social isolation is a lack of social connection or regular interaction with others, loneliness – on the other hand – is the painful feeling of being alone. Social isolation is a situation that many seniors can face, while loneliness is an emotional side-effect of that situation.

Loneliness can have significant effects on your loved one’s physical, cognitive, and emotional health – causing senior depression and a variety of other health issues. It’s important to notice the signs of isolation early and take steps to ensure your loved one doesn’t feel alone.

Malnutrition

One danger of seniors living alone that can go unnoticed is malnutrition. Studies have found that seniors who live alone are at a much higher risk for malnutrition. When living alone, finding the energy to make a meal can be more work than your loved one can handle. Instead of a nutritious, organized dinner, some seniors will eat snacks or frozen meals – some even skipping the meal altogether. 

This can be dangerous for seniors – resulting in a lack of key nutrients in their diet and causing interruptions to prescription medications that need to be taken with a meal. Over time, this can lead to severe malnutrition and a mix of health complications. 

Fall Risk

As people age, maintaining a sense of balance becomes challenging: reaction times get slower, and bones become more brittle. The loss of balance and muscle that is common with aging is why 1 in 3 seniors fall every year

Many of the falls that send seniors to the hospital happen at home. This can be incredibly dangerous for seniors who live alone. Falling and injuring yourself is bad enough, but being unable to get up to call for help can mean hours of pain that could have been avoided if a caregiver was nearby.

Medical Emergencies

Falls aren’t the only medical emergency that seniors living alone need to be aware of. Seniors living alone can often ignore warning signs and symptoms that their health is declining. Many are not aware of symptoms that they should be looking for to help catch serious health conditions early on. 

Small details that can go ignored such as regular brain fog and lower energy can be symptoms of something far more serious. Without the help of someone else noticing these critical details, seniors might not notice they are having a health problem until it is too late.

When Does Living Alone Become Unsafe?

While you want your loved one to remain healthy and happy, you should know that living alone doesn’t necessarily mean your loved one is lonely and at risk. They may be content by themselves and able to perform their Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) with ease.

What you must consider in this situation is whether your loved one is in a home that suits their physical needs and if they are showing any signs of social isolation. To determine how well your loved one is holding up, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do they seem lonely?
  • Are they well nourished?
  • Do they leave the house to interact with family and friends?
  • Are they active in their neighborhood or community?
  • Can they manage their medications on their own?
  • Is their eyesight worsening?
  • Is their home in order and clean?

By answering those questions, you should have a general baseline on whether your loved one is able to live on their own. If you don’t feel confident that they are able to thrive by themselves, consider having a conversation about your concerns.

Safety Tips for Seniors Living Alone

If your senior loved one chooses to live alone, you need to work with them to put safety precautions in place to avoid the risks of living alone. There are a wide variety of services and solutions that can help with some of the issues your loved one may face. These precautions include:

  • Create a health plan to ensure your loved one is meeting their physical and dietary needs.
  • Have extra medication on hand in case they run out.
  • Have them wear a medical alert device in case of an emergency.
  • Keep a thorough, updated list of emergency contacts in a high-visibility place.
  • Work with them to schedule social activities.
  • Do routine home walkthroughs to make sure chores are being done and hazards are kept at bay.

For many seniors, these solutions are only a temporary fix. As your loved one gets older, the likelihood that they will need additional services will increase. When that happens, don’t be afraid to reach out to the professionals for help. There is a wide array of care options that can meet your loved one’s unique needs. 

Know When to Reach Out to the Professionals

While many seniors would prefer to age in place, living alone can present hazards to adults as they get older. Luckily, there are more senior living options available today than ever before. From independent living communities to assisted living facilities, there is plenty for older adults to consider when determining how to spend their golden years.

If you’re looking for the right senior living options and experienced senior care for your loved one, National Church Residences is here to help you find the best option for your needs. Unsure about where to start? Find out which senior living options are in your area or give us a call at 844-465-6063 to talk to one of our friendly staff members today.

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