Should Your Elderly Parent Live Alone? Security Precautions for Seniors

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You’ve probably heard by now that the population is aging. In the next decade, one out of every five people will be over the age of 65, so it’s not surprising there’s been a surge in the number of seniors who choose to live alone. According to the U.S. Census, over 30 percent of seniors still live in their own home. The highest percentage – around half – belongs to women over the age of 80. It’s not only the increase in older Americans that’s to blame; it’s also the vast improvement in technology. With advances in security, safety, and remote health care, it’s actually never been safer for your aging parent to live independently. Still, whether you can relax about your mom or dad living alone or whether you need to think about alternatives can all depend on them. Some people are sharp-thinking and self-sufficient well into their nineties while others struggle with mental and physical issues in their fifties. Either way, valuable home safety tips for seniors can help you stay cautious.

The Danger of Falls

The National Safety Council says that falls are the leading cause of injury-related death for people over 65. If your parent is active and follows an exercise regimen, they’re already ahead of the game when it comes to keeping their balance. But emergencies can happen, and it’s important you stress to them that they should be carrying a mobile phone at all times and potentially wearing a medical alert bracelet. A fall could leave them with mobility issues that prevent them from calling for help, which can be scary. You can also fall-proof their home by getting rid of furniture clutter, throw rugs they can trip on, wires and cords, and objects on the floor. More ways to prevent falls include bathroom mats on slippery floors and proper indoor and outdoor lighting. LED porch lamps and motion detector lights associated with security systems do more than just keep out intruders. They also help seniors see their way at night.

Medical Monitoring

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An increase in the number of home care nurses means it’s not uncommon for seniors to receive regular visits by medical professionals where they live. It goes without saying that any nurse you employ for your parent should be certified and reliable, but they’re not the only option for monitoring your mom or dad’s health remotely. Chronic illnesses like diabetes can now be maintained from home and communicated through telehealth devices to a doctor. If there’s a medical emergency, seniors can get consultation and access to care without having to drive themselves to a hospital. But it’s important that they only self-medicate as far as they are able. If your parent takes a host of medications daily, it’s very easy to mix them up, overdose, or combine pills that shouldn’t be combined. Use electronic pill dispensers, but still ensure their medication cabinets are labeled and organized correctly and their schedule is hung on the refrigerator.

Security Systems for Seniors

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Finding the right security system for your parent’s home can be tricky because there are different considerations for people over 65. Senior citizens are twice as likely to die in a house fire as their younger counterparts, so having smoke alarms and a monitoring system that can instantly alert the fire department is important. Most security systems include door and window alarms that will alert the authorities in the event of an entrance or when the glass is broken. But seniors also need to be able to open and close every door and window in their home in case of emergency. There are other amenities you can find for seniors in home protection systems such as video intercoms, which make it less likely they will open the door to a stranger. Seniors are often the target of door-to-door scams from people looking to rob them directly or steal their personal information. Not every threat is as simple as a burglar. Take the time to talk to your parent about their security concerns and get them an easy-to-use alarm – don’t rely on them to remember a password if it goes off accidentally.

It’s natural to be worried about leaving your parents alone, especially as they age. But seniors value their independence, and as long as the proper precautions can be taken, they have every right to it. The benefits of new technology can put your mind at ease. Make sure you talk to your parent about driving or alternative means of transport. Can they get groceries delivered? What will they do for fun? It’s great that you can take care of them, but it’s also great to let them make their own decisions.

Chelsea McCary is a full-time caregiver and part-time blogger for the elderly. Follow her on twitter @ChelseaMcCary.