If you have an elderly parent who is living alone, you probably worry about their welfare. You may be wondering how you will know when they should no longer be living alone so you can keep them safe and well. Fear of loss of independence, not wanting to cause a fuss for others, or a lack of perceived need for support are common reasons elders don’t ask for help. Which can make it even more difficult to know when an elderly parent needs extra support.
Sadly, it’s all too common that an incident such as a fall or a home accident highlights the need for additional care and support. To avoid such a crisis, it’s vital to know the telltale signs that your elderly loved one is struggling to live alone so that you can proactively take steps to help them.
Keep an eye out for these warning signs that an older person probably shouldn’t be living alone anymore:
Signs an elder is struggling to live alone
Neglecting personal hygiene is one of the biggest signs that your loved one is finding life alone challenging. Whether it’s the smell of body odour, bad breath, unclean clothes or changes to the way they usually dress, these are all signs that they’re struggling to do things that were once easy. From dementia to depression, there are many cognitive reasons behind neglecting self-care that should be addressed.
Sudden weight loss or gain
If you see an elderly loved one showing unexplained weight loss or gain and changes in personal appearance, this could be a warning sign that you shouldn’t ignore. They could be sick without knowing it or may be clinically depressed and experiencing a loss of appetite. It may be a sign that they are not eating well, or may indicate cognitive decline that causes them to forget to eat or how to use the kitchen confidently.
A messy home isn’t necessarily a bad sign if your elderly loved one has always lived that way. However, if they have always maintained a clean home and you now notice that it’s dirty and unkept, or things are stacking up around the home, such as unopened mail, this is a sign that they are overwhelmed.
Other signs such as unpaid bills or rotting food in the fridge can also indicate that your loved one is not coping well. Cluttered homes can cause trips and falls so should be addressed quickly by clearing the floors and making room to move around easily.
Trips and falls
If your loved one has recently suffered a fall at home this is also another telltale sign that they need extra support. Assess and clear the home of fall and trip hazards, talk with your loved one about mobility support, such as a walking stick or frame, and reassess whether they are safe to be living alone. Sometimes falls in the home are not caused by tripping over something, but simply due to loss of balance. This is concerning, because it’s easy to fall in the same way again and signals that your parent’s mobility is decreasing.
Withdrawn and lonely
It’s normal that people slow down as they get older. However, if your loved one usually enjoys company and socialising but now seems to be withdrawn, or has started avoiding social events that they used to enjoy, it could be a sign of depression. Elders living alone face an increased risk of loneliness and social isolation which is often expressed as anxiety and depression.
Other behaviours to look out for are being overly defensive and paranoid. This could be caused by the loneliness of living alone, or it could signal the early stages of dementia.
Memory loss and cognitive decline
It’s normal that our memories become less sharp as we age. However, if you start to notice significant lapses of memory on a regular basis – such as forgetting to take medications or eat at the usual meal times – these are significant issues that need addressing.
Similarly, if your loved one is getting lost in familiar places and is showing signs of forgetfulness and confusion, these significant signs are too serious to ignore. These memory issues could be the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, which means it is no longer safe for them to live alone.
What to do if an elderly person is struggling to live alone
It’s important to realise that being able to live on their own is a sign of pride and independence for many elders. You don’t want to take that away from them. But if you see these signs you know they need help to avoid a crisis such as an accident, malnutrition, overlooked illness, financial strain or depression.
People with declining cognition often can’t understand that something is wrong, so it’s important to take conversations slowly and account for their perspective. Bringing up the possibility of having home care support or moving to a different location can be a difficult conversation.
Start the conversation delicately by asking your loved one how they’re feeling and what their goals are. Try asking whether or not they’ve noticed any changes in their behaviour and feelings. From there, you can introduce the idea of getting help, explaining that it’s a smart first step to achieving those goals. In some cases, you should involve your loved one’s GP, if malnutrition or dementia is suspected, for example.
Home care for the elderly
Unsurprisingly, studies show the vast majority of older people want to remain living independently in their own homes, rather than move into a care home. As a result, most elders fear showing any signs of vulnerability or asking for help from others as it could signal that they are no longer able to cope. Thankfully, there are effective home support services available so the choice doesn’t have to be between home alone and a residential care home.
Home care support is a welcome solution to many families who have an ageing elder who needs care and support but is fiercely independent and does not want to move into a care home. Home care support, such as the live-in care service provided by Country Cousins, provides round-the-clock at-home care so your loved one can remain in the home and community they love while receiving all the care and support they need to live safely and comfortably.
Live-in care costs are often comparable to a care home but with the added benefit of bespoke one-to-one care in the comfort of one’s own home. This type of care can offer huge benefits in the form of companionship, improving mental well-being and overall happiness.
Home care with Country Cousins
If you or your loved one could benefit from some extra support at home get in touch with us today to find out how we can help. We offer a free no-obligation enquiry service and our expert team will be happy to provide information and offer advice about home care options. We offer a range of home care services that can be personalised to your needs and circumstances.