Living Alone Can Be Dangerous for Elderly, pt 1.
U.S. census statistics show that upwards of 27% of all American households are now made up of a single person. And those percentages get bigger the older you get. A third of all Americans over 65 live alone. And because women outlive men, the percentages of women living alone are even higher; 46% of American women over the age of 75 live alone.
Below, we have highlighted some common dangers that arise from elderly living alone.
Risk of Falling:
In the past few years, several studies have linked living alone with a substantial increase in the risk of falling. It’s not surprising that seniors are more likely to take a bad fall if there’s no one there to help. (Spending a lot of time alone also increases your likelihood of engaging in activities that increase your risk of falling.)
Why is falling something to be so worried about? First, because as you get older, falls tend to lead to more serious injuries. According to the National Council on the Aging, 25-30% of adults over 65 who fall suffer a severe injury such as a hip fracture or head injury. Forty percent of those who fracture a hip will never recover their independence, and a fourth will die within one year.
Serious falls can have disastrous or even deadly consequences. My father died after a fall…he was attempting to climb household stairs.
Clearing out clutter, installing handrails, and taking other safety precautions is an important first step in preventing falls. Also, consider installing or wearing an personal emergency alert system that will notify someone if you fall.
Risk of Making Medication Mistakes
Anyone can make a medication mistake. The problem is, when you’re alone, there’s only you to recognize that something’s wrong. And medication mistakes are common among older adults. Every year there are more than half a million drug-related injuries among Medicare patients that occur at home (as opposed to in the hospital). Medication mistakes can include taking too much, taking the wrong thing, mixing two or more medications, or not taking at all. And it’s not some kind of rare, specialized drug causing these problems; it’s the ones older adults take every day. One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that four of the most common kinds of medications — warfarin, insulin, blood thinners, and diabetes drugs that treat hypoglycemia — were responsible for 7 out of every 10 emergency hospitalizations among seniors.
To prevent these disasters from happening to you, make sure you understand exactly how to ingest any medication your doctor prescribes. Make sure you get those thorough instructions from your local pharmacist – and warnings about any potential side effects. When you’re discussing a new prescription with your doctor, make sure you have provided information on any other medications you are taking, and ask about drug interactions.
Many medications have dangerous effects when mixed with alcohol. Alert your doctor if you’re a heavy or even moderate drinker.
Finally, we strongly recommend using a pill-counting container, or pill box, to keep track of daily medication and dosages.
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John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions.
Phone: (781) 378-2164