According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 11 million people age sixty-five and older live alone. That’s almost a third of the American population! And as people age, their likelihood of living alone increases, since spouses pass on, adult children move away, and driving capabilities are limited.
In a 2012 study done by the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), social isolation corresponds to a higher risk of mortality in adults aged 52 and over. One possible explanation given by the study was that “people who live alone [have] less of a network of confidantes to prompt medical attention, [and] may be at increased risk of death if acute symptoms develop.”
Essentially, with no one to look out for their well-being, homebound elderly adults and other isolated individuals have a much higher likelihood of encountering an untimely illness or injury. Even worse, they face a premature death that could have been prevented if they’d gotten help in time.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Read on to see how medication pick-up and other services can provide a lifeline for the homebound senior you love.
Medication pick-up presents a real problem for many seniors. Many of them are unable to drive, or had to give up their licenses because of a physical decline. And if they don’t have access to reliable public transportation, or have trouble navigating it, they may never receive essential medications.
In addition, not only do seniors often have trouble getting to the pharmacist’s, but they may have trouble once they arrive as well. Even though pharmacists offer consultations to patients picking up their prescriptions, the instructions they give can be confusing — especially if a senior is on multiple medications. Having someone to transport them to the pharmacy — or visit on their behalf— can go a long way in helping seniors take their medications as prescribed.
Pharmacies aren’t the only medical places that seniors have trouble accessing. Medical appointments to primary care physicians and specialists are often difficult to keep for the same reasons. And it’s not only the lack of reliable transportation that can trip them up — sometimes, a doctor’s instructions can be just as difficult to decipher as a pharmacist’s. Having another person in the examining room to take notes and ask the right questions can be invaluable.
Even when the doctors’ visits have been completed, and all the prescriptions picked up, your senior may still face problems if they live alone. As the aging process takes its toll, it can be difficult for the elderly to prepare nutritious meals or clean the house. They may have more trouble getting around, even with the use of a cane or walker.
That’s why securing a home health aide just a few hours a week can go a long way in protecting your loved one’s well-being. A trained aide can make simple meals so the senior gets the healthy food they need. He or she can also reduce your senior’s risk of infection with light housekeeping, or decrease the likelihood of falls by helping them walk, bathe, or transfer to and from chairs, commodes, and beds.
And finally, when the homebound elderly can’t get to the doctor’s office, but still have skilled medical needs (such as changing wound dressings or administering IV infusions), a visiting nurse can help bridge the gap.
Start the conversation about medication pick-up and other services
If you think that your senior could benefit from medication pick-up and other services (or definitely requires services, but is reluctant to admit it), start the conversation early. The need for a helping hand at home isn’t going to just go away. In fact, as the years pass by, your senior will probably begin to need more help, not less. The earlier you speak to them about the options available in their homes, the more functionality they may be able to retain — and the safer they will be.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.