Harvard Health Letter – Steps to Stay Independent when you Live Alone

Harvard Health Letter highlighted Steps to Stay Independent when you Live Alone on January 6th.  The article outlines tools that lead to independence and reduce the risk of living alone.  Importantly, “The misconception is that any acceptance of help is somehow the beginning of a slippery slope into dependence and losing control of your life,” Barbara Moscowitz, a geriatric social worker at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital says  “We need to re frame what will help us stay independent and accept the tools to help us. Make a choice to enhance your ability to live alone. See assets and positives, not signs of weakness.”   The Article highlights the following important items:

  1. Safety First – the author highlights the importance of a call button or other form of reliable emergency response in case of a fall or other personal health emergency.  They also talk about the need for an emergency supply kit, including food, water and extra medicine in case of a natural emergency.
  2. Social Connections – reaching out to others and connecting at least daily with someone by phone and weekly in person is the minimum someone should achieve.  The importance of social connections for mental and physical well being is well established, whether these are family, friends, social, church or just out doing errands, it’s important to connect.  The more intimate and regular the connection, the healthier for the individual.
  3. Services – when you are no longer able to manage every day routines without fear, it is time to seek assistance. In particular,  “when the activities of daily living—such as bathing, dressing, taking medication, and cooking—become too difficult, you can hire private-duty care. This usually comes in two forms: a companion or a health aide. Both are able to offer homemaker services, such as light housework, cooking, shopping, overseeing medication routines, and transportation. The difference is that a licensed worker, such as a home health aide, will also be trained in body mechanics and able to provide hands-on physical care such as help bathing, eating, brushing teeth, and using the bathroom.”

‘These services can be expensive, but keep in mind that moving to assisted living can also be costly. Weigh the benefits of making the investment for services at your own home against moving to a senior living environment. “If you want to stay independent, don’t make the mistake of thinking you don’t need any help,” says Moscowitz. “That may land you in a facility faster than you expected, without giving you the control over where and when you want to make the move to the next chapter.”‘