Caregiving

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Top Risks of Living Alone…Part 1-7

(And how to present them)

By Mary Bart

Did you know that living alone is not risk-free? We will be taking a look at some of the major risks and solutions of living alone for care recipients over the coming weeks.  For caregivers, when a loved one lives alone, this just adds to your stresses and the list of things to worry about.  Finding workable, practical solutions to support your loved one living alone will help reduce your worries and support your own peace of mind. Here are our first three tips for this week:
1. Medication mismanagement

Missing scheduled medications or accidentally overdosing can have serious consequences.

Solution:

• Having a medication buddy (perhaps a friend could drop by) will help reduce these risks by helping to organize and administer pills.

• Use one pharmacy as the source for all medications. Don’t get some drugs dispensed from one location and more from another. Working with one for all your medications will help you stay more organized and will allow your pharmacist to better help you. According to the Ontario Pharmacists Association, “Your pharmacist can explain the best way to take your medications, ensuring that you know the possible side effects and how to manage them, and that you understand how your medications interact with other medications, food, and drink.”

• Pre-sort the medicines for the week, often a pharmacy will do this for you.

• Set up a reminder and recording system that works for you. Even recording on a paper calendar what you took and when is better than not remembering if you took all your pills this morning or completely forget last night’s pills. As an old expression goes, “The faintest pencil is more powerful than the strongest memory”, this is especially true when taking multiple pills.

• For more tech savvy people, there are products and apps that will send you reminders to take your pills.

2. Financial issues

Living alone is expensive—there is only one person to pay all the bills. What if there are extra expenses and no reserves to cover them? What if unpaid bills are put aside and forgotten? What if the power is suddenly turned off?

Solution:

Cutting back on some monthly bills will help reduce your costs. Here are a few examples that may work for you:

• If possible, use public transportation.

• Sell your car and use a taxi or Uber service if available, or car pool with friends.

• Use only one credit card. This helps keep track of all of your spending

• Sell unused items.

• Don’t overspend, live within your means.

• If you have a spare bedroom and bathroom, consider receiving some rental income.

• Install LED or CFL lights to reduce your electrical bill.

• Unplug all unused electrical products.

• Look for innovative, cheaper entertainment options.

• Cook and freeze your own food. This is a healthy, cost effective way to save money.  Buy non-perishable items in bulk and “clip those coupons” for extra savings.

3. Social isolation and loneliness

Being alone can reduce your life span and increase your risk of heart disease, and has been associated with higher blood pressure, more infectious illnesses and cognitive deterioration (according to a study by University College London of 6,500 elderly people). People living alone often have to “force themselves” out of the house to stay connected and participate in society.  Sometimes, too much isolation decreases a person’s reason for living.

Solution:

• There is no shortage of good causes that could use an extra set of hands. Find a cause that you are interested in and call them up. You will be pleasantly surprised that they will want to meet you.

• Get Vision and Hearing Checked. When you cannot see or hear well, your world is small.  Maybe getting new glasses or a hearing aid is all you need to be better able to watch the news, enjoy a telephone conversation or meet a friend for coffee.

• Help your neighbour. Look out your window or down the hall on your condo floor or in your lobby. Is there someone you see who could use some help?  Reach out to that person and offer to help them, either carrying their groceries or offer to make them a cup of coffee on a cold day.  By helping them, you will also be helping yourself.

• New Technologies. Internet-enabled computers can offer many hours of great joy, learning and fun. There are many community-based classes dedicated to teaching seniors about using computers. Once comfortable with using a computer, seniors will have the skills and confidence to be entertained, communicate with others and do research all from the comfort of their home.

• Crafts and Hobbies. Especially if a senior is house bound having old and new crafts and hobbies can help seniors to enjoy their day. Learning a new craft, help keep minds sharp and will be great sources of new learning and pleasure.

• Card Games or Board Games. Many seniors enjoy playing card and board games. Think about arranging for a local friend or neighbour to come over for a game. It will be a great way to enjoy some fun and stay socially engaged.

• Pet Visits. Seniors often live in an isolated, lonely world. Adding a visiting pet is a sure way to bring a smile to a senior’s face. Many seniors will say that they look forward to the next pet visit and some say that it is truly the highlight of their week.

Mary Bart is the chair of Caregiving Matters, an Internet-based charity that offers education and support to family caregivers.

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