Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tips for Boomers Who Live Alone

Sooner or later, the majority of people will spend some time living alone.  Even if you are currently married, it is likely that one of you will outlive the other.  "Gray" divorce, involving people over the age of 50, is also becoming more common.  Most of the time, single Baby Boomers are quite capable of handling this living arrangement and may even enjoy the freedom that they have.

However, it is likely that there will also be times when most single seniors will wish they had someone else around to lend them a helping hand, especially when they are sick, have surgery, or when they are dealing with other types of life emergencies. 

These are the times when you need to have a plan.  Below are some suggestions to make life easier for you when you go through these difficult times.

Preparing for Emergencies When You Live Alone

Everyone should know how to order their groceries online or by phone.  This will make life so much easier if you are sick or recovering from surgery.  Practice by ordering your groceries this way once in a while, for example when the weather is bad and you don't want to get out.  Then you will know exactly what to do when the time comes that you have to order your groceries.  You won't be trying to learn something new when you are already under stress.

Meals on Wheels - In addition to being able to order your groceries, you may also want to investigate the local Meals on Wheels service.  Many of these organizations will provide meals temporarily to people who are recovering from surgery or permanently for people who are experiencing other issues such as severe arthritis that could make it difficult for them to prepare their own meals.  In addition, it can be comforting to know that someone will check on you each day when they deliver the meals.  You will probably be asked to donate between $2 and $8 per day for the meals, but the service is well worth it.

Medical Alert Devices - Meals, of course, not the only problem you might have when you live alone.  As you age, one of the biggest risks you will face is from falling.  You could also suffer from other medical emergencies, such as experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack or a stroke.  As a result, people who spend a lot of time alone may want to invest in a medical alert pendant.  There are a variety of companies that offer this service, such as the GreatCall Medical Alert Device.  Depending on the company you choose, the service that is connected to your medical alert device (for a small monthly fee) will be able to connect you with 911, a nurse, a neighbor or the relative of your choosing, so you can quickly get help when you need it. Make sure you compare several brands and choose the device that suits your lifestyle.  Some only work when you are in or near your home.  Others work off a GPS system, which means you can use them wherever you are ... on a trip, while taking a walk, or at the local mall. 

Medical Alert Engraved Bracelets - If you have a condition such as epilepsy or diabetes that could cause you to pass out or have a seizure, it would be wise to wear a bracelet that identifies your medical condition and any other relevant information that would be useful to emergency personnel, in the event you cannot speak.  You can order medical alert bracelets online, although you may want to talk to your doctor first about specifically what information you will want to include on your bracelet.

Transportation can be another issue when you live alone.  What happens if you lose your drivers license or if there is simply a short period of time when you cannot drive ... because of foot surgery, for example?  Many communities offer transportation services in the form of buses that will come directly to your home or low cost taxi vouchers.  Some communities even have volunteers who will drive seniors to medical appointments.   Contact your local senior center or city hall to find out what transportation resources are available in your area.

Online Banking - Learn how to pay your bills by using online banking and have your Social Security, pensions and other sources of income automatically deposited.  This will dramatically simplify bill paying for you.  I even know of people who have all their bills charged to their credit card and then they simply pay that one credit card bill each month.  I advise this only for people who do not overspend and end up with a credit card bill that is more than they can afford. Either way, learning how to use online banking will save you money on stamps and reduce the time you need to spend paying bills.  In fact, many of your bills can be set up to be automatically paid every month, with no additional effort from you.  That means you will not forget to pay a bill, especially if you are sick or hospitalized for a period of time.

Try to build up a circle of friends who you see periodically.  Not only is the socialization important for people who live alone, but it is reassuring to know that there are people who would miss you and come looking for you if you unexpectedly did not show up for a routine get-together.  You may want to take a class, form a walking group, join a book club, or get involved in similar activities.  Have coffee with a neighbor once a week.  Volunteer at the library or your local senior center.  These types of activities will also help you fight one of the biggest issues for people as they age ... loneliness.

Phone calls, emails and text messages are other ways that you can stay connected.  As you age, you may want to contact an adult child, a sibling, or a close friend several times a week, just to reassure them that you are OK.  In some communities, you can sign up to have an automated phone call made to your home every day at a certain time, when you are virtually always at home ... such as 7:00 in the morning or 10:00 in the evening.  If you do not answer, they will send someone out to check on you.

Household help - If possible, hire a person or two who can help you around your house ... with cleaning, yard work, pool maintenance or similar services.  This will give you at least one more person who will be checking on you periodically.  In addition, it will make it less likely that you will get injured doing something risky or stressful ... such as shoveling snow, washing windows on a ladder, cleaning your gutters, etc. 

Finally, put together a list of emergency numbers and keep it in a prominent place.  You may also want to keep a copy in your car and carry one in your purse or wallet.  Make sure it contains contact numbers for your doctors, relatives, neighbors and anyone else you might need to reach in an emergency.  When you are upset or confused, it could be difficult to remember even familiar phone numbers.  In addition, if you are unconscious, this list could make it easier for others to get in touch with your family or physicians.

In addition, add ICE as a connection on your cellphone.  That stands for: In Case of Emergency.  Then, enter the phone number of someone who should be contacted in an emergency.  Emergency personnel have been trained to check your phone for this entry, if you should be found unconscious or incapacitated in some way.  

Taking the right precautions will make it much easier for you to live comfortably alone and could postpone the time when you will have to move into assisted living ... which most of us want to postpone as long as possible.

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  1. Great article. I especially like the first suggestion of getting familiar with ordering groceries by phone or online. We may have talked about this before but it bears repeating - everyone should have ICE as a contact entry in their cell phone. In Case of Emergency should list the phone number and name of a relative to call in the event you are incapacitated. Emergency personnel know to look for this. ICE is especially important to someone living alone.

    1. Thank you for this great suggestion. I actually edited this article to add your suggestion about ICE in the body of the article, so people are more likely to see it.


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