The older segment living without the support of grown children, a spouse or partner continues to rise. Having few to depend on, other than a handful of friends, in many cases, the population has little to no personal support if and when illness strikes.
Local medical and healthcare organizations are more aware of the segment’s needs and address the older adult’s functional declines to better facilitate maintenance of the aging process. And more is needed.
For instance, the medical paperwork asks for marital status, age, illnesses, diseases, and symptoms. What it does not ask, “what is the living arrangement, emotional and financial support system, and if the patient has legal documents in order?”
If they did, I believe more individuals would plan in advance before an emergency. Other insights to capture from older patients:
—Who would you call if an emergency or crisis would occur?
—Have you fallen in the past six months?
—Do you have 3 or more chronic illnesses?
—Do you take 5 or more medications?
—Have you been hospitalized in the past three months?
—Identify Cognitive and Functional Abilities
—Do you need help with bathing, dressing, shopping, and paying bills?
—Do you feel sad?
—Are you lonely?
—Do you drive?
—Have you had a car accident in the last year?
Post hospital care is another problem. In a Facebook group for those aging alone, many members deal with surgeries and planning for post acute care. It’s a surprise to see the intelligent conversations around such difficult issues. You’d think we were patient advocates, not the actual patients!
Too often this segment goes unnoticed especially by providers and live silently in danger of a medical crisis. I hope to build more awareness for the group who is in need of protection, security, connection and support.
And even if you do have loved ones, who’s to say that they’ll be around when if you need them? Our society has changed so much. Today, family members move around the country taking new jobs or even new lives and experiences abroad, leaving an older parent to fend for herself. The U.S. Census (2010) estimates 27 percent of people 65 and over live alone https://www.seniorcare.com/directory/#key-senior-statistics. Today, that number reaches closer to 30 percent.
Another significant risk is isolation. If a person lives in the suburbs, they have a higher danger and exposed to risks like poor health, restricted mobility, admission to institutional care, low morale, inadequate rehabilitation, and mental illness.
Moving forward, organizations form like the Transition Network and many more who focus on the dire needs of the aging and alone market.
Carol Marak is an aging advocate, syndicated columnist and editor at Seniorcare.com. She earned the Fundamentals of Gerontology Certificate from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.