Tuesday, May 6, 2014

WHEN IT IS UNSAFE FOR THE ELDERLY TO LIVE ALONE

Source: Elderly and Home Alone
I have several family members and good friends in their 60s and 70s living alone. Some do so by choice - they value having their own space and privacy. Others live alone because they are divorced, widowed or choose to remain single. The extended family has given way to the nuclear family unit, with adult children leaving the family ancestral home to set up their own home elsewhere. Many of my Malaysian friends have adult children working in Singapore, or have settled in other countries like Australia and Canada. Their home has become an empty nest. For single parents, this may mean living alone.

Source: Ministry of Social and Family Development, Singapore

Living alone is fine if we are still in good health, and physically and mentally fit. But what if the unexpected happens? What if we suffer a heart attack, a stroke or lose consciousness after a fall? Who is there to help us, to render first aid or call for an ambulance?

File picture
This is exactly what happened to my mother in 2011. She was 86 then. I can still recall that fateful day when I returned in the afternoon from a weekend trip to find her lying on the floor next to the bathroom in a pool of urine.

I had decided to return a day earlier. Had I not done so, my mom would have lain there for a good 24 hours or more on the cold hard floor and in the dark when night came. We found out later that she had fractured her hip and suffered a slight concussion. (I wrote a series of articles about this episode. They are filed under Archives, March 2011.)

The Population Trends 2013 report of the Department of Statistics, Singapore, showed there were 109,500 one-resident households in 2012 - more than triple the 32,400 in 1992. In South Korea, such households shot up from 9 per cent in 1990 to 23.9 per cent in 2010 in South Korea, and from 13.4 per cent in 1990 to 22 per cent in 2010 in Taiwan. (Statistics from NUS Asia Research Institute).

Source: A Place for Mom

If you (or your elderly parent) display any number of the the above signs, it is time to make alternative living arrangements. Either you move in with your children or vice versa. Or engage the services of a caregiver who is trained in aged care, is reliable and also trustworthy. If you can afford it, there is the retirement home or the nursing home, depending on how much assistance you need with activities of daily living (ADL).


We may be in our 60s or 70s now, still active and able to manage on our own. But inevitably there will come a time when it will no longer be safe for us to live on our own. How prepared are we to face that eventuality? What plans do we have to ensure that we continue to be cared for by our loved ones?

The future is closer than we think, and we should take heed.

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