Can They Stay Home Alone?

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old-coupleOne question many parents face as their children grow up involves determining at what age a child may safely be left home alone. States often provide guidelines in this area, yet parents must ultimately make the decision based on their individual child. This isn’t a question many adults ever stop to contemplate as their own parents get older, but more are now facing having to make this decision. How do you go about deciding if it is safe to leave your elderly parent home alone or if you need to work with them to make other arrangements when you cannot be present?

This decision tends to be hard for children to make when it comes to their parent. This individual has not only been strong and self-sufficient for many years on their own, they have raised a child or children to adulthood successfully. Knowing they may no longer be able to care for themselves is heart wrenching. The senior faces a loss of flexibility and freedom and may fight to maintain their independence. This requires creative solutions to be developed, ones that allow them as much of this freedom and flexibility while still keeping them safe.

Certain situations require immediate medical care to determine if they are a normal part of the aging process or if there is any underlying medical condition that may be treated to stop the symptoms being seen. For example, memory loss is common in seniors, due to a decrease in neurotransmitters in the brain, yet caregivers need to recognize the difference between normal memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. The loved one’s physician needs to be consulted to determine which is the case. In fact, it’s best to obtain a second opinion when it comes to seniors and their health care, as many doctors don’t receive the training needed to help seniors address the challenges they face.

Once medical conditions have been ruled out and it is determined your loved one will likely need extra care, it’s time to determine who will provide this care. The senior should have input into this process, when possible, and other family members need to be consulted. At this time, it’s helpful to call in anyone who has worked with the person, such as their doctors and nurses and any paid caregivers, for additional input.

Questions to ask at this time include:

  • Does the person have a tendency to wander off or stay close to home?
  • Do they know what to do in an emergency?
  • Can they identify potential dangers with the aid of devices, such as smoke alarms?
  • Do they understand how to contact emergency services, if needed?
  • Can they distinguish between family and friends and strangers? You don’t want them to allow someone they don’t know into the home.

Answering questions such as these makes it easier to determine if the person remains safe at home alone. Answering these questions one time isn’t enough, however, as the situation needs to be assessed regularly. Their needs may change, and you need to ensure they remain safe at all times. In addition, some seniors find they no longer wish to be alone. Make sure to heed these wishes also, and find a living arrangement that works for them. Doing so will provide you with some much needed peace of mind, knowing you are caring for your loved one to the best of your ability.


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January 16, 2018 |

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