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Tae Kim

Tae Kim

Should Your Aging Parent Live Alone? | 5 Warning Signs

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If you are an adult child with aging parents, the chances of one of your parents ending up living alone is fairly high.

In the United States, over 14 million elderly adults are living alone.

And the US is leading the charge compared to the rest of the world.

According to Pew Research Center, older people are more likely to live alone in the U.S. than elsewhere in the world.

27% of adults ages 60 and older live alone in the US, compared with 16% of adults in the 130 countries studied.

It’s morbid to think about, but many of us, myself included, have thought and worried about the day that one of our elderly parents passes away and the other one is left to live alone.

Millions of questions – most often ones I don’t want to think about race through my mind.

Is it ok for them to live alone? Is it what they want? How safe is it?

When is it no longer safe? What signs should I be looking for?

What should I do if they can’t live alone anymore?

In this post, I want to address some of these heavy questions.

I’ll cover 5 warning signs to look for, some tips on how to navigate this sensitive topic and a few options you can consider.

5 Warning Signs That Your Aging Parent Shouldn’t Be Living Alone

1. Your Parent Frequently Falls

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in four older adults fall every year.

For many elderly living alone, falling is their number one concern.

My wife’s grandmother lived alone until she was 90 years old. We knew she fell at home, but she didn’t want us to know – she was a strong woman who thrived on her independence.

But once, my mother in law found her fallen in the bathroom and not able to get up.

Thank goodness she was able to find her quickly, but it was a trigger point for the family that grandma needed more attention.

2. Your Parent Has Become A Hermit

It could be because it’s physically exhausting, but it could also be mental health related.

Social anxiety is a downward spiral – as we can all relate to our first time at the school playground as a six year old.

It’s hard to connect with people. And once we isolate ourselves, we can gravitate towards it more often.

For our aging parents, if they are continuously avoiding social contact, it can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

3. Your Parent's Home Is Messy And Unclean

If your parents home was messy to begin with, this might not be as relevant.

But if your parent was known for keeping a tidy home and you begin to notice that it’s no longer as clean and tidy as before, you want to pay attention.

As we age, daily chores are not as easy to manage.

It was easy to pull out a vacuum cleaner when we were young, but as we get older it becomes a labor intensive activity.

I see this with my own mom – I didn’t understand initially why she was so excited to purchase a roomba, but now I see how it really adds value to her life.

4. You Parent Is Missing Payments and Bills

It’s already hard enough for us younger adults to be on top of our bills and finances. It requires a lot of cognitive effort.

If you notice unpaid bills or that your parents are missing payments that they had no problem with before, you want to pay attention.

Not only are they doing harm to their personal finances – late fees, lowering their credit score, even potential identity theft, it could be a sign of cognitive decline or even depression.

5. You Parent Is Not Attending To His or Her Medical Care

Taking care of our medical and physical health is already challenging enough for younger adults.

For aging parents, this could be significantly more challenging.

More medication. More diet restrictions. More medical appointments.

Due to the significant effort required, they could neglect their doctor appointments or even their medication.

If you notice that your aging father or mother isn’t taking their medical care seriously, it could be a sign they need more help than they like to admit to.

So, Now What?

If after watching this video and recognizing some of these warning signs with your aging parents, you might want to rush out the door to start taking action.

However, Don’t. Stop.

I want to let you know that, despite all these challenges your aging parents have with living alone, the majority of older folks living alone have a strong desire to maintain their independence.

I mentioned my wife’s grandmother earlier.

She found pride in the fact that she could live alone in her 80s and 90s.

As someone who raised many children and who survived through many challenging times – The Japanese Occupation, The Korean War, Immigration to the United States in the 70s – she valued her independence despite all the challenges.

Before we go out and start proposing a solution, we must be keenly aware and respect our aging parents’ desire for independence.

Many fear being too dependent on others and, despite the loneliness, want to continue to live alone.

To help them through these times, we should help find a solution that maintains their sense of independence.

So Few Options to Consider and Discuss With Your Parents

It’s difficult to have the talk with your mother or father about any difficulties they may be having, as well as your concerns about them.

You want to have a conversation with your parents about your concerns before approaching them with a solution.

This way, you find a workable solution together.

1. Your Parent Frequently Falls

If your parent has fallen once, take it as a serious sign. Even though they probably will not think it is serious.

And they might not admit that they had a fall – my wife’s grandmother did not until my mother in law found her.

If you suspect that there are frequent falls, I would then strongly recommend giving them a medical alert system.

They can wear them at all times, even if they are living with a spouse or significant other.

There are a lot of specific fall detection devices in the market today.

Even Apple Watch now has a “Fall Alert” option.

2. Your Parent Has Become A Hermit

Staying at home may be the only way for older people to achieve comfort and security.

However, staying at home too long can also lead to loneliness and eventually depression. Maybe some of us can relate to, having experienced the COVID lockdown.

A good starting place is to start a routine of checking in and spending time together.

And it doesn’t have to all be on you.

You can create a rotating routine with your relatives, friends and neighbors so someone is always checking in and connecting.

3. Your Parent's Home Is Messy And Unclean

Keeping the house clean and tidy is already hard enough for me. I can only imagine for aging parents.

The simplest solution is to hire some help to do it. These days you can find reliable house cleaning services that can come in once every two weeks or every month at an affordable price.

Your parent might resist initially if they took pride in cleaning their own house. But once they experience someone else doing these hard chores, they might come to appreciate it.

4. You Parent Is Missing Payments and Bills

Create a routine to check your parent’s mail and any outstanding bills.

However, the biggest lift you can do to help, is by automating their finances.

I have a video where I review Ramit Sethi’s “I’ll Teach You To Be Rich” where I cover some fundamentals of automating your finances.

Once you’ve systemized your financial system, you can do the same for your parents so they aren’t still paying their bills by check and they can even check their balances online.

5. You Parent Is Not Attending To His or Her Medical Care

For me, this is the most concerning part of an aging parent living alone.

Medical care gets more complex as people age.

It feels like there is always new medication, or new monitoring system that my parents have to add to their list every year.

I’ve come to take notes on my parent’s health diagnosis or specific medications so I can be a second eye to their medical care.

We need to be careful not to overstep your boundaries, but we can help them with basics like organizing their medicine in a pillbox and marking their upcoming medical appointments on a large calendar and hang it where it’s easily visible.

Conclusion

It’s a struggle to care for elderly parents that may fight you, when your intentions are that you want to help them.

Every adult values and wants independence.

It’s a tough subject and there is no one right way to approach this situation.

But I hope the information I shared with you here can help you in some way, as we tackle this challenge as the Sandwich Generation.

Start getting your household finances in order with your free copy of the "Sandwich Generation's Guide to Financial Peace - 10 Steps to Securing Your Family's Financial Future!"

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