Living Safely On Your Own

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than six million adults age 75 and older lived alone in 2006. For many, the principal reason in doing so is independence; but it isn’t always easy if struggling with a chronic illness or some disability. Then too, living alone has its own risks. You can’t assume accidents like a fall won’t happen to you; but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t live by yourself. The answer is preparation. Preparation is the key to safety when living alone. Start by creating a written and detailed Action Plan that will help protect you, and comfort those who worry about you being by yourself, in the event of an emergency. These guidelines should be incorporated into your Action Plan:

Decide who you will call in an emergency (911 or a friend, neighbor, family member, etc.)Tape these phone numbers to back of every phone in the house and tell the people you’ve selected that they are on your emergency contact list

Visualize how you are going to get to the telephone.Consider where the phones are and make sure there is a phone in the rooms you frequent the most; especially, the bathroom where many falls take place. Remember, you may have to crawl or slide to a phone

Have daily conversations with friends or family. This will keep you socially engaged and at the same time provide a safety net – if you don’t call or answer a call the person you talk to every day will know something may be wrong.

Have a document in an accessible place (like on the refrigerator or the bedroom bureau), listing your name SSA number, insurance information, and all other important medical information

Consider getting a personal emergency response system that is worn around the neck or wrist. These allow you to press a button that immediately contacts emergency personnel in case of an accident.

Prepare your home. Home modifications will help preserve your independence and your safety. You can install simple solutions yourself – like high-watt-low energy light bulbs and nonslip pads on stairs, bathroom tiles, and furniture. Ask you doctor to prescribe a home evaluation in order to have a physical or occupational therapist assess your home and decide which medical equipment or renovations would be best for you. Medicare may pay for evaluations and equipment if deemed medically necessary.

If you decide that you need help, visit these web-sites for information regarding home care agencies in or near your area: <ul>  <li>Medicare ( Scroll down to the bottom left of the home page to find the link “Compare Home Health Agencies In Your Area”. Click to find Medicare approved home health agencies near you, along with information on your rights as a home health patient and what to expect when you hire an aide or nurse.

Eldercare ( This web-site allows you to search by zip code, city, or state to find caretaker resources, along with other helpful news regarding living alone and aging.

Independent Living Centers ( to locate organizations in your area that help older people who live alone

Johns Hopkins Medical Letter


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