There is an overwhelming number of elderly people living alone with some form of dementia. The truth is we never will get an accurate head count because so many senior citizens live beneath the radar and alone, trying to fend for themselves. Sadly, even some of their own family members ignore the situation or are in denial until their loved ones become seriously ill or injured.
Regrettably, it often takes a tragic occurrence for people to notice something is seriously wrong.
Sometimes hospitalization can be a blessing for these companionless people. At long last they might receive not only a diagnosis but also the attention and recognition they deserve.
Dehydration or accidental over-medicating are the most common causes for a trip to the emergency room, which may result in a home health agency providing overdue companionship and supervision. If these people are truly alone, these professionals may recognize the need for a court-appointed, licensed guardian.
Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related diseases can advance rapidly in some people, but theere may be a more gradual decline in others. Either way, the timeframe in which to make plans is limited. As the clock ticks, the period of time that it is safe to live alone will dwindle.
It is essential that we pay close attention to our senior citizens, whether in our neighborhoods, churches or even grocery stores. Here are some signs to look for:
♦ Has the person become uncharacteristically apathetic, pessimistic or overly suspicious?
♦ Has he become isolated, never wanting to go out?
♦ Do his conversations start to ramble or does he frequently repeat himself?
♦ Are you receiving fewer phone calls from him?
♦ Do you notice stacks of unopened mail or anything else that is out of the norm? Trust your instincts; they are usually correct.
That “senior moment mentality” needs to become a saying from the past. Instead, the present and future should be full of questions and inquiries. It’s better to be apprehensive and nosey than to ignore the situation until something critical happens.
Ask the senior about whom you’re concerned questions such as, “When was the last time you went to the doctor? Have you talked to your family lately? Where do your children live? Do you need a ride to the grocery store?” Casually try to ascertain any contact numbers without offending him. Don’t be afraid of getting involved; you could be saving a life!
Gary Joseph LeBlanc was his father’s primary caregiver for a decade after his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He can be reached at [email protected] His books, “Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behaviors,” “While I Still Can” and “Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness,” can be found at www.commonsensecaregiving .com.