Sunday, January 15, 2006

living alone

Research shows that independence is vital to most older people and crucial to their self-esteem. The vast majority of elderly are eager to maintain their own homes to maintain their independence and the freedom to control their own lives-in short, their autonomy.
Maintaining a home provides mental and physical stimulation because it requires responsibility.
Decisions must be made about what to clean, when to do the laundry, whether to paint the house this year or cut down that old tree. These decisions and their resulting activities keep the elderly physically active and mentally alert. Having one's own home also provides privacy, another factor contributing to self-esteem.
If the elderly become ill or incapacitated in some way, it may still be possible for them to remain in their homes. Friends, neighbors, and church are usually nearby, offering them support and reassurance. Many public and private services are available to provide assistance. Meals on Wheels will bring one hot meal a day, guaranteeing not only a balanced meal but personal contact to evaluate the aged person's needs. Telephone programs are available whereby a volunteer calls daily, usually at a predetermined time, and if no one answers, the caller immediately telephones the responsible parties (family members, neighbors, social worker) so that a visual check can be made.
Visiting nurses can provide medical care if needed and see that the elderly are taking medication as prescribed.
Sometimes it may be necessary to hire a live-in companion to assist the elderly with bathing, cooking meals, and daily maintenance of the home.
It is necessary to remember the emotional investment the elderly have in their home. Memories are attached to every room and are constant reminders of children playing, family gatherings, and happy holidays. Being forced to move from their home can have a negative impact on some older people. Many become confused, disoriented, angry, and depressed. With the resources available it is possible to help the elderly to remain in their own home. This usually results in a more comfortable, secure, and happy individual.
See also FOSTER CARE; LIVING WITH ONE'S CHILDREN; NURSING HOME, HOW TO SELECT, MONITOR, AND EVALUATE; RETIREMENT CENTERS.
Lester, A. D., and Lester, J. L. Understanding Aging Parents. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1980.

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