When is the Right Time to Talk with an Elder Parent About Living Alone?
It can be one of the most difficult and awkward conversations to have with a parent or grandparents as they age and live alone.
There are more older adults in the U.S. than any other time history, which is going to increase even more with a growing number of aging baby boomers.
A new report from Caring.com estimates that nearly 8 in 10 Americans are worried about the safety of their parent and/or grandparent living alone, but many are not doing anything about it.
"Older adults today want to remain in their own home," said Rutgers Sociology Professor, Dr. Deborah Carr. "They want to stay independent as long as possible and they don't want to go into a home."
The discussion can often be a tricky one for adult children, but many are not minimizing the risks by equipping their older loved one's home with basic safety features, such as grab bars in the shower or raised toilet seats, nor are enough planning out end-of-life care.
Carr said the awareness on this issue is typically raised around this time of year for the holidays, and she recommends having the difficult talk next week when more family is typically present.
"Thanksgiving's the time everybody's together and you're in good spirits, so it's a less threatening time of year to discuss these issues,"she explained.
Planning out which upgrades are needed for a loved one's home or whether they should even be living alone is something that should be hashed out before the situation or their health deteriorates.
"Often times, people don't have tough conversations until the situation becomes tough, and that's too little too late," Carr said.
The delay can endanger a senior's personal well-being and also lead to high health-related costs down the line.
According to the CDC, 2.5 million adults 65 years and older are treated for unintentional falls each year. While many of these injuries can be prevented by equipping senior citizens' homes with relatively inexpensive safety equipment, most are living without these features.
The average hospital cost for a fall injury is about $35,000, which the CDC estimates Medicare covering only about 78 percent of.
Carr believes adult children should put these safeguards in place as soon as possible to prevent the potential fallout.