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Home alone: risks for the elderly

(ran TP edition)

A man's home is his castle. For some of today's elders, that is no longer true. The very place a person should feel safe and secure has become instead a place of fear and uncertainty.

Elders who have become frail and dependent on others for assistance sometimes find themselves victims of abuse or neglect by their caregivers. Others live alone but are finding it increasingly difficult to meet their daily needs.

Many tolerate terrible conditions because they fear life in a long-term care facility. Because of this fear, many elders become victims of self-neglect in their own homes.

Here are some things you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim of self-neglect if you stay in your home:

Don't isolate yourself; remain socially involved so others are aware of your needs. If you are able to leave your home, join a group, participate in community activities, or volunteer.

Maintain regular contact with others by telephone or correspondence.

Sign up for a telephone reassurance program.

Make a checklist of routine daily activities, such as taking medications and eating meals, and check each off as you finish.

Make a calendar, which can assist in organizing monthly obligations such as bill paying.

Establish one specific place to put vital items such as your keys, checkbook, bills, etc.

Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Post emergency numbers by the telephone, and use the Elder Helpline or other information lines in your community.

Most of us wish to live independently in our own homes. Staying organized, following regular routines and maintaining frequent contact with others are ways to prevent self-neglect.

However, if you are unable to live independently, consider an assisted living facility or adult family-care home. Both are inspected and licensed by the Agency for Health Care Administration to help assure that residents are receiving quality care.

_ This monthly column is provided by the Area Agency on Aging. It is written by local experts and members of the agency's advisory council. This month's column is written by Sarah Holbert, human services program specialist in the adult services unit of Florida Department of Children and Families. You can reach the Area Agency on Aging at 623-2244.