According to the 2016 figures from the Office of National Statistics, 1.59 million people between 65 and 74 and 2.05 million people aged 75 and over are currently living alone in the UK. In the last 20 years, there has been a significant increase in elderly people living alone with a 16% increase for 65-74 year olds and 15% for the 75 and over category.
With these figures in mind, although some may be fortunate enough to have families and close friends living nearby, for others, this is not always the case, often with loved ones caring for their elderly relatives from afar. Whilst regular phone calls to our relatives are helpful for checking in with them, for those more vulnerable, they may require additional help from family members. Areas they may need additional help include:
Shopping: your elderly relatives may enjoy getting out of the house, however some can only do so for short periods of time. Shopping could be turned into a sociable thing you do with your elderly relatives but for those who are very vulnerable, or indeed if you live far away from them, another way to help is to arrange an online shop to be delivered to them. Many large supermarket chains offer this for a small delivery fee, providing you with the peace of mind they have healthy and easy to prepare food available at all times.
Banking and bills: if your elderly relatives are struggling to pay their bills or make visits to the bank, this is something else you can assist with. Banks and many service providers have had family members contact them on behalf of their elderly relatives and can often have your name as a secondary user on an account; password protected providing your relative has given prior approval.
Medical assistance: going along to doctors' appointments not only provides moral support to your loved ones but you can also act as a second pair of ears for your relative if this is required.
Socialising: going out for lunch, tea or coffee, meeting friends or other family members can really help improve the quality of life for the elderly and offering to drop them off and pick them up is something you can do to help. Similarly, taking them to other appointments they have can be a great help too.
Power of Attorney: if your family members become too frail, you may wish to consider Power of Attorney which would allow you to make certain decisions on their behalf should they no longer be able. Power of Attorney can cover health and welfare or property and finance however it should be noted, Power of Attorney can only be set up before the person has lost mental capacity. You can find out more about Power of Attorney services here.
Make the most of technology
As we may not be fortunate to live as close to our loved ones as we would like, advances in technology can help us keep in touch with our loved ones, monitor their needs and provide help from afar. Of course technology should never be a substitute for that daily check in phone call, it can simply help you along with the challenges you face regarding distance. Here are a few ways we can use technology to keep in touch with our loved ones.
Tablets: more people are gifting their elderly relatives with tablets especially those who are less mobile in their elder years. Allowing them to purchase their essentials online, research product reviews, and keep up to date with latest news and events, tablets can also be used to access social media and keep in contact with others near and far. Additionally, Skype can be accessed via tablets allowing you the option to physically see your loved ones every day in addition to, or replacing, the everyday check-in phone call.
Three Rings: regardless of how independent your parents or elderly loved ones are; there is no denying we like to be reassured they are safe and well on a daily basis -- especially if we live far away. Originating from the 'three phone rings and I'm home' mentality we are so used to, three rings is a relatively recent introduction into the elderly care market and has been developed to keep a check on our loved ones without being too intrusive on their lives.
Without altering the way our loved ones live their lives, a well-used home appliance such as the kettle, microwave, lamp or TV can connect to the three rings plug and each time the device is used, the appointed family members receive an update informing them the appliance has been used. Providing the extra reassurance their loved ones are safe and well, three rings also updates family members if the appliance isn't used as expected -- allowing them to take additional action such as make a phone call.
Three rings is an unobtrusive way to check in with elderly family members and as this runs from the app, your relatives are not required to have an Internet connection at home. When setting up three rings, rules can be created such as 'alert me when my relative turns on the kettle between 8am and 11am' or 'alert me when they turn on their bedside lamp in the evening'. At a relatively low price, three rings provides extra reassurance when you need it -- find out more about it here.
Age UK personal alarm
Whilst three rings is a relatively unobtrusive way of checking on our loved ones, for those more vulnerable living alone, an Age UK personal alarm may be more suitable. Used in the eventuality of an accident at home, elderly people can press the emergency button which directs straight through to an emergency contact centre. As this is responded to by the emergency contact centre, this is especially good for those who have families far away.
Although technology is great, it should be used to enhance the care of elderly relatives, not replace it. Have you used any of these methods to help your loved ones, will you use any of these in the future? We would like to hear from you over on our Facebook page.