Safe at Home: 13 Questions to Consider Before the Nursing Home

Home Care in St. Paul, Home Help for the Elderly, Elder Care Issues, Respite Care provider, Home Senior Care, Senior HomecareRemember Macaulay Culkin, the actor who got into lots of mischief staying home alone?  I’m here to tell you that it’s not only children who get into “trouble” staying home alone!

When taking care of elderly parents, one of the toughest decisions an adult child may ever face is coming to terms with the possibility that Mom may no longer be able to stay in her own home alone.  Unless Mom has come to the decision on her own—or has been worried about it for some time in the face of her own physical limitations—it won’t be an easy discussion to have.  Phrases such as assisted living or nursing home might be triggers for your parents, and sentences like, “How do you feel about my mother coming to live with us” might be triggers for your spouse.

It is important to balance the needs of both the senior and the family caregiver(s) when making this decision.  It is also important to recognize that some families and some elders are willing to take bigger risks in order to stay in their own homes or apartments.  That’s okay, as long as they know the consequences of the choices they are making.

Fortunately, most seniors are able to remain living in their own homes without much assistance or threat to their safety.  However, as Mom or Dad’s health changes through the aging process, it will be important to reassess the situation.

The following checklist, adapted from Senior Solutions of America, Inc., will give you some things to consider when deciding whether or not your loved one should be home alone.  Consider the following:


1.  Does Mom know how to leave the home in case of an emergency?  Would she physically be able to do so?

2.  Is Mom in danger of wandering off?  Although not always the case, for a senior with dementia, there may come a time when wandering away from the home is a very real possibility.

3.  Does Mom have the cognitive ability to remember signals of danger, such as what to do if the smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector sounds?

4.  In the case of an emergency, will Mom know to dial 911?  Can she get to the phone?  If she has an emergency call device, such as a Lifeline, will she wear it, and will she know to press it?

5.  Does Mom have frequent life-threatening medical emergencies that require immediate intervention?

6.  Is Mom able and willing to manage her medications?  Is the responsibility too great, even with the assistance of a nurse or home aide?

7.  Is Mom in danger of trusting the wrong people?  Will she let predators into the home?  Will she trust the right people when the time comes?

8.  Can Mom prepare something to eat when she gets hungry?  If the stove needs to be disconnected for her safety, will she still be able to prepare food?

9.  Can she get to the bathroom and use the toilet on her own?  If not, have alternatives been worked out?

10.  Can Mom smell or see when food in the fridge is too old to eat safely?  Is there someone to get her garbage out regularly?

11.  Is Mom at risk of disclosing personal and identifying information over the telephone or computer, setting herself up to be a victim of financial fraud?

12.  Is Mom afraid to be alone?  Does she call often or seem fearful?

13.  Can any of the problem areas above be resolved with the help of a caregiver, personal care attendant, home health aide, visiting nurse, or with family or neighbor assistance?  If so, Mom may still be able to safely and affordably stay in her home.


Julie Ellingson, LSW



January 20, 2012


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