As we are all aware, being elderly puts us at increased risk of disease or injury. It also makes us more vulnerable to scams and schemes than the public in general. For one thing, many of the elderly are lonely and so may fall victim to various financial entrapments because they are so eager for human contract. For another, because aging involves an increasing number of aches and pains, decreasing mobility, and often some cognitive impairment, some seniors are more likely to be taken in by quackery in terms of “treatment” or “supplements” that promise relief from pain, renewed vitality, and/or longevity.
Having a capable, trustworthy elder lawyer can be invaluable in protecting older loved ones from the dangers discussed in this article. Elder law attorneys who are also well-credentialed in estate planning can assist you plan for retirement, establish trusts to protect assets from excessive taxation, creditors, or impulsive spending, and making sure that protected assets do not keep your loved one from becoming ineligible for government benefits, such as Medicaid, if and when the time comes for full-time nursing care.
According to an Administration on Aging study done a few years ago, a fifth of all men over 65 live alone, as do over a third of women the same age. The study found that older Americans, especially those living alone, often suffer from one of the following conditions in addition to physical ailments:
- Social isolation which, in addition to being painful in and of itself, makes its victims more susceptible to physical and mental illness and decreases their projected lifespan. Loneliness, it seems, puts people at greater risk of infection, heart disease, and cognitive impairment. For seniors, social isolation can be worsened by unfamiliarity with modern technology.
- Depression, often a symptom of social isolation, can also be its cause since depressed individuals lose interest in things they used to enjoy, and lack the energy or motivation to make new friends or seek out new activities. Furthermore, because a socially isolated person is not interacting enough with other people, there is no one around to recognize his or her symptoms of depression and encourage the depressed individual to seek help.
- Anxiety, another form of mental disturbance, can manifest with physical symptoms, such as heart palpitations, nausea, shortness of breath, and insomnia. It, too, can be self-perpetuating, since once you experience extreme anxiety in a particular situation, such as in a group activity, you may abstain from social activities to avoid the stress you fear will reoccur.
- Money problems are more common among the elderly than we may realize; a great many people live beyond the age where they can be self-supporting and have not saved enough money to retire. Also, those who are socially isolated are more easily fall victim to swindlers who sell them products or services they don’t need, using up the last of their savings.
- Serious injuries, particularly those resulting from falls, can become deadly to older people who live alone, have more brittle bones, and tend to be physically less steady on their feet. Seniors who fall and suffer serious injuries, may be unable to reach a phone or call loudly enough to be heard and so may be stranded in their pain.
- Increased risk of medication mistakes and overdoses
As seniors’ vision and memory become impaired, it becomes all too easy for them to mix-up complicated medication regimens, taking too little or too-much of crucial substances that help their bodies stay in balance. In worse case scenarios, seniors may overdose and inadvertently cause their own deaths.
- Generalized neglect
Older people who live alone often become increasingly unaware and forgetful. Some forget to eat balanced meals (or are too tired to buy ingredients or prepare them) and become malnourished. Others either forget to drink enough liquids, or try not to drink because they dread having to get up to urinate, and as a result become dehydrated.
Seniors also because increasingly incapable of normal household chores. Lack of washing dishes, doing laundry, or proper cleaning may result in bug or rodent infestations, dangerous accidents due to objects or spills on the floor, or illnesses generated by lack of sanitation. The elderly may also fail to wash thoroughly because of mobility difficulties and only suffer physical skin problems as a result, but fail to find disturbing growths or lesions on their own bodies.
Find an Excellent Elder Law Attorney Before You Think You Need One
Don’t let the older people you love become victims of the aging process. Consult with a talented elder law attorney before the situation becomes urgent. He or she can help you take the proper precautions regarding finances, medical care, future government benefits, healthcare arrangements, household chores, mental health, appropriate living conditions, and end-of-life preparations. As your loved one becomes older, you’ll be so glad took the legal steps you did in a timely fashion.