Think realistically about the person’s social connections. Social circles tend to shrink with age, which can have health and safety implications.
- Signs of active friendships. Does your loved one still get together for lunches or outings with friends or visits with neighbors, or participate in religious activities or other group events? Does he or she talk about others or keep a calendar of appointments? Lack of companionship is associated with depression and heart problems in older adults. If friends have died or moved away, moving to a place where other people are around could be lifesaving.
- Signs that your loved one has cut back on activities and interests. Is a hobby area abandoned? Has a club membership been given up? A library card gone unused? There are many reasons people cut back, but dropping out of everything and showing interest in almost nothing is a red flag for depression.
- Days spent without leaving the house. This sometimes happens because the person can no longer drive or is afraid to take public transportation alone and lacks a companion to come along. While many older adults fear being “locked away” in a retirement home, many such facilities offer regular outings that may keep them more mobile and active, not less.
- Someone who checks in on a regular basis. If not you or another family member, who does this? Is your loved one willing to consider a home-safety alarm system, a personal alarm system, or a daily calling service?
- A plan for a worst-case scenario. If there’s a fire, earthquake, flood, or other disaster, is someone on standby to assist? Does your loved one understand the plan?