People who live alone, especially seniors and dependent adults, may benefit from routine welfare checks to see if any assistance is needed. What options do seniors and dependent adults, and their families, have to be proactive about such matters.

Is the senior or dependent adult’s home safe for them to live in? Perhaps the home needs safety modifications (such as installing grab bars in the bathroom). Perhaps the person is a hoarder and the home needs cleaning.

With senior citizens, a common concern is that they have fallen and are lying injured on the floor unable to get up, or that they are sick in bed and unable to take care of themselves. Does the senior or dependent adult have a monitoring device on them to allow a monitoring center to check their wellbeing? Typically this involves wearing an electronic pendent with a button that can be pushed to reach a monitoring service. The monitoring service can then speak with the adult and assess the situation. If the adult has fallen or is in any other kind of emergency the monitoring service calls 911 and also alerts family members of the situation.

Alternatively, as appropriate, the person might benefit from a camera monitoring system that allows the family to see how the person is doing inside their own home. This, of course, has serious drawbacks because it means a loss in privacy in exchange perhaps for more safety.

Another consideration, as appropriate, is that the adult be involved in daily activities, such as attending senior center exercise classes and other activities. If agreeable, the persons overseeing or involved in such activities may be given the name and contact information of family members and asked to call a family member if the senior or dependent adult fails to appear or seems unwell. Daily activities are a double win because they may help to keep the senior mentally and physically well and involved in the community.

At some point a senior or dependent adult may no longer feel or be able to safely live alone due a variety of reasons, including, on a personal level, an inability to do activities of daily living, impaired cognitive abilities (e.g., dementia), loneliness, and, on a financial level, inability to pay household expenses and resist fraudsters who prey on the vulnerable (e.g., telemarketers).

In that case the available options vary depending on the assets of the senior or dependent adult, their family circumstances, and the wishes of the senior or dependent adult involved. Many persons, if they are financially able, want to move into an assisted living situation or, in some cases, move in with family. Assisted living centers are an ongoing monthly expense that often requires selling the family home to raise money. Alternatively, moving in with the senior’s family (perhaps into a granny unit) may work, at least temporarily. Any family arrangement, however, involves a variety of considerations for all those concerned, including how the change would affect the family dynamics, how personal care issues would be handled, and how the associated finances would be managed.

The solutions to the issues raised above are unlikely to be found in any single place. However, places to look for some possible assistance are the local “Area Agency on Aging”, the local senior center, and, most importantly, the close friends and family.

The foregoing brief discussion is not legal advice. Dennis A. Fordham, attorney, is a State Bar-Certified Specialist in estate planning, probate and trust law. His office is at 870 S. Main St., Lakeport, Calif. He can be reached at and 707-263-3235.

“Serving Lake and Mendocino Counties for nineteen years, the Law Office of Dennis Fordham focuses on legacy and estate planning, trust and probate administration, and special needs planning. We are here for you. 870 South Main Street Lakeport, California 95453-4801. Phone: 707-263-3235.”