Feeling comfortable in home after spouse passing away
January 15, 2018

Q.   I always thought of myself as a strong, independent woman. After my husband passed away I no longer feel safe in my own home. Every little noise at night makes me jump and I have trouble getting enough sleep. I do not want to move so I need to find ways to make me comfortable again. Any ideas?

A.   In doing some research on this subject a sentence on one website was rather insightful “feeling safe and being safe” are not always synonymous. The feeling safe for you may be related to the emotions of loss and being alone. It could conceivably be intertwined with your own personal grieving process. It may be a matter of time until you can adjust to the fact you no longer share the home with another person. Your home may or may not be safe. The following are suggestions for you to consider, some may already be in place, others you should seriously consider implementing.

Since this is not a new residence for you most likely you already know your neighbors. Think about the ones you really trust and be upfront about the struggles you face. Ask if one will be willing to check in with you on a regular basis to make sure everything is okay. Someone in a similar situation has a system set up with her next door neighbor to look at night to make sure one specific kitchen light is on late…this is a signal that she is home and all is well. Security experts will tell you not to hide a spare key outside your residence. Intruders are savvy about looking in all the typical places, it is much safer to leave a key with a trusted neighbor or friend.

Always lock your doors and windows even if you live in a low crime neighborhood. Don’t open the door unless you have looked through a peep hole or window and can identify the person. If doors don’t have a dead bolt it is a wise idea to have them installed with only a minimal expense. Place wooden dowels in the track of a sliding glass door, this adds additional protection. The same method can be used with windows making it difficult to raise the window even if the glass is broken and the lock is disengaged.

Consider installing a security system. There are numerous products on the market and prices can greatly vary. Avoid putting your full name on your mailbox and your answering machine. This column has addressed the issue of safety on social media sites…never announce you are going on vacation prior to the trip.

At night close curtains, blinds or shades. Turn on exterior lights near doors and install motion sensor lights in shadowed areas of the yard. Put interior lights on a timer so you won’t come home to a dark house if you are out at night. Some people find having a radio or television on in the house makes them feel less alone. On that note monitor what shows you watch at night, a scary show may make you feel tense and send your imagination into overload.

Keep shrubs and tree limbs trimmed. On a windy night overgrown limbs scarping the roof or siding can sound like someone is in the house or trying to break in. Find out if a community organization offers a self defense course for seniors. Older adults may believe they don’t have the physical strength to protect their self but a few hints could make the difference and provide you enough time to seek safety.

Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff are available for no cost consultations in the home, office or community. For additional information or to schedule an appointment call 1-800-892-0890.

Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Direct correspondence to or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., AgeInfo Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843.

Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services.

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