Checking on Residents Who Live Alone
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2017 09:23:59 -0700 (PDT)
> On Aug 19, 2017, at 1:05 PM, Julie Gallagher <jgall63 [at]> wrote:
> Does your community have a system for checking on residents who live alone,
> especially older or frail ones?

In general people do this on a personal basis, but we do have a TLC function of 
the Community Team. They have a non-recorded few minutes at the end of their 
meetings to discuss anyone who might be needing any kind of help. If no one has 
stepped up, they will make arrangements, again usually by asking someone who is 
close to the person or likes doing that kind of thing. We do have people who 
are constitutionally predisposed to immediately help anyone—even in the middle 
of the night.

It does help to have a chief communicator who sends information to the 
community and is a contact with the family. Then everyone knows what is going 
on without peppering the household with questions.

Families either don’t know what to do with relatives in cohousing, or 
understandably with someone who is suffering with dementia. From our experience 
with one person, it is very important to be honest with the family when you 
think the person may be no longer able to function alone. The family may never 
see a “spell” and often they come and go.

We also confuse families with our messages. On the one had we say cohousing is 
where people can age at home and at the same time we have few supports to 
enable them to do so. At some point people may need 24/7 care. Not necessarily 
nursing but someone present, just in case.

One of the best things a resident did for us when she discovered she had 
terminal cancer was to send a message telling us what kind of care she had 
arranged for herself — the lifeline bracelet, car service to chemo, etc. From 
family experience, Harriet had covered all the bases except some meals. This 
allowed her to die at home with residents and former residents coming into say 
goodbye. One of the nicest things was when a former resident who had just had a 
baby brought the baby to visit. They had named the baby Harriet. Harriet was 
very pleased and asked what her middle name was. The mother said Rose. Harriet 
teared up and said that was my mother’s name. A complete coincidence.

Everyone needs this care at one point or another. Frailty has many causes in 
all ages. Someone who has been attacked, a child with pneumonia who can’t be 
cared for with other children, a broken leg, surgery, a death, etc. The seniors 
we think about more, perhaps, because the slide is likely to be terminal. 
Others get well more often.

Also see this for guidelines of what to do and not do for ailing residents:

Neighborly Support vs Health Care

These are very sensible guidelines written originally by one of our members who 
was becoming overwhelmed caring for one of our residents. She interviewed a 
minister, a nurse, child care provider, and others for common practices and 

Some of these are for the protection of the care provider. They provide a line 
over which caregivers shouldn’t cross. A reason to say no, we need professional 

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.