How to be Safe When Alone

How to be Safe When Alone

For those suffering from chronic conditions, social isolation is both a physical and psychological threat. Clearly, as a society, we have made great strides in making accommodations for the physical needs of the disabled and chronically ill.

Ellen Lenox Smith

But we still need people.

For those unfortunate individuals without an emotionally supportive family or network of friends, many days can feel empty and endless. The future can often seem bleak and hopeless. It is heartbreaking to read comments on the National Pain Report about others being alone and suffering from a chronic condition.

No one should have to face the often overwhelming physical and emotional toll, which inevitably accompanies chronic medical conditions. But we all have a life to live and some find that match that stays by their side while many others are left abandoned. So, I decided to ask on Facebook if anyone had suggestions on how to improve the safety and quality of life.

Here are the suggestions that I have collected when asking for what has worked for others, and as an older member of society, many of these suggestions are things I never had growing up and are wonderful safety items to consider today:

  • When alone at home during the day, Google Home is helpful for using voice cues for various tasks… reminder alarms, finding a lost phone, voice command dialing, and can be set for helping with lights, thermostat, etc.
  • I sleep with a fire extinguisher next to my bed, I know that with my disability it may be harder for me to get out of the house in case of a fire and I need some extra time somehow. Also if someone happens to break in, they’re getting a face full of it before I use it to defend myself with. That extra time needed again
  • We put Alexa dots in almost every room so if I fall, I can just yell out Alexa call… it has been a saver for me more than once and no monthly fee.
  • Apple Watch 4 for fall alert makes me feel much safer. I’m almost never alone, so that’s about all I’ve got.
  • I use a road id app with a stationary alert. This was when I’m walking alone, I’m a little safer. If I’m gone too long, it alerts my emergency contacts. It activated once and I was in a bad POTS episode during a run that brought be into SVT. I was just sitting roadside because I couldn’t walk, and I got the help I needed. It’s allowed me a bit more Independence.
  • When I was alone in Boston I had a couple of food delivery guys that would check on me I knew many people on the block so I never felt alone. I also had a cleaning woman who was willing to help with random things.
  • With limited ability to drive, limited delivery service (food, groceries), no close neighbors and virtually no public transport/ride services - I felt stranded. There’s a program in some states through DHHS - if you qualify for Medicaid and need in-home care, you can apply for a caregiver.
  • I always wear my Apple Watch which I have cellular service on so I could call for help if I didn’t have my phone. I asked for the newest Apple Watch for Christmas which can call 911 and emergency contacts with hard fall detection + picks up on arrhythmias in addition to heart rate. It’s a good “life alert” investment in my eyes.
  • I make sure I always have a phone (landline or cell) within reach wherever I am at home. If I fall/get weak, there is no one except my dog here with me. I am extra vigilant to move carefully to avoid falls
  • I have good friends

Other suggestions with a little online searching:

Find Government and Local Disability Programs and Services

The programs listed here are from the government.

Jobs, Housing, Transportation, Health Care, Legal, Tribal, Veterans, Living

Besides these, there are many local and national non-profit organizations that provide help. You can find them online or through social workers or medical professionals.;’s information specialists can help you locate information on federal agencies, programs, benefits, services, and more.

Call toll-free at 1-844-USA-GOV1 (1-844-872-4681).

Services and supports for people with disabilities

Contact organizations that can help connect you to disability resources and services

Many of the services provided by these organizations are available to every person with a disability, regardless of citizenship. Community-based and state-based disability organizations are especially helpful to international visitors who will not have access to disability services through a U.S. university or college. See more:

Job Accommodation Network

The Job Accommodation Network is a service provided by the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. JAN is one of several ODEP technical assistance centers. Wikipedia

Phone: (800)526-7234

Founded: 1983

Web site:


SNAP provides a monthly supplement for purchasing nutritious food. If you qualify, you’ll get a debit card to use for groceries.

And if you are one of the 1 in 3 older adults eligible for SNAP but haven’t applied: apply today at SNAP

CHOICES- Routine Dental Care

Poor dental care is associated with a host of health problems such as heart disease and digestive illnesses. In addition, the condition of one’s mouth, such as ill-fitting dentures, cavities, missing teeth are factors in the tendency of many older adults to isolate themselves. It’s important that adults feel their appearance is appropriate if they are going to remain engaged in society. Failing to provide access to dental care pushes adults more to the fringes of society.

Advantage plans aren’t the best option for all Medicare-eligible people. If it isn’t the right Medicare option to meet your needs, should you be forced to enroll in an advantage plan just to get dental benefits?

The Center for Medicare Advocacy has made access to dental benefits a priority. If you would like information about what you can do to help change Medicare regulations to include dental benefits, contact

If you want information about Medicare advantage plans that provide dental benefits, call CHOICES at 800-994-9422.”

  • Meals on Wheels
  • Companies that can send food either prepared to heat up or cook the items sent to you fresh
  • Check on the Town services offered for possible rides to appointments, shoveling, and even technology help

 A few examples of state help, so check out your state too:

The Disability Law Center - MA

(DLC) is the Protection and Advocacy agency for Massachusetts. DLC is a private, non-profit organization responsible for providing protection and advocacy for the rights of Massachusetts residents with disabilities. DLC receives federal, state and private funding but is not part of the state or federal government.
Our Mission - To provide legal advocacy on disability issues that promote the fundamental rights of all people with disabilities to participate fully and equally in the social and economic life of Massachusetts.

CT - Agency on Aging of South-Central Connecticut

Taken from their Dec. issue:

“Adult Day Centers - for help when you need it

  • There is a cost, but there’s a cost for almost everything in life. Some things are worth the cost. Also, many of the ADCs have scholarships for persons to participate if there is a genuine need. You don’t have to attend every day to get a benefit from participation. Some people only attend once per week. Depending on the model center you select, they may be able to provide shower and shampoo service. For many, the bath is one of the most difficult challenges. The ADC can provide that with trained staff, in fully accessible bath facilities. That alone is worth the price of participation
  • Most of the ACDC’s provide transportation that can accommodate people with mobility problems
  • call 203 785 8533 and ask to speak with an information counselor.
  • Need help finding support at home? Care Network Link is a wonderful resource to find trusted providers: Homemaking, Personal Care Assistance, Live-In Caregivers, Wheelchair Ramps, Fall Alert Systems, Hair Stylists that come to your home.

You may ask, “Doesn’t Medicare Advantage cover dental care?” Yes, it does, but Advantage plans aren’t the best option for all Medicare-eligible people. If it isn’t the right Medicare option to meet your needs, should you be forced to enroll in an advantage plan just to get dental benefits?

The Center for Medicare Advocacy has made access to dental benefits a priority. If you would like information about what you can do to help change Medicare regulations to include dental benefits, contact

If you want information about Medicare advantage plans that provide dental benefits, call CHOICES at 800-994-9422.”

  • Rhode Island - ATEL (Adaptive Telephone Equipment Loan Program) 401.462.7857

The Rhode Island Adaptive Telephone Equipment Loan (ATEL) Program provides landline/home telephones and wireless devices on loan to qualified individuals who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, have a speech disability, or have neuromuscular damage or disease that hinders them from using a standard telephone. You must be a RI Resident, have one of the above-mentioned disabilities, and meet one of the income qualifier criteria described on the application.

The ATEL Program now offers a Hearing and Speech Lab which will offer iPad/iPhone training and have the following devices available for FREE demonstrations, as well as, many devices available for short term loans.

RI Disability Law Center

RI Disability Law Center helps people with disabilities obtain payment for assistive technology (e.g., wheelchairs, communication devices) from public funding sources, including Medicaid and Medicare –Specific Medical Equipment Brochure; 401-831-3150

We all need to try to be as careful as we can in our journey living with chronic medical conditions. I would love for you to share, on the comment section below this article, any other ideas you could also pass forward to help improve another’s safety. May these suggestions help to improve the quality and safety of your life

May life be kind to you,

Ellen Lenox Smith

Author of: It Hurts Like Hell!: I Live With Pain- And Have a Good Life, Anyway, and My Life as a Service Dog!

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report.

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Authored by: Ellen Lenox Smith

Ellen Lenox Smith and her husband Stuart live in Rhode Island. They are co-directors for medical cannabis advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation, along with Ellen on the board and they both also serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. For more information about medical cannabis visit their website.

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Great post! Really interesting to see how many folks are getting the Apple Watch for security reasons.

To follow up on Katherine’s point, Snug’s website is

Thomas Wayne Kidd

This is what They are teaching the new pharmacist now to be as mean as possible to sick and dying people. And thank you Ellen for you article it has much useful tips and suggestions. Keep up the great work.


Patricia M.,
Go ahead and switch pharmacies, use what little power we have to fight back!

Valerie Hirschberg

Great post, thank you so much! Helps get the wheels turning for my mom as well as myself. If I locate additional contacts that might help I’ll add those later. This post would be good to save as a source of info in an ongoing fashion. IE. Keep the info available.


Hi Ellen,Thank you for writting all this helpful info.One thing has come to my mind,is where I live in R.I.Matt’s pharmacy located on 88 East Main Rd Middletown,R.I.02842 offers free home delivery for your prescriptions.They also offer to pre pack your med so you know what day and times to take each one.I believe its a month supply.Some prefer their bottles but other’s think it’s a great med reminder.Also Thundermist Dental in R.I will see patient’s that don’t have dental and will go by their income at least last I heard.Many thing’s insurance doesn’t cover but for example if someone needs a crown,they will go by their income.Also LTSS (Long term Care and social support) may call HealthSource R.I. (855)712-9158 or vist for more information.


There is a free app called SNUG which you program to text you at a certain time each day for “check in”. If you don’t respond, it texts you again. If still no response, the app automatically texts your pre determined contacts to check in on you. This is helpful for those that live alone and can operate a smart phone.

Michael Kastner

Another great and informational article Ellen. Thanks for sharing all this good stuff. I will copy and paste it to my FB group too. You know you won’t mind.
Blessings to you and yours

Patricia B Morrow

I need feedback from you all- my friends in this group. Just last week a pharmacist at my drug store scolded me for getting my pain meds filled every 30 days on the DOT. I don’t know why she chose to do this, and it kind of startled me. My doctor gives me the prescription, and as most of you know, we take them every day. She was a younger pharmacist, and I’m sure she has not had to struggle with our painful conditions. I’m to the point where I kind of want to change pharmacies, because I feel JUDGED I would really love to hear what any of you have to say about this. Thank you in advance!