A person with dementia who lives alone has special challenges. Support is available for dementia patients and carers including meals, safety equipment and checks. Living alone in the home is possible for a person with dementia.
Each person with dementia is unique and so is the situation in which they find themselves. While most people live with a partner, or in some type of family situation, increasingly many people live alone. This may be by choice, or by circumstance. Whatever the reason, it creates a particular challenge for people who care for someone with dementia who lives on their own.
A diagnosis of dementia does not automatically mean that the person is immediately incapable of caring for themselves. Assisting a person to remain in the familiar surroundings of their home for as long as possible is a worthwhile goal. However, it can be very worrying for family and friends.
The type of support required depends on the situation. The person living alone may:
- Forget to eat or take prescribed medication.
- Forget to bathe or change their clothes regularly.
- Lack awareness of potentially hazardous situations, such as fire or electrical appliances.
- Show poor judgement about who they let into the house.
- Have unrealistic ideas or suspicions, which can lead to trouble with neighbours, the police or the community.
- Forget to feed or care for pets.
Where to begin
Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACATs) help people with dementia and their carers work out what kind of care will best meet their needs when they are no longer able to manage at home without assistance. ACATs provide information on suitable care options and can help arrange access or referral to appropriate residential or community care.
How carers can help
Accepting a degree of risk
There is an increased risk when a person with dementia lives alone. However, whether this continues to be an acceptable risk will need to be reviewed regularly by family members and the professionals involved. The person’s own wishes must also be considered.
It may be possible for more family members to be involved in aspects of the care and assistance of someone living alone. Organising a family meeting at an early stage to work out what each family member can offer, now and in the future, can be useful.
Ensure that the house is well lit and that there are no hazards, such as faulty kitchen appliances, loose carpets or unsteady furniture.
Aids to independence
Some aids to independence include:
- Rails near the bath, shower and toilet
- Easy to read clocks and large calendars which will help to orient to date and time
- Personal alarms
- Reminder timers, particularly for remembering medications.
As the dementia progresses, the person’s ability to make financial and legal decisions may decrease. The person will need help in managing finances. Getting legal and financial advice while the person can still participate in the decisions is essential.
Telling other people
Explain the person’s condition to friends, neighbours, local shopkeepers, people on neighbouring farms and the local police and provide them with contact numbers. These people can be very helpful in keeping a tactful eye on the person with dementia. Ensure that the person has adequate identification and an emergency contact number when they go out.
Where to get help
- Your doctor
- Your local community health service
- Your local council
- The Independent Living Centre in each State and Territory offers a number of services designed to promote safe living. Information is available on products such as smoke detectors, hot water service temperature regulators and monitoring services. Advice is also available on home modifications and home design. Contact numbers for Independent Living Centres can be obtained from the phone book or by contacting Alzheimer’s Australia.
- Alzheimer’s Australia Vic, National Dementia Helpline Tel. 1800 100 500
- Carer Support and Respite Coordination Centre Tel. 1800 059 059
- Carers Resource Centres Tel. 1800 242 636
- Aged Care Assessment Services - contact your regional Department of Human Services office
- The Aged Care Information line Tel. 1800 500 853
You might also be interested in:
- Dementia - carers and activities.
- Dementia - changed behaviours.
- Dementia - communication issues.
- Dementia - diagnosis and early signs.
- Dementia - different types.
- Dementia - early planning will help.
- Dementia - how it affects carers.
- Dementia - how to encourage healthy eating.
- Dementia - men and caring.
- Dementia - safety issues.
- Dementia - support services are available.
- Dementia - through all its stages.
- Dementia and depression.
- Dementia and personal hygiene.
- Dementia and sundowning.
- Dementia and wandering.
Want to know more?
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This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
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Alzheimer's Australia Victoria
Fact sheet currently being reviewed.
Last reviewed: October 2012
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