In 2020, the Pew Research Center reported that, compared to the rest of the world, older adults in the U.S. often live by themselves or with their spouses. Many of these families tend to have fewer children and older adults live longer. From our experience at Beck & Lenox Estate Planning and Elder Law, it is important that there is oversight and regular assessments of a loved one in this situation. Fewer children and living longer result in independent living among older adults, says Health News’ recent article entitled “Can Someone With Dementia Live Alone?”
Studies say roughly 15 million people with dementia live alone. With medication, meal preparation and in-home help (as needed), they do so safely. There are some risks associated with living alone when dementia is a diagnosis, and those risks include:
- Those with dementia may wander and get lost. Medical ID bracelets, calling ‘safe return’ programs and GPS trackers may help.
- Sensory problems like an altered perception of depth can result in a fall inside home. A MedicAlert (a safety program) or daily visits from a community program is usually helpful.
- Living alone may bring social loneliness. Some individuals with dementia may have an active social life but still might experience emotional loneliness.
Necessary lifestyle changes. Those with dementia can live alone safely. However, depending on their changes in memory and thinking, they may need some changes in their living conditions.
Medication. Dementia patients are usually prescribed medications for slowing down neurological changes. There are many options to remind the patient to take their medication like a phone alarm or a pill box.
Meal preparation. Some with dementia may have a hard time preparing meals. However, with some changes, they can make this easier. They can add sticky notes or pictures of food on the refrigerator. Use a recipe booklet to cook food to add the right amount of ingredients. A timer should also be used to make sure food is cooked for the right amount of time. Rather than shopping for groceries at stores, they can order subscription meal boxes that include all ingredients and a recipe booklet, or local organizations can help with services, such as Meals on Wheels.
Assistance with daily chores. Some individuals with dementia may find it easier to do certain tasks, such as bathing and food prep, during the mornings. Distractions should also be reduced while doing the chores. As the disease progresses, a person with dementia may need more assistance with daily chores. An in-home aide can help with some tasks, such as laundry, dishwashing, or meal prep.
Can a loved one with dementia live alone? Well, like other retirees, it’s entirely possible for those with dementia to age in place with some additional help. An assessment from the family and assessments by the primary physician are necessary to ensure the safety of the senior. For help with legal protections for the senior, a free consultation is available here.
Reference: Health News (Jan. 16, 2023) “Can Someone With Dementia Live Alone?”