Can my loved one still stay home alone?

In the beginning stages of dementia, it is usually fine for your loved one to be left home alone for periods of time.  As your loved one’s cognition declines, his/her ability to be alone declines.  So it is important to reassess on a regular basis.

Here are some scenarios to help you assess your loved one:

If there were an emergency, could my loved one respond appropriately?

  • If the hot water tank started spraying hot water, would my loved one know what to do?  Could he/she avoid being burned?  Could he/she call someone for help?
  • If there were a fire in the house, would my loved one know how to get out safely?  Would he/she know to call 911?

If someone tried to scam my loved one, is he/she aware enough to be suspicious?

  • If someone rang the doorbell and said they needed $300 for the pipe repair work they’ve been doing (but not actually doing), would my loved one pay?
  • If someone called and asked my loved one to verify his/her social security number, would he/she give out that number?

How confidently can my loved one perform basic, daily activities?

  • Can he/she safely navigate the house without falling?
  • Is my loved one able to prepare basic meals and snacks?
  • Is my loved one independent with toileting?
  • Can my loved one manage his/her medicine?
  • Has my loved one ever had a stove or microwave incident that wasn’t an issue because someone was home?  BUT if he/she had been alone, it could have been a major incident?

How does staying home alone affect my loved one’s psychological wellbeing?

  • Does my loved one become anxious at certain times of the day or when left alone?
  • Does my loved one call me constantly throughout the day, worried about where I am?

If any of the questions/scenarios listed above made you hesitate, even just a little bit, then your loved one should NOT be left home alone.

This is so important, we’ll say it again: If any of the questions/scenarios listed above made you hesitate, even just a little bit, then your loved one should NOT be left home alone. 

When the time comes that your loved can no longer be left alone, you have options:

  • Take your loved one with you on outings.  Individuals with dementia need social stimulation.
  • Ask family or friends to be with your loved one for a couple of hours, so you can run errands.
  • Ask family or friends to take your loved one out for breakfast or lunch to give you time to do what you need.
  • Enroll your loved on in an adult day program.  Adult day programs are all about fun activities with friends in a safe environment.  The National Adult Day Service Association has information on choosing a center that is right for you.
  • Enlist the services of an in-home care agency.  In Shelby County, these services range from $18 to $22 per hour.  You can set up in-home care on a schedule or call the agency as needed.  (Pro tip: If the care provider they assign to you doesn’t appear to be a good fit with your loved one’s situation/personality, don’t be afraid to ask for someone else.)
  • Consider moving your loved one into a residential program.  We have a blog post here with tips on choosing a residential facility.

If you determine that it’s fine for your loved one to stay home alone, here are some simple things you can do to keep your loved one safe:

  • Post a schedule for your loved one
  • Post a schedule of where you will be
  • Keep a list of important phone numbers by the phone
  • Prepare meals ahead of time (ready to eat or microwave)
  • Have family or friends call or stop by to check in
  • Set medications up in easy pill boxes or in an alarmed pill dispenser

As always, if you have questions about your specific situation, we’re happy to help! Give us a call at 901-854-1200, or make an appointment to come see us in person.