Dementia Dilemma – When to Get Help If a Parent is Home Alone

My Mom has recently been diagnosed with dementia and so far, her dementia is mild – she has some short-term memory lapses but otherwise she seems good. Is she okay at home alone?

It can be hard to determine whether it’s safe for your parent to live at home with mild dementia. You don’t want to take away her independence early, but you don’t want to wait for a major incident before you transition her to another form of care.

People with mild dementia usually do well if they are in a stable environment they’ve lived in for a long time, especially when they maintain their established routine. When they forget things, a system of reminders can help them stay on track. For example, if you’re worried because your mother is struggling to recall your number when she wants to call you, writing it out on a sticky note and leaving it next to her telephone can solve the issue.

Emergencies and Safety Options

However, if your mother can’t recall emergency numbers when she needs to, that’s a more serious issue. The emergency number in her area has likely been the same her whole life, so forgetting it is also a sign of growing memory issues. Leaving the number on a note pad on the fridge can be helpful, but it is still a sign your mother shouldn’t be living alone.

There are ways to avoid potentially life-threatening problems without needing to uproot your mother. For example, there are devices which you can install on the stove burners to ensure they shut-off automatically, preventing fires if your mother forgets to turn them off.

If you can outfit her home with safety features like grab bars and non-slip mats in the bathroom, sturdier handrails on the stairs, or a personal safety device like Life Alert you and your mother may feel more comfortable with her staying in her home alone for a longer period of time.

Reminders

Other reminders can be set-up to help your mother navigate day-to-day tasks. You can set up reminders to pay bills with her bank, or add them to her monthly calendar. If your mother can use a cellphone you can program reminders for anything she needs, including reminders to eat dinner or to take her medication.

Check-ins and Paid Help

It’s a must to check-in on your mother regularly, as you never know when her dementia may become too serious for her to be alone. It can also help your mother maintain her routine if you or another family member call her on a set schedule. For example, if you find your mother is forgetting to lock her doors at night you can call her every evening at around the same time to prompt her to do so.

If you can afford to have someone come in to help your mother once a week then do it! Their help can go a long way to keeping your mother independent and in her own home. For example, a weekly housekeeping visit can do the tasks your mother may find exhausting or forget to do, which will keep her from overexerting or hurting herself. Weekly visits from a physiotherapist may help keep your mother physically capable.

Red Flags

Some incidents should serve as red flags that show you need to re-evaluate your mother’s situation. Falling, getting lost, leaving the house at night, and giving money away are all serious indications that your mother may not be safe to remain at home alone.

Contact our team of professional care managers if you need guidance or options about your parent’s safety. At Aging Life Network, we provide families and caregivers with professional guidance and peace of mind.

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