Can Mom Live at Home Alone If She Has Alzheimer’s?

granny-2347552__340When Mom started forgetting her kids’ birthdays, that was the final straw. Her personality had been “off” for a while, and after you insisted that she go to the doctor, eventually the diagnosis came back as Alzheimer’s. Through the fog of shock, fear, and sadness you start wondering if Mom can live alone. Will she have to move in with you? Will you need to quit your job to care for her? Will you have to start looking into memory care facilities?

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis is a rude awakening, but just because a loved one has Alzheimer’s does not mean that they must immediately move in with a full-time caretaker or even be placed into a memory care facility. With good planning, regular check-ins, and careful monitoring, Mom may be able to live at home alone for the foreseeable future.

Assessing Mom’s Diagnosis

Whether or not your mom (or family member with dementia) can live alone will depend on the stage of their illness and their symptoms. Symptoms in the first stage of the disease (also known as “Early Stage Alzheimer’s”) tend to be mild and can last for several years.

When your Mom receives the diagnosis, talk with her doctor to determine if she is in the early stage of the disease. Monitor her symptoms. Can she still make meals for herself, remember to take her medications, and take care of herself? You’ll also want to have a conversation with your Mom to see what she wants to do.

If she wants to stay in the house and doesn’t present a danger to herself, then with a few adjustments, it is likely that she can live by herself for the foreseeable future.

Transportation

One of the first areas to consider is transportation. Can your mother safely drive herself? Have a conversation with your mom and siblings and come up with a plan as to when she’ll need to turn over the keys. Her condition will make it more likely that she may become lost and confused more easily and even forget where she is going.

When it becomes unsafe for her to drive, you’ll need to determine a new schedule that allows friends and family to drive her to necessary appointments. Another option is to look into public transportation passes if that is available in your area.

Meals and Nutrition

As Alzheimer’s progresses, many have difficulty making nutritious meals for themselves. They may start eating junk food all the time, leave the stove on, or have trouble following recipes. Here are a couple of things you can do to help make this aspect of my Mom’s life easier:

  • Look into grocery delivery services. This will help if Mom no longer drives.
  • Use meal planning kits. There are many meal delivery services that will either send ingredients and recipes or fully cooked meals right to Mom’s door step.
  • Plan and make meals in advance. Come over to Mom’s house once a week and make meals for the rest of the week. Put them in containers and label them with meal name and date. This makes it easy for Mom to get healthy meals without having to follow recipes or use the stove.
  • Meals on Wheels – This is a great service if Mom doesn’t have a lot of family or friends nearby.

Clean House and Companionship

It’s easy for an elderly person living alone to feel isolated, especially if they can no longer drive. Ensure that they have some contact with another person on a regular basis. Ideally, that person would be you, a family member, a neighbor, or a close friend who stops by to help clean up the house and to observe your mom’s behavior to make sure she is still doing okay.

Another option is to hire a part-time home health worker. This person can cook, clean, and even help your mother with basic self-care.

Safety

Safety is a number one concern when an older adult lives alone, especially someone with Alzheimer’s. Make sure your mother always has her phone on her and remembers to charge it. It is a good idea to pre-program in your number, the numbers of your siblings, and of neighbors in case your mother falls or wanders and gets lost.

Always make sure she carries a card on her that explains her condition and includes the number of the nearest relative or friend who can help in an emergency as well as her doctor’s name and number. If she has any other medical conditions, include those on the card.

It might be a good idea to put a few cameras (with your mother’s permission) in the house that will let you monitor your mother on a regular basis, especially if you can’t stop by often. You can also buy other tools to increase safety, like a Life Alert system or a MediAlert necklace and bracelet.

When It’s Time to Move Mom

Alzheimer’s is a debilitating disease. Eventually, if someone lives with the disease long enough, they will no longer be able to safely care for themselves and live alone. You, your siblings, and your mother need to accept this fact and plan for how you will identify that time and what happens next. Have a plan in place. Will Mom come live with you or your brother? Will it be better to move her into a dedicated memory care facility like Sunshine Care?

These are tough questions to face, but it will be much easier for everyone to know the answers beforehand rather than scrambling for a solution in the midst of an emergency!

If you live in Poway, let Sunshine Care help you decide the best way to care for your mother. We would be happy to take you on a tour of our facility. We also invite you to our free monthly caregiver support group.



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