In the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s, you may still be living alone, and you may not want diat to change, even after your diagnosis. Although you will eventually need to make other living arrangements, you can try to take steps to ensure that you live alone for as long as possible. The Alzheimer’s Association offers the following suggestions:
• Arrange for someone to help you with housekeeping, meals, transportation, and other daily chores. For information about assistance in your community, contact the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association or talk to your doctor.
• Make arrangements to have all your checks directly deposited into your bank account.
• Find someone to help you with money matters. A trusted friend or family member can assume the legal authority to handle your finances.
• Plan for home-delivered meals if they are available in your community.
• Leave a set of house keys with a trusted neighbor.
Enlist the help of a trusted family member or friend in making decisions and arrangements about future living arrangements. Making some of these arrangements now, before the disease worsens, can help make it easier for you to accept the changes to come.
What the Caregiver Can Do
Assuming the caregiver does not currently live with the person who has Alzheimer’s, it’s important for her to be on the lookout for signs that her friend or relative can no longer live alone. Every situation will differ. Some people with Alzheimer’s will live alone for several years. Others may need to make different arrangements months after a diagnosis. Here are some indications that someone may no longer be able to live alone:
• The person is anxious, fearful, and wary of being alone.
• The person has started wandering away from home.
• The stove is frequently left on, and food is often found un-stored on the counter.
•The person has become neglectful about taking important medications.
• The person is emerging from the house inappropriately dressed.
• You notice odors that suggest the person is suffering from incontinence.
• Basic physical, emotional, and social needs are going unmet. For instance, unpaid utility bills have caused the person to lose telephone and heating services, or the person has become neglectful of personal hygiene.
• The disability has advanced to the point where the person is incapable of handling an emergency, like dialing 911 or remembering her address.
Don’t wait until a major crisis occurs to move your loved one into an assisted living arrangement. Do your research now, and make preparations while your loved one can still participate in choosing the type of living arrangement he might prefer. Enlist the input of other family members, healthcare professionals, and social workers in the community.