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When Should A Person With Alzheimer's Stop Living Alone?

Get the answers to your questions on people living alone with dementia or Alzheimer's. Seniorly can help you understand and prepare for this transition.

By Grace Matelich Updated on Jul 6, 2023
Reviewed by Nipun Chopra · Reviewed on Dec 15, 2022

You first notice that they forgot to show up for an appointment. Then a bill goes unpaid. The simplest task, like turning on the television, eludes your loved one and, after a while, they begin to withdraw from family and friends. These occurrences are all potential early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. But, how do you know when the symptoms are severe enough that your loved one should stop living alone? Is there an exact moment to determine when someone with Alzheimer's should go into senior care? You can make an informed decision with the help of a trained physician, such as a neurologist.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that affects memory and other important mental functions. It’s the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease in 2022. That number could rise to 16 million by 2050.

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, drug and non-drug treatment can alleviate symptoms for better cognitive and behavioral functioning. However, families whose loved ones have been diagnosed should understand that symptoms will eventually worsen until full time care is necessary.

How do you know when a loved one has reached the end of an independent lifestyle? Here are four symptoms of dementia that suggest it’s time to transition to assisted living, whether it’s your loved one moving into your home or into a long-term care facility.

Changes in everyday functioning

The most common tell-tale signs of dementia include drastic changes in everyday functioning. Communication in those at risk for Alzheimer's and dementia can reveal a lot about the progression of the disease. For instance, conversations become short or non-existent. You or friends begin receiving calls at odd hours. You notice they regularly find it difficult to search for the right words or use familiar words repeatedly or begin using gestures rather than verbal expression.

Changes in self-care

Is your loved one struggling to keep up with proper personal care? Are they not remembering to bathe themselves regularly? Is there unexplained weight loss or gain? This may indicate that they have forgotten to eat or forget they already ate and are constantly feeding themselves. Are they dressing appropriately for the weather and getting a proper night’s sleep? Confusing the hours of the day and expressing extreme agitation at certain hours can be symptomatic of what’s called, “sundowning,” and tends to fuel unhealthy isolation.

Changes in their home environment

Here is a checklist of a few things to look out for in the home of a person with Alzheimer's. Please note that there are several other benign explanations for these observations so please only make decisions based on advice from clinicians.

  • The thermostat

Some Alzheimer’s and dementia patients experience symptoms suggesting an altered processing of pain and temperature while others experience a drop in their body temperature. This may be reflected in how your loved one uses the thermostat or other home-comfort devices.

  • The kitchen

Is the kitchen unkempt or does it have an unpleasant smell?  Is the refrigerator full of expired or spoiled food, or even completely empty? Do you see any melted pots or pans with burned bottoms? Not only are these examples unsanitary, they may be warning signs worthy of consideration.

  • The floors

Are there spills or other big messes that haven't been cleaned up?

  • The mail

Are there piles of unopened mail or untouched newspapers? Unopened bills and notices can have a more significant impact when services begin shutting off due to non-payment.

Increasing wandering

Wandering is a very common, but can be a worrisome event if your loved one has Alzheimer's disease. Six out of ten people with Alzheimer’s and/or dementia can forget their name or address, and can easily become disoriented, even in familiar places. However, by creating a daily plan and monitoring their whereabouts, you can better control and protect your loved one from wandering and getting lost.

What do you do when the above symptoms of dementia point towards a loss of independence? No solution is one-size-fits-all. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, families can decide between several care options that fit their lifestyle and needs; while many people care for their family members at home, there are reputable services that offer a blend of at-home care and a day-care type setting to keep them engaged. Another option that many families utilize is moving their loved one to a nearby assisted living or memory care facility. For more information on this subject, visit our pages on assisted living and memory care communities.



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written by:
Grace Matelich

Grace Matelich

Grace Kay Matelich is a trained Gerontologist who earned her Master of Science degree in Gerontology from the University of Southern California, a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from Vanderbilt University and a Certificate in Nutrition Science from Stanford University. Grace developed interest in the longevity sciences through her own complex health journey, and is passionate about the science of aging, the mind-body connection, illness prevention, and lifestyle interventions for age-related illnesses.

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View other articles written by Grace

Reviewed by:
Nipun Chopra

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