Many people with Alzheimer's continue to live successfully on their own during the early stage of the disease. Making simple adjustments, taking safety precautions and having the support of others can make things easier.
Legal and financial planning
If you live alone, it's crucial to make legal and financial plans now while you can participate in making decisions to ensure that others know your wishes, and know what to do.
Learn more: Plan for Your Future
There are several safety issues to consider that may help you maintain your independence for as long as possible.
Maximize your independence
Develop strategies to help you live day by day.
Changes in thinking may reduce your ability to make appropriate decisions about self-care and your day-to-day needs as the disease progresses. You may be at increased risk for harm, falls, wandering and/or malnutrition. You also may have difficulty managing personal hygiene or household tasks, which can lead to unsafe living conditions. Plan ahead for how you will address your basic needs, including housing, meals and physical care. Consider Meals on Wheels, homemaker services, or services to help with managing medications or bill paying.
If friends or family have expressed concern about your ability to perform certain roles or tasks, listen to their observations. Alzheimer's will eventually limit your own insights as to what you can safely do.
Tips for helping you take care of day-to-day needs:
- Arrange for someone to help you with housekeeping, meals, transportation and daily chores. Find services by contacting your local Alzheimer's Association or using our online tool, Community Resource Finder.
- Make arrangements for direct deposit of checks, such as your retirement pension or Social Security benefits.
- Make arrangements for help in paying bills. You can give a trusted individual the legal authority to handle money matters or speak with your bank or service provider about automatic bill pay.
- Establish a system for medication reminders.
You may experience changes in your balance that lead to an increased risk of falling. Changes in your sensitivity to light, the contrast between colors, or depth perception may affect your balance and comfort with navigating.
At some point, everyone with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's will no longer be able to drive. Planning ahead before driving becomes an issue can help you answer the question “How will I get from place to place when I can no longer drive?” Putting a plan in place can be empowering and provides the opportunity to make choices that can help maintain your independence for as long as possible.
Learn more: Dementia and Driving
Tips from people living with Alzheimer's: Plan to stop driving
I sit in the front seat as a way to get used to being a passenger rather than the driver.
My care partner and I have discussed the circumstances and made a plan for when I will stop driving.
I take other forms of transportation or have care partner/friends drive me.
- See More Tips
Everyone with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's is at risk for wandering. Increased confusion and agitation can cause people with the disease to wander and get lost. Wandering can be very dangerous, and if you live alone, there is no one to monitor for changes that may increase your risk. Consider enrolling in a wandering response service
Isolation and loneliness
It is common to feel isolated or withdrawn from others after receiving your diagnosis or as the disease progresses. Establish a routine with friends and family that encourages you to stay connected with them. Also take advantage of programs and services that involve you with others living in the early stage of Alzheimer's.
- Have family, friends or a community service program call or visit you daily.
- Keep a list of questions and concerns to discuss with them. Include items for them to check out around the house, such as electrical appliances, mail and food.
Asking for help
It can be difficult to know when to ask for help or to admit that help is needed. You may feel that by asking others for help, you will become too dependent on others. Have a conversation with family and friends about the daily tasks that have become more difficult for you to complete. Consider them your care team and be specific about what they can do to help you.
Health care services
Individuals who live alone are more reliant on their own perceptions of when they need care. As a result, they are less likely to use health care services and are at a greater risk for nursing home placement than those who live with a care partner. There are services that can help you assess your health and care needs, and programs that can help you meet those needs when necessary. Learn about what health care services are available in your community such visiting nurses, private duty caregivers, physical therapy or assistance with medical devices. All of these services can help you optimize your health while living safely at home.
Find health care services: Community Resource Finder or contact your local Alzheimer's Association.
In-home support services
Common unmet needs for individuals living alone include help with chores and self-care, such as bathing and meals. Investigate the options for in-home support services, including paid or volunteer caregivers, companionship care, housekeeping services or Meals on Wheels.
- Plan for home-delivered meals if they are available in your community such as Meals on Wheels.
- Arrange to have your local grocery store deliver your groceries.
- Leave a set of house keys with a neighbor you trust.
- Make arrangements for someone to regularly check your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
Learn more about our safety systems
Safety systems can help you remain independent and active in your community, and provide you, your family and friends peace of mind. MedicAlert® is a 24-hour nationwide emergency response service for individuals living with Alzheimer's or another dementia who wander and get lost, or have a medical emergency.