Welcome to This is Getting Old: Moving Towards an Age-Friendly World, I’m your host Melissa Batchelor, and today I’ll be sharing Alzheimer’s Disease and Living Alone: Four Signs Someone May Not Be Safe at Home Alone – and what you can do about it.
Many people have asked me what some of the signs are that a loved one may be experiencing memory loss when the person lives alone or doesn’t live close by to see them every day. When someone lives alone, it’s easier for them to cover up memory problems. You may have to get a trusted friend or neighbor to check on your loved one if you can’t be there in person.
If you are concerned about someone living alone and whether or not they need help, here are four changes you can consider and questions to think about:
#1: Changes in Phone Calls:
- When you talk on the phone, does the person ramble or repeat information?
- Does the person forget what they were saying and cannot pick back up on the train of thought when you provide a few details of what they were saying?
- Do they repeat the same story each time you call, as if it were new?
- Are you getting fewer phone calls from a person who usually calls you regularly? Or too many calls? Or maybe calls that are late at night or early in the morning?
#2: Changes in Emailing or Writing:
- If a person was on social media or emailed you before, have they stopped doing that?
- When they write something, does it appear to be rambling that’s uncharacteristic of the person?
- If they send you a handwritten note, has their handwriting changed?
#3: Changes in Personality or Habits:
- Has your loved one started to become uncharacteristically negative or pessimistic?
- Have they stopped going to social or family events when they used to be out and about?
- Do they seem withdrawn or sad? More isolated?
- Are they neglecting themselves – so not showering or getting dressed? Not brushing their teeth or hair?
#4: Changes with Meals or Medications:
- Maybe the person is missing medications or taking medications wrong.
- As a clinician, unplanned weight loss was often the first sign that a person was experiencing memory problems. They have been forgetting to eat or missing meals.
- When offered a hot meal, would they rather eat sweets?
- Do they forget to turn the oven or stove off when cooking?
What Can You Do?
If your loved one is experiencing one or more problems in these four areas, it would be wise to consult with your primary care provider. They are likely not safe or becoming not safe to live alone. These signs may indicate a significant safety issue, so better to address them sooner rather than later, to avoid severe or even fatal accidents.
You can also contact the Alzheimer’s Association Chapter in your community or your local Area Agency on Aging. These two organizations will typically know who can help families providing care at a distance and give you valuable information and connect you to services.
Thank you for watching this video or listening to the podcast today. I hope these four Signs, questions, and recommendations have been helpful to you.
I earned my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (‘96) and Master of Science in Nursing (‘00) as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) School of Nursing (SON). I truly enjoy working with the complex medical needs of older adults. I worked full-time for five years as FNP in geriatric primary care across many long-term care settings (skilled nursing homes, assisted living, home and office visits) then transitioned into academic nursing in 2005, joining the faculty at UNCW SON as a lecturer.
I obtained my PhD in Nursing and a post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing Education from the Medical University of South Carolina College of Nursing (2011) ) and then joined the faculty at Duke University School of Nursing as an Assistant Professor. My family moved to northern Virginia in 2015 and led to me joining the faculty at George Washington University (GW) School of Nursing in 2018 as a (tenured) Associate Professor where I am also the Director of the GW Center for Aging, Health and Humanities.
Find out more about her work HERE.