Living alone brings with it independence and autonomy, as well as the comfort of being in your own space where you get the say in how things are done. But living by yourself also has its challenges, especially for someone with dementia.
If you are caring for someone with dementia who lives alone, here are some ways you can respect their autonomy while still looking out for them.
As became especially apparent during the coronavirus pandemic, we all need to be checked in on from time to time – particularly those of us who live alone.
Regularly visiting is the best way that you can see how the person is coping at home. While phone calls are great, we get a lot of clues as to how someone is doing when we see them in person. Do they seem more tired than usual or out of sorts? Has the housework become unmanageable? Are there safety concerns such as tangled cables that could be a tripping hazard or expired food in the fridge?
While you don’t want to come in all guns blazing trying to reorder or fix their home, you are an extra pair of hands and can help them stay on top of their home duties.
If in-person visiting isn’t possible, FaceTime, Skype or call to see how they are doing. Even if they don’t need a hand with anything, you might brighten their day or give them something to look forward to.
Setting up or helping with automated systems
These days there are lots of apps and automated systems to make our lives easier – for instance, smart plugs that can detect activity (or lack of) and alert you to a potential issue in your loved one’s home. Home Care recipients can also use their package to include assistive technology such as computers and iPads.
There are also apps tailored to people with dementia, such as Greymatters (which is a digital scrapbook of memories) and MindMate (which includes mental and physical workouts). You can help set up some apps on their phone or iPad to keep them engaged.
Assisting with home care and food
You might be bringing food over, but there are also other options such as setting up regular deliveries from Coles or Woolworths or utilising a meals delivery service. Talk to the person you’re caring for about what they would prefer. They might be surprised to hear that the days of Meals on Wheels being the only door-to-door food provider are gone – there are now countless services such as Hello Fresh, Youfoodz, Uber Eats etc to choose from. See our list here.
If they don’t already have a decent sized freezer, it’s a good idea to get a freezer chest to be able to stock up and store meals in.
Whether you are living with dementia or are supporting someone who is, know that you are not alone. The National Dementia Hotline (1800 100 500) offers free telephone support from 8.00 – 8.00pm on weekdays in case you need advice or just a listening ear.