Home alone — are they OK?
Confusion and Dementia create danger for Seniors
As a caregiver, you may have to decide if it is still possible to leave an elderly person in your care alone for an hour, an afternoon or an entire day. Will they be safe? Will they wander off? Will they let strangers into the house? Will they turn on the stove and forget to turn it off?
Making this decision can be a complicated and emotionally wrenching experience for you and the senior. For caregivers, it can be heartbreaking to recognize that the strong, self-sufficient adult they have known for years is no longer capable of taking care of themselves. It also means a real loss of freedom and flexibility and may require you to develop creative strategies to accomplish daily errands and tasks. For the senior, it can be equally difficult to acknowledge and accept that physical, emotional or mental changes have reduced their independence.
Checklist on being home alone
There are numerous factors to consider when making this decision. But first, recognize that loss of sight, hearing loss, memory loss, confusion, incontinence and depression are not normal aspects of aging. In many, if not most cases, these are treatable conditions. Failure to identify them as being treatable could place elderly patients at risk of unnecessary functional decline. Have you or the senior discussed the senior's problems with a physician? And, if the first physician dismissed them as being due to old age, did you see another physician for a second opinion? (A surprising number of doctors don't have the training to help seniors overcome their problems.)
It is important to balance the safety of the senior with the needs of both senior and caregiver to retain as much independence as possible. As a result, you should include as many people as you can in the decision-making process, even the senior. You may also want to consult with other caregivers, such as family members and friends; paid caregivers who know the senior's abilities and limitations; and elder care professionals such as doctors, nurses, and social workers.
The following questions can guide you in making the decision. If the answer to any question is "no," it may no longer be possible for the senior to be left alone, even for a short period of time. Instead, moving into an assisted living facility may be appropriate.
If you decide that it is still safe to leave your senior at home alone, you should regularly reassess the situation. Caregiving is a dynamic process — you need to be aware of any and all changes in the elderly person's condition and abilities. Even if you think they can be left home by themselves, pay attention to their desires; if they fear being alone, it could be a sign that at some level they know they are not capable of coping with any emergencies that might arise.
To help you find the right local eldercare services for your loved one, you could use the ElderCarelink service which has established a nationwide network of carefully screened eldercare providers and facilities. ElderCarelink provides this referral service free of charge.
Within minutes of completing their brief Needs Survey, you will receive a detailed email report listing care providers in your area who match your specific requirements. Last year, over 100,000 families utilized this service in their search for high-quality senior care. Click here to use the ElderCarelink service.
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