Advice and practical tips for people with dementia who live alone.
If you live alone, there are lots of reasons to keep doing so after a diagnosis of dementia. You may feel happier and more in control in a familiar place, or you may want to keep your routines and stay in your community. Keeping your independence may also be important to you.
You may need to think a bit more about some things, such as how to stay in touch with people or manage day-to-day tasks, but you can continue to be safe, independent and in touch while living alone.
Some people with dementia choose to live alone. You may enjoy your lifestyle as it is now and want to remain independent and in your own home. Some people live alone because of their circumstances. You may find yourself alone after a partner has died, or someone you lived with has moved out. You may not have a partner, family or friends you can move in with. You might live in a rural area, where it can be harder to get to the nearest shop or to visit people. Or you might live in a city where there is better transport but less sense of community.
Everyone’s situation will be different, but if you are living alone with dementia then this page will be useful regardless of where you live, why you live alone or how much support you have. In it we explain some of the things you may want to think about if you live alone. We outline practical strategies for dealing with the challenges you may come across, and the help and support that is available to you. By taking some of these small steps you will be able to stay independent for longer.
A good support network
Having a good support network in place can really help when you live alone. This can include family, friends, neighbours or professionals. They might offer help with practical things you find difficult, look out for your wellbeing, or just be there to talk to and spend time with you.
Asking for and accepting help can be difficult. You may feel that it will stop you being independent. However, having people around who can help you, if you need it, will mean you can stay living alone for longer.
You may have lots of people who are there for you. But if you haven’t, it can be a good idea to put support in place as soon as you feel ready. You might not need much help right now, but talking to people about your diagnosis as soon as you feel ready can be reassuring. That way you will know there is help and support on hand when you do.
Tips for building a support network
- Talk to people about how they can help you and what would be best for you. You can focus on what you can still do, and they can help with some of the things you find more difficult. This might be remembering to take your medication, managing the garden or shopping for food.
- Consider telling people about your diagnosis, so they can offer you support if you need it. When people understand, they will be able to offer you help and make sure it is tailored to your needs.
- If you don’t have family or friends who can help you, you may want to speak to other people in your community, such as neighbours, shopkeepers, people from a place of worship or your pharmacist or landlord. They may be able to help with things like lifts into town, shopping, gardening or simply calling in or phoning to see how you are.
- If you don’t feel comfortable telling people about your diagnosis, you could just say that you need a bit of help with some things from time to time.
- Keep a list of contacts by your phone so you can reach them if you need to.
- Leave a set of keys with a neighbour you trust.
- Find out what support is available where you live. This could be from social services, a homecare agency or a local charity (such as Age UK). This support can include help with meals, cleaning and household jobs, gardening, transport and more – contact your local social services or local Alzheimer’s Society for more information or see ‘Other resources’.
- Find out if there are any events that are set up for people with dementia (dementia-friendly events) happening in your community. For more see ‘Staying active’.
Dementia Talking Point
Staying in touch
You shouldn’t feel cut off or isolated from other people just because you live alone. Having dementia can make it harder to do things, and this can mean that you see people less than you used to. It may be even more difficult if you live in a rural area and don’t have people or services you can get to. However, there are still things you can do to stop yourself feeling isolated.
Getting out of the house and seeing other people, continuing to enjoy your hobbies, or just keeping in touch with friends and family are all important.
Tips for staying in touch
- Talk to other people regularly. You could arrange regular phone calls or visits with friends and relatives.
- If you don’t always want to be the person to make the first contact, you could tell people that this is how you are and ask them to call or drop in from time to time.
- If you have a computer, smart phone or tablet, consider using a video calling programme such as Skype or social media to stay in touch with people. You may prefer Skype to a phone call because you can see the person you’re talking to.
- Going to a local support or activity group is a really good way of staying socially active. You might also meet new people who are in a similar situation. If you use the internet you may find an online support group helpful. There are also video conferencing support groups available on Facebook and Zoom that you might want to try.
- See if there are any befriending opportunities in your area, or services such as Alzheimer’s Society’s Side by Side. A befriender is someone who comes and spends time with you regularly, either in your home or out in the community. This can allow you to continue your hobbies, take part in activities, or just have some companionship. You could also consider telephone befriending, where someone phones you regularly.
- If you don’t have any relatives or friends, or if you are no longer in touch, there are still ways of getting emotional support. Online communities or forums allow you to talk to other people with dementia. They can be a useful source of support, and there will be lots of other people who are in a similar situation. Alzheimer’s Society’s online community Talking Point is a good place to start.
- Small things such as going to the local shop to buy a paper each day can give you a chance to talk to someone and to feel more involved in the community.