People with dementia living alone

1. Summary

About one-third of all people with dementia live on their own (Mirando-Costillo, 2010).

Current public policy aims to enable people with care and support needs, including people with dementia, to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible. The Society believes that people with dementia who want to remain in their own homes should be supported to do so for as long as possible.

However, people with dementia who live independently do not necessarily have a good quality of life. People who have dementia and live alone are at greater risk of social isolation and loneliness. Research, conducted by the Alzheimer's Society, has found that 62% of people with dementia who live alone feel lonely compared to 38% of all people with dementia. Loneliness can lead to early death (Holt-Lunstad et al, 2010).

However, Alzheimer's Society believes that, if appropriate services are available, people with dementia living alone can maintain social contacts and overcome loneliness.

The Society supports policies that are now in place in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to tackle social isolation. In England, the Adult Social Care Outcomes Framework (ASCOF) for England for 2013/14 includes a measure of social isolation (Department of Health, 2012b) and the Care Act states that every person has the right to maintain personal relationships (Department of Health, 2014).

The Strategy for Older People in Wales (Welsh Assembly Government, 2013) focuses on improving social inclusion for people over the age of 50. In Northern Ireland, there are discussions about how to enable older people to remain independent in the community.

Alzheimer's Society believes that action must now be taken to translate these policy commitments into action.

2. What the Society calls for:

  • Provision of services that allow people with dementia to live independently in their own homes. The Society believes that people with dementia who want to remain in their own homes should be supported to do so for as long as possible. However, people with dementia who live alone require high-quality homecare services to allow them to live at home with dignity. This would still save money. One year of high-quality care in the community costs £11,000 less than a care home. Homecare services must be easy to access. This is because people with dementia living alone can find it harder to access information about services, and obtain support, as they may lack support from another person to help them through the process.
  • Provision of services that promote quality of life and prevent social isolation. Over a third of people with dementia living alone had to stop doing things they enjoy as a result of a lack of services (Alzheimer's Society, 2013). Alzheimer's Society recognises the importance of supporting people to carry out essential daily activities. However, the Society also believes that services should be available to ensure that people with dementia living alone can maintain a good quality of life. Services should include social groups, befriending services and accessible transport.
  • Raising awareness of dementia across society. Alzheimer's Society is urging everybody to work together to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and help them to overcome loneliness. Currently, only 45 per cent of people with dementia feel part of their community (Alzheimer's Society, 2014). Alzheimer's Society has signed up 130 communities to become Dementia Friendly and trained 372,000 dementia friends in-person and on-line. In addition, the Dementia Action Alliance supports 3695 members across England to take practical actions to enable people to live well with dementia.

3. References and further information

All Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia (2011) The £20 billion question: An inquiry into improving lives through cost-effective dementia services, All Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia, London

Alzheimer's Society (2011) Support. Stay. Save. Alzheimer's Society, London

Alzheimer's Society (2012) Dementia 2012: A national challenge. Alzheimer's Society, London

Alzheimer's Society (2013) Dementia 2013: The hidden voice of loneliness. Alzheimer's Society, London

Alzheimer's Society (2014) Dementia UK: Second edition

Department for Communities and Local Government (2010) Household Projections 2008 to 2033, England, Department for Communities and Local Government, London

Department of Health (2009) Living well with dementia: A national dementia strategy for England. Department of Health. London.

Department of Health (2012a) Prime Minister's challenge on dementia: delivering major improvements in dementia care and research by 2015: A report on progress. Department of Health, London.

Department of Health (2012b) The Adult Social Care Outcomes Framework 2013/14. Department of Health, London

Department of Health (2012c) Care and Support White Paper. Department of Health. London

Department of Health (2012d) Prime Minister's challenge on dementia: delivering major improvements in dementia care and research by 2015. Department of Health, London.

Holder and Jolley (2012), Forced relocation between nursing homes: residents' health outcomes and potential moderators. Reviews in Clinical Gerontology, 22(4) 301-319

Holt-Lunstad et al (2010), Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytical review, Brigham Young University, Utah, USA

Mirando-Costillo et al (2010) People with dementia living alone: what are their needs and what kind of support are they receiving. International Psychogeriatics, 22(4) 607-617

Welsh Assembly Government (2013) The Strategy for Older People in Wales

Welsh Government (2012) Together for Health - Delivering End of Life Care

A Delivery Plan up to 2016 for NHS Wales.

Last updated: October 2014 by Laurence Thraves 

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