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How do you know when it's no longer safe to stay alone
Posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2023 12:15 PM
Joined: 1/24/2023
Posts: 1

My dad is in moderate stages of Alzheimers (84 y/o) and lives with my mom.  As he declines, we are struggling to know how to assess if he is safe to stay home along for short periods of time.  It has been fine as long as we have meals prepared for him.  He is not yet wandering and spends most of his time napping or watching TV.  He no longer drives and does not have access to a car. My mom has been leaving him alone if she has a doctor's appointment or a bridge game at a friend's house.  Usually 2 hours at a time, but sometimes it may be an afternoon.  He is no longer by himself overnight.

Today my mom told me that he was having trouble using his phone and she was unable to get him to successfully make a call to me or her.  I will need to verify this, but is this the tipping point that means its no longer safe for him to be home alone?  We have struggled with this because we do not have a great solution AND he doesn't think it's a problem (of course).

If anyone has any help or suggestions on how to make this decision, I'd appreciate it.

Posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2023 12:29 PM
Joined: 10/20/2021
Posts: 51

If someone broke in or there was a fire while your mother was out, how would he get help since he has trouble with the phone?

I believe that just by asking the question, you know in your heart he is no longer safe by himself. Also, many people with dementia suffer from anosognosia. It is not denial. He can no longer recognize that he has certain health conditions or problems. You will not be able to “convince” him and, down the road, confronting or reminding him of his dementia may only upset him. 

Your mother provides support and scaffolding for him. When she’s away, he will become more and more lost. You should start to make plans now for how your family plans to take care of him, because if your mother should suddenly become ill or need hospitalization for any length of time, your dad won’t be able to manage without her. 

He’s very lucky to have your family to support and care for him. 

Posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2023 12:32 PM
Joined: 8/22/2020
Posts: 3175

Welcome to the forum, you've come to a good place.

You've probably answered your own question:  if you have doubts that he's safe to be alone, then he's likely not safe to be alone.  If he couldn't call for help, the time has come.  It does present all kinds of problems, you are likely going to have to either move him/them or hire help to stay with him, and he is unlikely to comply easily.  Sometimes gentle fiblets work--tell him the hired person is a friend who needs a job, or is there to help your mother, or something like that.  But it likely won't work to try to reason with him that he's the one who needs help.  If you're not familiar with it, look up anosognosia--it's a feature of dementia that makes it impossible for him to recognize his own deficits. 

Posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2023 12:48 PM
Joined: 4/2/2018
Posts: 7010

The posts above are right on the money, in my opinion. It's time for someone to be with him.
Posted: Wednesday, January 25, 2023 6:49 AM
Joined: 3/6/2017
Posts: 4015


It's a really good question. But I feel like is's a "if you have to ask, you already know the answer" situation.

My mom and I disagreed around this. I think it was a combination of her loving eyes seeing a rosier version of dad than existed and being loath deal with the financial and emotional costs of hiring help. 

If your dad cannot reliably operate his phone, then he isn't safe at home. I can't imagine why you need to verify this. But the phone is tip of the iceberg here. Being safe home alone requires not just memory, but thinking skills that are likely not up to the task in an emergency.

About a year before dad went into a MCF, mom was still leaving him home to attend her own appointments or shop. She might be gone a couple hours at most and always during daylight hours before sundowning was an issue. She needed an emergency replacement of her HVAC system on a day when she had an important medical appointment and asked me to be there in case the technicians had questions. Her big concern was dad insisting on some wacky deviation in the installation. At one point they were soldering pipes and set off the smoke detectors. The tech had warned us it would happen, but when it did dad forgot. After about 30 seconds he asked me what the terrible noise was. I told him. He sat for another 20-30 seconds before standing up and toddling off towards the bedroom to tell my mother (who was not there). At no time did he call 911, instruct me to or even to insist I leave the house. 


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