If your loved one is doing any of these 5 things, they shouldn't be home alone

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A lot of people will tell me that they’ve “got a plan” or that they’ve “worked out a system” for their loved one to be at home alone, unsupervised, for hours at a time. 

I’ll often take a deep breath and listen to their “plan,” only to feel bad as I’m telling them how dangerous it really is. 

Here are some signs that your loved one with dementia shouldn’t be at home alone: 

1. They are getting confused about where they are. Just because dad hasn’t gotten lost in the neighborhood yet, doesn’t mean he won’t. If he’s having trouble recognizing where he is in the house or on a walk with you, this is a sign he could easily get lost going outside by himself. 

2. They’ve forgotten to eat, take their medication, or bathe. People in this stage of dementia need to be cued in order to move from one step to another. If your loved one is forgetting how or when to take care of their ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) this is a sign they shouldn’t be at home alone. 

3. They are adamant about going somewhere, and especially so about taking the car. If your loved one is trying to take the car somewhere, he or she absolutely should not be left at home alone…especially with a car in the garage!

4. They aren’t able to help themselves in an emergency. Just because Mom has a LifeAlert necklace doesn’t mean she knows how to use it. If she falls and has trouble getting up, will she press the button for help? (Also, LifeAlert doesn’t work if your loved one is unconscious!) 

5. They are a fall risk. If your loved one is at risk for falling (with or without dementia, really) he or she shouldn’t be without assistance. If your loved one with dementia has a walker or cane, and still seems unsteady, they absolutely cannot be at home alone, especially if their house has stairs!

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Rachael Wonderlin has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. She owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting company.

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